The First Thing You Need for Fabric Art?

A couple of weeks ago I announced the release of Joanne Sharpe’s new book, The Art of Whimsical Stitching, and included a free excerpt with a fabric art lesson. I’m still so excited about the book and the response has been so wonderful that I’m bringing you more from this beloved artist! In today’s feature, you’ll learn how Joanne took a childhood love of sewing and turned it into a creative profession. Her story is inspiring because it reminds us to look to our past to reconnect with what naturally drives us. The answer is there, waiting to be uncovered, so that our passions can be refueled.

In addition to sharing her beginnings, Joanne goes on to tell us what we all love to hear: We need to beef up our fabric stash! There’s more to it than shopping willy-nilly, however, so keep reading for expert advice.

Fabric art ideas | Joanne Sharpe,
As seen in The Art of Whimsical Stitching  (Pin this!)

How it Began by Joanne Sharpe

I have been sewing since I was a young girl, mesmerized at the side of my grandmother and great-aunt, who could both do anything on a sewing machine. When we got married 30 years ago, my husband and I each took $200 from our wedding money to buy an item for our home that would benefit our future family. I bought a Kenmore sewing machine, and he bought an Atari video game system! I still have that old sewing machine tucked away in a closet as a testament to my roots. As a mom to three boys and one girl, I don’t even know how many video game systems we’ve run through in this house, but there has always been a working sewing machine that has made Halloween costumes, home décor, gifts, and even handmade flags.

For many years, I was a gypsy artist with a very successful business traveling to art shows selling handpainted flags. When I look back, I realize that this was my first venture into mixed-media art sewing. Each 24″x30″ and 12″x18″ piece of special fabric was hand-painted with acrylics, making it the perfect waterproof art accessory for a garden. I sold hundreds. My tagline for this product was “Unlike Picasso’s, my work hangs on the outside of your house.”

Build Your Stash for Fabric Art

The first thing you need when creating mixed-media fabric art is fabric! Figuring out what kind of fabric is best for a project can be daunting. You can really get lost in the fabric jungle, with its overwhelming choices and many levels of quality. When purchasing fabric, my experience has always been that you get what you pay for.

Fabric art ideas | Joanne Sharpe,
Swatches for fabric art, left to right: Batiks, commercial quilting cottons, and hand-dyed fabrics

Seek out high-quality textiles from brick-and-mortar quilt shops as well as specialty retailers online. When I travel around the country to teach, I always scout out the local quilt and sewing shops.

How much fabric should you buy? That depends on your project, of course, but if you just love a fabric and are shopping to build your stash, always get at least one yard. My quilting friends tell me that “if you really, really love it” and know you can’t live without it, you should purchase multiple yards. Fabrics tend to be seasonal, having limited availability because manufacturers constantly add new lines. If you see it and love it, chances are you won’t find it readily later in the year–that’s been my experience.

Think about the direction in which you’d like take your stitching and textile art. Do you want to create with designer fabrics and cotton quilting collections? Are you drawn to the color palettes and textures of batiks? Are artisan hand-dyed fabrics what you need to capture the look you’re after?

These are my favorite fabrics for crafting. I always have some on hand, and each has its virtues and strong points. I recommend giving all of them a try to see if they work for your projects. ~Joanne

I can’t wait to see how you put your new materials to use to create beautiful fabric art. Click here to order The Art of Whimsical Stitching, and make sure you share your projects with us in the online member gallery!

Happy stitching,


Learn new fabric art techniques in this free eBook when you join our newsletter for daily tips, special offers, and more!


Blog, Fabric Art, Mixed-Media Techniques


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.