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Embellished Image Motifs

Using fabric images, beads and crinoline to create
embellished image motifs

By Suzanne Surfass

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    This month, I'm going to share a unique method for incorporating embellished image motifs into your projects by utilizing fabric images, crinoline and beads.

    These motifs are relatively quick to finish, but you can make them as elaborate as you'd like after you attach them to your quilt block, pillow, clothing, bag, or other ultimate destination.


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Creating your own images

   While I have used computer-generated images created with BubbleJet Set and a printer, you can also use printed fabrics that have a special motif, smaller stenciled images on fabric, rubber-stamped images that have been colored or painted, or even iron-on transfer images.

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Using BubbleJet Set

    We start by printing an image onto fabric (cotton, silk, muslin, virtually any smooth natural fabric) using a product called BubbleJet Set, a product developed for use with ink-jet printers to create a permanent, colorfast image on fabric by running the treated fabric through an ink-jet printer after it has been ironed onto freezer paper and cut to size.

    Just as there is more than one way to patch a block, not everyone uses BubbleJet Set exactly the same way. What follows are the basic procedures that I use for creating my permanent, colorfast images on fabric.

1. Start with an image.
    This can be a .jpg, .gif or other image file you've saved or scanned, including photographs. You will need to edit (crop, resize, etc.) and save your image with Paint Shop Pro or other image software.
    There are non-expiring, fully functional shareware versions of PSP 3 (recommended for beginners) and PSP 4 available at:

2. Prepare fabric with BJS.
    a. Recommended fabrics include 100% cotton and silk.
    b. Manufacturer's directions instruct you to soak your fabric for 5 minutes and allow to drip dry.
    c. Iron fabric to freezer paper and trim to 8.5 (or 9) inches by 11 or 14 inches. Be sure to trim the top corners thusly: /\
    (I have never had a paper jam when I remembered to trim my corners!) 

3. I have the option of printing multiple images in PSP6. This allows me to best utilize my sheet of treated fabric with less waste.

4. Adjust printing properties.
    Your BJS fabric sheet is now ready to run thru your printer, but first you need to adjust your printing properties. You need to tell your printer to adjust the following properties:
    Saturation (heavier)
    Brightness (lighter or darker depending on your image)
    Color Tone (warmer or cooler)
    Ink Volume (heavier)

    Now choose your paper properties (usually from the printer's drop-down menu). You may want to select the "Iron-on T-shirt Transfers" option if you have it. This is what I use with my Hewlett Packard DeskJet 952C, and it seems to account for the heavier "paper."

5. Hit print and wait for your image to finish.

6. I seem to get better results when I press the fabric sheet with a hot iron. I remove the freezer paper and press both sides of the fabric. I then let fabric sheet set for 30" (as recommended by manufacturer) and then wash with Synthrapol, an afterwash that keeps excess run-off dye and loose dye particles in suspension so they don't stain other areas of the fabric.
    I do not wring the fabric sheets, but roll them up in a thick bath towel and "squish" the excess water out. I then iron the fabric dry.

    Your image is now ready for use. Next, we are going to create a beaded frame around the image, and top it off with an optional picot edging.

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Beading the Image

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Materials List:

  • Fabric image

  • Crinoline Template (optional) for tracing outline "frame"

  • Seed beads (sizes 11 - 15 work well)

  • Beading needle

  • Beading thread of your choice (Silamide or Nymo works well).

  • Iron-on fusible adhesive (e.g., Heat-n-Bond Lite)

  • Optional: Scrap of cotton fabric for backing to cover/protect/seal your knots and threads.

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Step-by-Step Instructions

    1. Fuse one side of a piece of crinoline. Remove paper backing and place fabric image right-side-up over crinoline. Fuse as directed for 5 seconds.

    2. Decide how you'd like to frame your image ~ oval, circle, rectangle, square ~ and pencil your outline onto the fabric. (Illustration #1)

    3.  Sew your first row of beads onto the foundation. I place 3 beads at a time all the way around, although the illustration shows a two-bead method. (Illustration #2)

    4. Now reinforce your outside outline by backtracking through the whole row of beads. (Illustration #3) The continuous thread will join all the beads and make for a smoother "set" to the beads.

    5. You can leave your image with a simple outline (Illustration #4) or you may decide another row of beads is appropriate, just set any additional row(s) close to the previous one to prevent gaps. (Illustration #5)
    I have sometimes added the additional row to either the outside or to the inside if there is enough room. (Illustration #6)

    6. When you have finished adding the beads, you are ready to trim the design.
    With the back side facing you so you can see your threads, trim as close as you can without cutting into any of your threads.

    7. An optional step if you want a cleaner finish to the back to your work follows:

    Lay a piece of cotton fabric right-side-up over the paper-free side of the fusible, making sure the fabric covers all the fusible. Press firmly with a medium-hot iron for 5 seconds.
    Place your embellished image motif on the paper side of the cotton fabric and trace around it. With scissors, cut on the traced line.
    Place your embellished image motif face down on a fluffy towel. Remove the paper backing on your fused cotton, and place it over the image motif. Press firmly with a medium-hot iron for 5 seconds.
    Trim as necessary using small, sharp scissors. (Illustration #7)

  8. Three-Bead Picot Edge

    I sometimes like to add a three-bead Picot Edge. This is a simple edging that is very attractive.
    With a yard of beading thread knotted and secured on the back side, position your needle on the inside edge of the outside row of beads and come up and into any bead on the outside edge.
    Pick up 3 beads, skip a bead and place your needle into the next bead on the edge, pulling your thread taut so the 3 beads form a "triangle" shape with one bead on top of the other two.
    Repeat until you've gone around the entire piece.

    Now you perform what's called "popping the top."
    When you get to the end of your picot row and are at the beginning again, come up thru the first bead on your first picot, skip the top picot bead and go down thru the third bead of the picot. Repeat all around, pulling your thread so that the top bead in the picot stands out nicely.

  9. Ta-Dah! You're finished and ready to attach your embellished image to your block (or wearable or make into a pin ...).
    I simply do a running stitch or back stitch between the last two rows of beads all the way around.

    Illustration #8 shows motifs that have been attached to some blocks that are works in progress.

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   I hope you enjoy this lesson and are now inspired to try something new with your own image motifs. Don't forget that you need not be limited to BJS images. There are other options for images to embellish such as rubber stamps, print fabrics, stencils, and tobacco silks .


Illustration 1:
Outlines traced around images
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Illustration 2: Outline
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Illustration 3: Reinforce
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Illustration 4:
Simple Outline of one row
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Illustration 5:
Completing a second row of beads
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Illustration 6:
Finished rows of beading
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Illustration 7:
The backside after trimming:
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Illustration 8:
Beaded images attached to blocks

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Ann Benson, Beadweaving, Sterling, New York, 1993. (Illustrations 2 and 3 adapted from this book)

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    Suzanne Surfass, also known as suzanneMI, lives on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She has been dubbed "Renaissance Woman" by understanding friends. She also runs the CQembellishers list at YahooGroups and the late Crazy Quilt Web-Ring (until Crickrock died).
    You can see some additional work of her hands ~ including several embellished-image motifs  ~ at her Picture Trails gallery .

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