"I begin with an idea ... and then it becomes something else"
~ Picasso

Saturday 25 July 2009

Mixed Media Textiles Tutorial - Leaves from Fabric Scraps

Before I start the tutorial I would like to thank Kirsty of Me Plus Molly for her lovely gift of bundles and bundles of organzas and angelina fibres in loads of gorgeous colours. These were the greens she sent me ...

There are lovely copper tones in the green angelina fibres - perfect for leaves and woodland projects

I love to recycle in my textile work and I hate to waste those little leftover snippets of chiffon, silk, organza, glitzy, shimmery, metallics fabrics, bits of plastic, carrier bags and waste thread too precious to throw away

I collect all these little bits in plastic pots (takeaway containers with lids are perfect for this - more recycling!). My pots of snippets are colour co-ordinated to make it easier when I come to use them later

So, I thought I would share with you another technique that uses up those little scraps of fabric

Mixed Media Textiles - Tutorial - Leaves from fabric scraps

Use a piece of felt or fleece for the background and cut some leaf shapes to whatever size you like. Mine are approximately 8 inches long and about 4 inches wide. Pile up your scraps on top of your leaf shapes

Then place a piece of chiffon on top of each felt leaf and pin in place all the way round

The next step is to tack round the edges of the leaf. Remember tacking from school? I used to hate it. I was so lazy I used to just pin and sew and I still do unless there is a real reason to tack. Here, you really do need to tack round the edges to keep all the bits inside the felt and chiffon "sandwich" or else they just go everywhere when you start to machine embroider

Tack with a matching thread then you don't need to remove the stitches. When you machine embroider the stitches will blend in

After you've tacked round your leaf, trim away the chiffon

Machine stitch your design on the leaves over the chiffon. I used a forest green metallic thread. I sewed round the edges first and up and down the centre of the leaf first, then I embroidered veins and circles, something a bit different on each leaf - it's up to you

Machine embroidered patterns

Tie off all your ends and trim where necessary

The next step is the fun part (for me!). I heat up my soldering iron and very gently burn away the chiffon in places. It will also melt and fuse some of the other materials, ie. plastics and carrier bag plastic

HEALTH AND SAFETY - Please take care. The soldering iron will be "white hot" so don't burn yourself. Make sure you have somewhere safe to rest it, have some water handy and a wet cloth (just in case). I use the wet cloth to clean the soldering iron when it gets messy. You also need to be aware that this technique creates smoke and fumes so please be careful if you have breathing problems or are asthmatic. A mask should be worn and used in a well ventilated area or outside

I added more machine embroidery on top in copper metallic thread and some hand stitching with beads to finish off. My leaves are not ferns but I was inspired by the brown seeds that grow on the underside of fern leaves

I used brown wool to sew the french knots for the seeds

For one of the leaves I sewed on brown sequins with beads in copper thread. I gave the sequins a different look by distressing them with my heat gun after sewing

These are the finished leaves, each one is different. If you want, you can click on the photo to see them in more detail. I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and have a go some time - it is a fun technique and you can decorate your leaves any way you like


murgelchen said...

Hello Carolyn,
you are a very special artist.
Thank you, for the good tutorial.

Maria Dent said...

This is great. Really love the subject and the results. Thanks Carolyn.

Barbara M said...

It's so good to find someone who likes to share!

Many thanks

liniecat said...

Absolutely love this diea , thankyou so much for the tutorial Carol......... Lyn

Judy Scott said...

this is brilliant:) Judy xx

Unknown said...

What a great tutorial Carolyn. Thanks for sharing!

Corinna Nitschmann said...

Thanks for this great inspiration!

Doreen G said...

Great Tutorial Carolyn I love all the different greens you have used.

Sojourner Design said...


Thank you for that inspiring tutorial! I think I could easily work the technique into my own projects. Very nice photos.

Pom Pom said...

I love all the steps to get to the simple beauty of the end product. Thank you for an inspiring tutorial, C!

Ruth Rae said...

thanks for sharing! this looks like fun!

libbyquilter said...

thank you for this inspiring tutorial~your leaves certainly turned out beautifully and i love the idea of using waste bits to make something so organic looking~!!~
this technique is similar to one that i have used and call "thread nesting". but i've never used the heat to add to the textural effect before . . .


