Art Quilting: What Is It?

by Linda Matthews

Art quilting has become immensely popular in recent years as more women and men take a step beyond traditional quilting and venture into this very creative field. But what exactly is an art quilt?

An art quilt is most commonly defined as having the basic characteristics of a quilt, i.e. a layer of batting sandwiched between two layers of fabric and held together with stitching, however this is where the similarity ends.

As with traditional painted art, an art quilt comprises the same elements and principles of design and is intended to hang on a wall, but because of the nature of fabric it can be manipulated or cut to any shape or size and has a tactile quality and surface design texture not found in painted art. Further embellishment of the surface of the art quilt can provide additional interest and texture.

Special Techniques

Art quilting requires special sewing and quilting techniques that are used to create the surface structure and texture of the art quilt, some of which include:

Appliqué: hand, machine, raw edge, turned under, fusible, reverse

Color Application: hand-dyeing, tie dyeing, stamping, fabric painting

Embellishing: beading, hand-stitching

Embroidery: hand, machine, free-standing

Machine Stitches: decorative, faux hand-quilt, zig-zag, satin-stitch, twin needle

Piecing: straight, curved, strip

Quilting: hand, machine, free motion

Thread: thread painting, free motion embroidery, free motion quilting, bobbin-work, couching

These special art quilting techniques can be studied through books or in live workshops or on-line classes. They are fun to learn and provide the art quilter with their own unique art quilter's palette of skills. There are also many on-line art quilt groups offering information and resources for art quilters who want to stretch themselves further.

Additional Techniques

Additional art quilting techniques can be used to create interesting and unusual textures, shapes and design elements. Some of these techniques include:

... Needle felting

... Photo transfers

... Foiling

... Using a heat gun to distress fabric

... Using papers and plastics as structural elements

Express Yourself

Art has always been an expression of ourselves and our environment; a reflection of our thoughts and dreams, and can be either subjective or objective, and so it is with art quilting. The only difference is the medium - fabric and thread instead of oils or watercolors; batting instead of canvas. Plus the added ability to add further surface embellishment and texture through the use of special art quilting techniques.

The journey into art quilting is addictive and seductive and can be very rewarding. Either as a recreational hobby or a serious art form, it is a great outlet for self-expression.

About the author: Linda Matthews is a textile artist, designer and teacher, and her website Creative offers an abundance of inspiration, education and motivation in the creative aspects of textile and quilt art.

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© Spiritual Woman Press, 2007. All rights reserved.