It’s All in the Details

Oh, the details! Today I’m showing you some of the details that I glossed over in my last post about making fabric portraits. Belle, the French Bulldog is progressing nicely and today we’ll pick up at Step 5 .

Step 5

Here is the transparency that I traced from the posterized photo. I spent hours deciding on the values of the greys and blacks and the sequence that the pieces will be laid down.

IMG_2089The sequence is important because it satisfies one of the key design principles at play here: when one object overlaps another, it creates depth and perspective in an otherwise flat plane. In the case of fabric, pieces that are further away need to be a bit oversized to hide their raw edges under the closer piece. I mark the lines with tiny arrows to remind me to add an extra smidge of fabric to these edges when I cut them out. It makes for a very complicated looking map but it’s the detail that produces realism and that’s what I’m after in this portrait.

Step 6

The next step is to prepare the fusible web. I like to use Wunder Under because it’s lightweight and won’t over-stiffen the final portrait. I label the transparency with ‘right’ and ‘left’ and flip it over and place it on a lightbox. I lay the fusible on top of the transparency and start tracing the shapes to the fusible’s paper backing. I trace all the 1’s, then the 2’s and so on until all shapes are traced. I also write the body part on each shape so I’ll know where it belongs in the portrait. As each shape is traced to fusible, I circle the number on the transparency so I know it’s been done. This makes it easier to scan the transparency for any elusive shapes that I might have missed.

Step 7

At last it’s time to work with fabric! I couldn’t do this step without using a greyscale. You can buy a greyscale at an art supply store, find them on the internet or you can even make your own using the shading tool in Word. Comparing the shades in my fabrics and in the portrait with those on the greyscale helps me find just the right fabrics. I like to cut small swatches from of a wide variety of fabrics and place them on the greyscale. Only then do I make the final choices for my portrait. The chosen swatches get a dab of glue and are stuck down to my greyscale as a reference. Now, I’m ready to iron the fusible shapes to the back of the selected fabrics. Again, I work in groups, keeping all the same values together.

Step 8

Next up: cutting. You quickly realize they don’t call this ‘fussy cutting’ for nothing. It’s fiddly work but it gets you one step closer to the really exciting stuff…constructing the portrait.

Belle in 85 pieces

Here are all 85 of the fabric shapes cut out. See how I keep them grouped by number? That’s a sanity saving measure! No sneezing allowed at this stage.

Below, you can see the greyscale reference card. See how I sometimes pick 2 fabrics with the same value? I do this when two areas overlap but have the same value such as the chin where it lays next to, but forward of the neck.

Belle greyscale

That’s a lot of instructions, so I’ll end here and resume in another blog to show you how I construct the portrait. Who knows, Belle might even be ready for her debut then! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on this.

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