The Glue that Holds the Fabric Collage Relationship Together

fabric collagecate pratoMy sewing machine and I are like Carrie and Mr. Big from "Sex and the City," with me playing Carrie. Every time a project seems to humming along and I think we have a chance at a satisfying relationship, something goes wrong.

The needle refuses to stay threaded, the bobbin tangles for no apparent reason, the machine just stops. . .it's always something.

Then the cursing and crying begins, with accusations of sabotage and infidelity. All one-sided of course.

I admit that, like Carrie, I probably contribute to our problems. I'm impatient, I expect too much for the type of machine I have, and I probably haven't spent enough time feeding it oil and brushing lint off its gears.

Like Carrie and Big, my relationship with my sewing machine is on-again, off-again. And in between I cheat: I use glue.

To sewing purists, I'm sure that's just not right. But hey, we're mixed-media and collage people: we see rules more as guidelines, right?

I look at it as a necessary evil: if I didn't resort to gluing fabric, I'd never get any fabric art made. Because even if my sewing machine were steadfast and loyal, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that some have. So when I looked at Vivika DeNegre's article, "Feathering the Nest, Build a three-dimensional collage with scavanged studio scraps," in the lastest issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, I was not deterred by the fact that she used free-motion stitching (which my machine can't do), nor that I don't have bobbins wound with monofilament at the ready. 

Vivika had me at "scavanged studio scraps."

Though machine stitching would make it a easier to keep the nest scraps in place, hand-stitched couching and/or fabric or tacky glue works quite well.

Here's my version of Vivika's nest.

1. Cut 2 ovals to about 1/2" smaller than the size you want the nest to be: one out of dark craft felt and the other out of firm stabilizer like Peltex or even Lutradur. Glue the ovals back to back.

2. Gather your scraps. I happened to have snips of threads and fabrics on my table from a recent project. If you don't have scraps at the ready, Vivika suggests you layer some fabrics on your cutting mat and use a rotary cutter and ruler to slice off snippets at least 3" long.

3. Arrange the fabrics and fibers like a bird feathering its nest, overlapping the outside edge of the oval and playing with colors until you get a combination you like.

4. Vivika free-motion stitched her scraps together onto the oval with monofilament in the bobbin. I stitched here and there with a zigzag stitch to get the bottom fibers anchored, then switched to tacky glue for the top layers. It's a little messy that way, but the method was fast and achieved the results I wanted.

5. Embellish your nest with flowers, twigs, beads, text, etc. I glued a scrap of selvage with numbers on it to the nest because I liked the graphic look and it gave me a title, "Counting the Days."

6. Like Vivika, I chose to add fabric branches, and these I did sew on because I liked the extra texture stitching provided. But glue would work as well.

7. Finally, cut out "eggs" from fabric (or you could use lightweight found objects) and glue them in place. I made my eggs 3-D by stitching three-quarters of the way around the oval, stuffing with a bit of polyfil, and then stitching the closure. I then cut out around the outside of the stitching. Again, this could be done by hand stitching or by gluing.

I love projects like this from Quilting Arts, because they feed my fabric and fiber fetish without my having to make a commitment to a serious sewing machine. The magazine's freewheeling fabric and fiber art techniques cross over so many mixed-media and collage methods, that even someone like me who doesn't always get along with her sewing machine can find something to do. If you haven't tried Quilting Arts, take a look!

Am I alone in my love of gluing as a substitute for sewing? What do you think? Leave a comment below.



Blog, Collage, Fabric Art, Mixed-Media Techniques


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