I've seen a few shows on PBS that had thread painting as a technique. Some fabric artists used it as an embellishing technique, some used it to actually paint pictures using thread. ALL of them warned that this is addictive, and now that I've tried it myself, I can honestly say THEY'RE RIGHT!!!!!
Today, we are making a butterfly for The Butterfly Project using just scraps and some thread. I used some 4" charm squares I had in my stash. You can use a repurposed sheet or pillowcase as a base, a large scrap of material, or muslin.
Take 2 pieces of fabric, and place them wrong sides (backs) together. I used a patterned fabric for both sides because that's what I had in my stash. Feel free to use whatever suits your fancy.
Now you'll need the template. Right click the image below, select copy, then paste it into your favorite editing software. I used PowerPoint, but you could even paste it into Word. Resize as necessary to fit your scraps. Remember, our butterflies for the Butterfly Project should be no bigger than 8" x 10".
If you'd prefer, you can make your own template from scratch, or find a different butterfly shape in a coloring book or online. It's your butterfly.
Because of the size of my fabric pieces, I made my butterflies about 3 1/4" across at the tips of the top wings. After printing my butterfly on plain old regular paper, I cut it out and traced it onto my fabric. I "fussy cut" my butterfly, because I wanted those little pink flowers to be on her lower wings. For those who are new to sewing and quilting, fussy cutting means positioning your pieces to take advantage of elements in your fabric. Usually, it's done with floral fabrics to really make certain flowers stand out. It's one of those little details that makes the difference between handcrafted and homemade.
So this is where the fun really begins. Next, we'll add some decorative lines. You can use any color of thread, any stitch you'd like. Instead of coloring in the lines, we are going to make the lines! I used the stitch for the straight sides of a buttonhole. You can use straight stitching, zigzag, a decorative stitch - whatever you think will really make your butterfly show its personality.
Start with just the outline of the butterfly. Go slowly around the curves. If you are one of those really brave souls, you can drop your feed dogs. I'm not that brave - I just drove slowly. It's just like the curve of the inseam of the Little Boy Shorts we made in January except it's smaller and tighter. Feel free to leave your needle in and lift your presser foot to do some of the turns if you want some really crisp points. That's what I did.
Don't be afraid if you make an oops (see how mine has that line that kind of heads off into space). Remember, these butterflies represent children. What would a child do? They'd change their minds, and call it a brilliant inspiration! You should do the same, and embrace a little spontaneity. I decided I liked the outline of the "head" better with the shape of the oops. If I didn't, that's ok, because in the end, when we cut these out, it would magically disappear. No fretting, no tears.
So to do the actual thread painting part, I highly recommend a really tight zigzag (like a buttonhole) for filling in. It will give you a bit more precision, and if you have gaps that you want to go back and fill in, it can't be beat. Here is what mine looked like when I started to fill her in.
See how I was able to keep those two flowers on the lower wings? Just make an outline, then work your way around, from the outside in. Keep your stitches as close together as possible. It can be a bit tricky, just take your time.
Fill in as much or as little as you want. Maybe you want to outline something? Use a straight stitch for that. If I wanted to highlight the stems of these flowers, that's what I'd use. Maybe you are good at hand embroidery. You could add French knots to centers of the flowers, or make polka dots on your butterfly that way.
If you want to paint with more than one color, think back to what we learned about choosing fabrics that coordinate (here and here). You may be fortunate enough to have the colors on the selvage. Choose some of these. Or choose a color from within the fabric that you want to highlight. I love those little pink flowers so much that I used a hot pink. I also picked a bright orange because that's the complementary color for blue on the color wheel. Plus it looks rockin' awesome with the pink because they are analogous (think reds and oranges).
I also wanted you to see the back. I use a white bobbin when I sew - probably 90% of the time. If I wanted, because of the stitch I chose, I could EASILY have used a thread color in my bobbin that coordinated with the fabrics on the back. Just something to think about.
Here she is from the front, just before I cut her free.
Oh, and be sure to trim all your threads! Neatness counts!
And here she is again - ready for her flight to Houston!
Again, PLAY with this and have a lot of fun!
Make one or a dozen. Send them off as part of our March Craftivism Challenge. Make a bunch, and use them to build a baby's mobile. Decorate your windows, or add a wire and insert the butterfly in some silk flowers. Use the same technique to make some flowers, or bumblebees, or anything you feel like making! Use your new creations as patches on jeans or purses or skirts. Use them to embellish a headband.
PLAY and have fun!