Unraveling The Fiber Art Process

Whenever I talk about my art, I always get asked, "how long does it take?", "Is it a quilt?" "What do you call it?"

I call my work fiber art. I am hoping the universe will bestow a more clever, easy to interpret name, but for now, that's it. It's not a quilt, there is no batting, and you can't snuggle up with one of my pieces. As for how long each piece takes....a very, long time. But, its all joy and worth every minute!

Here's a sneak peak into my process:

Inspired visions turn into tiny sketches. After a few attempts, I sketch the image to the actual size of my finished product and then outline with a fat, black Sharpie. This becomes the sewing pattern.

Next, I take the face of the image and using a lightbox, trace my sketch onto thick canvas. I spend a few days layering colored pencil on the canvas and then stretching it onto a frame. The colored pencil becomes my guide for the shade of embroidery floss to use.

When I am on breaks from the hand stitching, I start the applique process. I collect tubs of old clothing, sheets with stains or tears, fabric remnants from the sale bins and donations from kind friends. I sit with my collection of fabric and start to pull together a color scheme. I often need to dye the larger background pieces to get the perfect shade.

I use either Procion dyes or Jacquard fabric paint or both. Sometimes I will dye a piece over and over until I get the right color. I love this process!

I then use my large, sketched out pattern to trace each part onto interfacing. I iron the interfacing onto the fabric. Then I put each part into place.

During this stage, the process can often go wonky....I either cut something too small, or it got too wrinkled or there are weird gaps. I pin and play and cut and dye and paint and cut and iron until it seems all the parts are fitting and ready to sew.

I use a zig zag top stitch over every piece, changing thread colors as I go. Once the embroidered face is complete, I add that to the image.

The final piece then gets professionally scanned, stretched and framed. From start to finish, depending on the size, it takes 2-4 months.

You can follow along with my process on Instagram or Facebook.



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Karen Payton Art      Ventura County, California