Deborah Younglao, Silk Painter said...

Hi Carolyn! Just found your blog.... awesome leaves and a great use for scraps (of which I have tons). Thanks for sharing your technique!

Dotti said...

What a wonderful tutorial. Just so happens I am in an "ingredients" swap and the ingredients I received from my partner happen to be an array of snippets in autumnal colors.
Thank You!

sallgood said...

thanks for sharing! Your leaves are beautiful!

ewa-christine said...

This looks very nice and I shall try to do somethink like it, if you dont mind!!
Thanks for sharing with us!

Unknown said...

Hi, I would like to link to this page. Excellent tutorial, and lovely leaves. Brilliant!!

elenor said...

Thank you for that excellent tutorial. I am a beginner and so I am still much more grateful that I can learn that from you.
I "googled" for machine embroidery and so I found your wonderful blog.
Best wishes from Austria


Thanks for all your great comments. I'm pleased to inspire you a little. It encourages me to do more tutorials

Thank you Roseanna for the great link!

Heidi - thank you!

Lynn Cohen said...

A wonderful tutorial. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and art. I appreciate this so much.
I have made leaves from dyed used dryer sheets. And added beads and embroidery top free motion sewing to them.
Fun. Yours are much more elegant. I shall try some chiffon!

MissIsh said...

Hi Carolyn,

I'd like to discuss with you the possibility of writing a book for RotoVision publishers.
Could you please email me your contact details, I can be reached at isheetam@rotovision.com


Anonymous said...

Hi Carolyn:
My friend just got back to Canada from doing a couple of walks in Cornwall. (She's a Brit, but she's lived in Canada for years.) In between her two week-long walks, she had a Saturday in St. Ives, where she poked into the galleries. She's a painter, so very keen on art. I just had tea with her this afternoon, and she was telling me about her trip. We like to share art ideas, so I was telling her that I wanted to try some textile art for a change -- something with shimmery fabrics and threads and precious, small things that I've saved over the years (odd earrings, for example). Although I'm a seasoned seamstress and painter, I wasn't sure where to start on this new venture. Google, of course! In the course of my internet browsing, I came across your website and am inspired by your leaf tutorial. This is just the look I want to achieve in a small hanging, so the chiffon-overlay technique looks promising. I brought up the image first and then went back to your blog, and I was charmed to see that you're in St. Ives. A few neat connections -- St Ives, your art, my friend, textiles, the Cornwall coast, etc. Don't we live in a lovely, connected world?

Thanks for putting beauty out there for all of us to enjoy, and for not hoarding your skills and techniques. Bless you!

Joan, from Ottawa, Canada

yarnahoy said...

Absolutely LOVE the leaves!

Clare Wassermann said...

you are so generous - thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

What a discovery!You are so inspiring , and so unselfish with your knowledge. I love everything you do . The tutorials are wonderful thank you so much Louise Jordan

Morna Crites-Moore said...

These are gorgeous and I agree with others that you are so generous to share the process. I am working on a flower related piece and these leaves set my imagination on fire.

Anonymous said...

These leaves are AMAZING, and very very helpfull for my A level art and design exam :)
I love how you have recycled all the little bits and used them to produce something so detailed and beautifull. It really does proove the benifits of recycling :)
Its also very much appreciated that youve shared the process for free :D:D:D
Keep up the amazing work :D

college term papers said...

i appreciate............! i have my own reservations.

Anonymous said...

Wow ... these are so easy to do and such fun. I am thrilled with the end result and it cost precisely nothing to make as had everything I needed.My daughter made some with me (her's were even better than mine!!) and I see she has now included hers in her GCSE book work. Very happy Mum and daughter.
Thank you

Studio 508-Nancy's Place said...

I love to read about ways to use beautiful giblets of fabric and thread. I keep mine sorted by color, too, and dip into the little containers regularly. Your leaves are make a lovely eco statement as well as being beautiful. I see brooches when I look at them, a way to take them out for a spin. Thank you for sharing.