Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quilt Patterns from Digital Photographs

Are you enjoying spring blossoms yet in your part of the world? We are in full bloom here in central North Carolina. I noticed on my morning walk that the dogwood trees are beginning to blossom. I believe that is a little early, as it is often mid-April when the azaleas and dogwoods put on their awesome display.
Anyway, have you thought about using the actual petals and leaves of plants to make quilt patterns for applique or quilting motifs?

I used this technique to provide the dogwood patterns for my Carolina Woodland Spring wall quilt.

Just pick a blossom, lay it on your flat-bed scanner bed, and scan away. With most flowers, you will not be able to cover the top without flattening the flower. This will sometimes produce a little rectangle of reflected light, but you can work around that.

On this quilt, I made a pattern from a single blossom, and repeated it to make a circular medallion center on a piece of sheer white fabric. The leaves were also traced from a computer scan. The wreath was quilted with only Quilters' Dream poly batting, then cut away and requilted over lime green velour.
By referring to your scanned image, you can add details to your quilt. Here, I painted some stripes on the white petals, added a tint of reddish-brown to the indentation in the petals, and constructed yellow stamens from bugle and seed beads. The leaves are just quilted and painted, not trapuntoed.

By scanning your flower, you get less interference from natural light and busy background. Compare this photo of a daffodil in a garden, with this close-up scan of a daffodil flower.

Here are some single blossoms from a Yoshino cherry, placed face down on the scanner.

And one of my favorites, a pansy (viola) with a cheerful "face."

You can take your original scan to your light box to draw your pattern, or tape it to a window and trace the main design lines. Sometimes I trace onto Golden Threads paper to make an outline that I can stitch right through for quilting designs.
I have also discovered a wonderful online tool for making line drawings from digital photographs. Go to this website:

and upload your image. It will instantly create an outline drawing for you.
While this little skink would have been easy to trace, these tree branches and winter landscape---not so much!

I will admit to using Sketch to help me with the drawing of the dog, Meathead, in my art quilt Galveston Sunset. He is painted with Tsukineko inks and Fabrico markers and machine-appliqued.

Many photo-editing and drawing software programs will also produce an outline or line drawing for you.
Today's quilter has many tools to make representational art!


Cathie said...

OMG OMG OMG Jeanne - this is the coolest thing I've ever seen. I never knew about this and I've been absolutely dying to make a picture of sabrina when she was little all dressed up in her sunflower hat and dress. I just loaded that picture into that program and OMG OMG - the drawing is perfect to cut fabric by.
YOU are my hero today.
Thank you so much.
Oh, and the tip on scanning flowers - also very good.
Have a wonderful day Oh Wise One!

Bethany said...

WOW. What a neat idea. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Wow! That is amazing! THanks for sharing that technique!

I love the dogwood quilt! The detail on the little purple stitch on the edge of the petal is just perfect! Love the beaded centers, too! :)

Exuberantcolor/Wanda S Hanson said...

Thanks for the link. This is great for those of us who haven't learned to draw.