Let's Get Real: Add Depth and Realism With Thread

Traditional artists understand the importance of creating depth in order to make their paintings and drawings look realistic. Although the techniques vary, the same concepts can be applied to fabric arts, such as quilting. We may think of quilts as textile art in that they’re soft and touchable but there's much more to them. Our eyes flow across the fabric, taking in beautiful colors, textures, and designs, as in Susan Brubaker Knapp’s quilt featured below. Her advice for creating a realistic image on a quilt? Consider light and shadow.

October Morning (20×15.5) by Susan Brubaker Knapp.
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“One of the trickiest aspects of recreating realistic subjects in fabric is accurately portraying light and shadow so that objects appear dimensional,” says Susan in Quilting Arts Magazine. “Thread sketching—using thread to enhance the surface before quilting—is a great way to do this. While I try to get some of the light and shadow right with fabric choices, fusible applique´, or paint, I find that thread is a wonderful way to add more subtle details. I start by closely examining the photograph on which the piece is based. It’s important to get the details right.”

Quilting Tips for Creating Light and Shadow by Susan Brubaker Knapp

• Value (light/dark) is more important than color. Compare your thread values to your photograph. Don’t try to second guess what you see.
• Test thread colors on your fabrics by pulling off about a yard and pooling it on top of the fabric. Sometimes thread that looks too dark on the spool will still not be dark enough.
• Consider the light source, and its direction. Is the light bright or diffused? From what angle is it hitting the subject? Choose a thread color to mimic the direction of the light.
• Stitch what you see, not what you think an image should look like. ~ S.B.K.

Susan’s article, “Thread Sketching For Beginners,” is featured in the newest issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, along with 25+ inspiring art quilts and instructions for color block printing, layering with stencils, and more. Click here to subscribe today and take your fabric art to a new level of creativity.

Always seeking the light,


Blog, Fabric Art


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