Thursday, May 12, 2016

Designing from Coloring Books

A local (and loyal) reader asked me: “You said we could use a child's coloring book to make designs for needlework (April 10, 2016). Are you going to write a blog post about that?”

I'd be happy to do that. The picture I planned to use was from Landolls, Inc.'s Let's Color coloring and activity book, © 1993. (I never throw anything useful away!) But, to prevent any possible copyright infringement*, I'm substituting a sketch of one of my puppets in a similar pose. The advantage to such drawings is their simplicity, with large open areas. I've added back legs and feet, which wouldn't show on the puppet, and moved the front legs downward and the tail partially around from the back.

lion puppet
Lion puppet
Once I had a working sketch, I erased all the unnecessary pencil lines and traced the sketch on tracing paper with a wide-pointed permanent marker. I ran this through the copier to get an outline picture like those you might see in a child's coloring book. Click on the outline below to download it.

Now that I have the outline, how would I use it for needlework?

1) The use for applique seems obvious, especially in felt. Felt does not need to have its edges either turned under or overcast with stitches. It holds its shape well and comes in a wide range of colors. The first thing you have to know about felt applique is that you cannot just cut your picture up and use it as pattern pieces. You need to decide which pieces will overlap others and which pieces need to be cut out, even if they will never be seen. I used tracing paper again to make a set of the shapes I would need to pin to the felt to cut out the pieces for the applique. The picture is formed in layers with the shapes from the back layer sewn down first. You then work forward toward the front of the picture, overlapping pieces as you do so. To make this easier to visualize, J. D. took photographs at four stages in the development of the appliqued picture.

lion applique sequence
Lion applique sequence, steps 1 through 4
2) As for embroidery, the outlines could easily be done in plain chain (October 31, 2015) and the eyes, nose, teeth and tongue in satin stitch. If something more complicated is desired, the outlined sections could be filled in with solid chain stitch (Beauvais embroidery, January 31, 2016). Or do the picture in cross-stitch, or Spanish blackwork, perhaps on baby-checked gingham. Embroider each section in a different diaper pattern (October 6, 2013).

Transfer pencil on tracing paper
Transfer pencil on tracing paper
Do you want an easy way to transfer your outline to your fabric? Make a hot-iron transfer. Trace your outline on tracing paper with a hot-iron transfer pencil. These red pencils are made by several companies. I use Aunt Martha's®, 2 to a package for $2.99. Each pencil will make many transfers. Keep the pencil point sharp and go over the lines firmly until they look dark. Cut and press a piece of quarter-inch checked gingham about two inches larger on all sides than your outline design. Pin your transfer pattern (red-penciled side down) to the gingham, centering it with the checks. Press the transfer pattern on the back with a hot, dry iron (no steam). Press hard and go back and forth several times, but don't scorch the paper. It takes at least 5 seconds to get a good transfer. Unpin one corner and lift it carefully. Peek under it to see if your lines transferred. If not, re-pin it in the same place and iron over it until they do. Remember that your picture will appear reversed on the fabric, so avoid lettering or anything that looks “wrong” if reversed. The red lines will wash out of the fabric with warm water and a mild detergent once your project is finished.

Lion outline transferred to gingham
Lion outline transferred to gingham
I plan to do this sample in Holbein embroidery, which is done in blackwork patterns, but in many colors of embroidery floss. The transfer was ironed onto light yellow-green baby-checked gingham with a dry iron set for “cotton”'. You can use a transfer pattern on many plain-colored fabrics, too, but be sure to try a small sample transfer on the fabric first. Not all fabrics will accept a transfer. If you go over a transfer pattern again with the transfer pencil, pressing firmly, you can often use the pattern again. I file and save mine.

Lion latch hook front
Lion latch hook,  front
3) Draw the pattern on rug canvas, to be filled in with latch-hook knots (June 16, 2013). Ordinarily, I would work the background of the latch-hook picture as I made the picture itself. This time I did the picture and will fill in the background later. (These are all works-in-progress; I will show the finished items at a later date.)

Lion latch hook back
Lion latch hook, back
If you look at the back of the latch-hook lion and disregard the vertical lines of canvas, you can get a good idea of how the picture would look if it were done in tent stitch on quickpoint canvas.

I'm sure you can think of many other possibilities. Of course it is not necessary to use a cartoon animal as a design. There are many coloring books with more detailed, realistic pictures of birds, flowers, houses, automobiles, and nearly anything else you desire. Dover Publications has enough of those to keep you busy for a lifetime! If you want something more elaborate, look at some of the beautiful and intricate adult coloring books which have become very popular during the past year.

*These simple coloring book designs are perfectly acceptable when you are making projects for yourself and your household or for gifts. If you plan to sell your work at craft shows or shops, however, do not use any copyrighted materials in your designs. The legal complications can be awful. I will continue to give you suggestions in these blogs for creating your own original designs.

Thank you all for allowing me to discuss one of my favorite subjects. Now, design something of your own!

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.