Freehand Quilting an Inktense Drawing

Linda sketched the lilies that are growing outside her studio. Maybe you have something similar in your garden, if not, work from a photo like this one on the right, or one you have taken yourself. Don’t worry about making an exact copy of the flowers as you draw them. The good thing about nature is that there is lots of variation and drawing flowers is very forgiving! Just enjoy the process and don’t get stressed over the details.

Derwent advise that Inktense pencils are made permanent on fabric and paper by wetting them. You can use water in a spray bottle to spritz your drawing, but Linda just used a large paintbrush and wet her drawn lines that way. Obviously don’t scrub too much with the brush or you’ll risk disrupting your lines.

Adding water to your drawing will make the lines bleed. You can encourage this if you want a painterly effect, or you can minimise it by placing a sheet of blotting paper beneath your work to absorb any excess moisture. If you really don’t want to over-wet your work, try using a fabric medium to set your drawing instead – just brush it on carefully.

When your work is quite dry, you can layer it up and quilt. Place your backing fabric, then on top your batting, then finally your drawn fabric on top of that. Tack (baste) if required, then set up your machine for freehand stitching. Choose your quilting thread colours based on the colours that you used in your drawing. You can use your thread colour to enhance those colours, for instance, if you want to darken up an area, select a thread that’s a slightly darker value to the one of the Inktense pencil drawing, if you want to make an area brighter, select a slightly brighter thread, if you want your stitching lines to blend, choose a thread that matches as closely as possible.

Linda used Madeira Cotona in a 50weight which is quite a fine thread. If you wanted a bolder line, try their 30weight version.

Begin by quilting the large shapes of your design, which in this case will probably be the main flower. From there, work out, adding the extra shapes, and working into those areas adding more detail. It’s generally considered good practice to work out from the centre of your project so as not to leave large unquilted ‘islands’ that you have to go back and tackle later.

Change thread colours as appropriate until you’ve added as much quilting as you want.

When the quilting is complete, trim your work to size. If you’re going to make a cushion like Linda’s, then an envelope style cushion cover is easiest. Cut your cushion backing fabric to suit and if you want to, you can add in piping, or a faux piping as Linda has done. A faux piping is really easy – just fold strips of contrast fabric and trap them in the seam as you sew up your cushion, overlapping them at the corners. Pop in your cushion inner and you’re all done!

Linda’s used Derwent Inktense pencils to draw these lilies on fabric, before freehand quilting them and making the panel up as a cushion. Let’s take a closer look so you can try something similar…

To make something similar you’ll need:

Cotton fabric
Derwent Inktense pencils
Water spray bottle or paintbrush

Wadding/batting
Backing fabric (another piece of cotton fabric)
Threads for quilting, Linda used Madeira Cotona
Your sewing machine

To make up as a cushion you’ll need further fabric to back the cushion, and a cushion inner.

Linda starts by making light lines to suggest the main shapes. Keep your marks faint until you’re happy with them, then darken them up. Add in as much detail and background as you want to, for instance, if you like the shapes of the leaves, add those in, use stems to anchor the flowers to the bottom of the composition, and add in extra flowers to fill up space if you need to. The aim is to make a pleasing drawing, not just a replica of the photo.

Linda wanted to lose the plain cream background colour of her fabric so she actively encouraged the colour to bleed and create a watercolour effect. Whilst still wet, you can draw into the fabric to strengthen up any lines or add more colour.

When you’re happy, leave your work to dry. It will dry paler and so if when you come back to it, you’re disappointed, just add another layer of drawing. Don’t forget to wet any further drawing with more water.

When the flowers are quilted, if you have large areas of background, you’ll probably want to quilt those too. Linda used a cream thread which blended with her background and worked a closely spaced filling stitch which you can see in this photo on the left.

You can use any of your favourite filling stitches for this. If you’re background is quilted a little more densely than the flowers, that will help the flowers to ‘pop’ forward.

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