Studio Saturdays: Layered Fabric

Fabric has always been an essential element in my mixed-media work, and when I discover a new technique that includes it, I’m over the moon. Betz White’s layered fabric pillow in the March/April 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine has so much depth and detail that I had to make a date with my sewing machine.

“A Layered and Textured Pillow” combines reverse applique with hand and machine stitching, and incorporates fabric, felt, sari ribbon, embroidery, and more. Betz is a genius at building color, dimension, and texture in unique ways. I decided to use her techniques to create a case for my sketchbook and supplies, and I’m so in love with the look of it that more projects are in the works.

layered fabric


Here’s why I decided to make a case for my sketchbook—I usually carry it and a small supply case in a zipper-lock bag. Not very artful or creative, I know. Kind of embarrassing when I pull it out in public. It’s way past due for an upgrade.

Sketching supplies
This is what I’ve been carrying my sketchbook and supplies in. Sad!

I started by raiding my stash of felt and choosing a few brightly colored pieces. Since I didn’t have one piece large enough, I thought I’d piece these together into the size I needed. To make sure my case was the correct size, I measured the width, height, and depth, and then made a mockup in muslin. Since the piece has a gusset to accommodate the width, plus a flap, I wanted to make sure everything fit. Making a muslin prototype allowed me to avoid what I like to call reverse sewing, or ripping everything out while cursing silently to yourself.

Felt scraps for layered fabric projects
Felt scraps are a great component of layered fabric projects, since they don’t fray.

I chose a red and pink stripe for the front piece, overlapped the back pieces by about ¼”, and sewed them together with a zig-zag stitch. The front and back pieces were sewn together with a regular seam.

Felt scraps sewn for a layered fabric bag
The felt strips were sewn together to create the front and back of the bag.

The fabric lining is a key element for this layered fabric technique. I chose a cotton fabric with text on it; I thought the structured black and white design would be a nice contrast to the brightly colored felt. I can’t resist fabric with text, and this one was chosen from the special hoarding pile for a starring role. I hope it appreciates what I did for it.

Lining fabric for layered fabric bag
The text fabric is a great contrast to the felt.

After pinning the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the felt, I machine sewed a bunch of wonky circles in coral and yellow thread. The idea is to create shapes that will be cut out, showing the fabric layer underneath. I didn’t have any grand plan in mind for sizing or spacing, but if you want to plot your design out, by all means do so. You can use a chalk pencil to draw in your shapes. In her project, Betz created intersecting wavy lines, a beautiful effect.

Cutting the circles out to reveal the fabric was a game changer—the look of the layered fabric was so amazing, and it reminded me of the excitement of creating pop-ups with paper.

Cutting the felt to reveal the fabric underneath
Cutting the felt reveals the lining underneath.

More dimension was added with strips of sari ribbon that I sewed across the piece. I also added hand embroidery, which gave some extra texture and dimension. A button closure finished it off, and now I have something to carry my art supplies in that I’m proud to show off.

Sari ribbon sewn to the bag
Sari ribbon strips were sewn across the piece to add extra dimension.

Betz has so many more ideas, tips and techniques in her article, so don’t miss it. You’ll even learn how to make easy tassels. Create something beautiful for your home or workspace, something that reflects you.

There’s lots more mixed-media layered fabric ideas and inspiration in the North Light Shop!

Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons Volume 5: Recycled and Re-Inked by Rae Missigman
Recycle color catcher sheets from the washer into a fantastic layered fabric project; see how in Art Lessons Volume 5: Recycled and Re-Inked by Rae Missigman.
Fabric Collage video with Ruth Rae
Discover how to give fabric texture, dimension, and layers in the video Fabric Collage with Ruth Rae.
Stitch Alchemy by Kelli Perkins
Download the eBook Stitch Alchemy by Kelli Perkins and learn how to combine fabric and paper for unique mixed-media artwork.


Blog, Fabric Art, Mixed-Media Techniques


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