After a discussion on a social media forum recently I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the differences between Thread Painting and what I call Thread Sketching on fabric or textile art. While my opinion is just that and cannot be considered a rule, I think it’s important to differentiate between the two, as they have different approaches to construction of a textile piece or art quilt.
THREAD PAINTING – usually involves densely stitching over a picture or image to “paint it”. It often takes over the whole image and very little of the original image is left visible. This is not always the case of course but in works by the likes of the thread painting artists listed below this is certainly the case. Thread Painting often is used heavily over the whole piece, or in a just a section of the quilt or textile piece, leaving other areas less densely stitched.
The dense stitching nature of Thread painting can cause the fabric to warp so a good strong stabiliser under the fabric is recommended. If your stabiliser is “stretchy”, (some are due to the manufacturing process) it is a good idea to lay 2 pieces one horizontal and one vertical to reduce the stretch in both the warp and weft. Tearaway stabilisers are good, as are wash-away ones. I also recently learnt that some thread painted images are created separately, then stitched onto the background. For instance, using water soluble stabilisers.
Some artists incorporate the stretch of that thread painting creates into their art. They use the added dimension as a feature.
If your piece in an art quilt, the stabiliser can be left in to add strength to the structure of the quilt. Often it can aid in the look of the quilt when it is hanging, making it appear more solid, less flimsy.
After the thread painting is complete, then the backing and batting are added and the piece is quilted. This would reduce the look of the piece’s back being a tangle of threads. Instead the top would be quilted around and perhaps the image and some of it’s featured quilted around, often this gives the piece more dimension, allowing portions of the piece to be above the wadding, rather than flattened against the wadding with all the stitching.
THREAD SKETCHING – Usually involves a less dense application of thread onto the image. It often is spread evenly over an area, if not the whole quilt and puckering is less of an issue. With thread sketching much of the underlying image or picture is left visible and the stitching enhances the image or pattern, or as in the works below, the stitching creates the picture, but still does not paint it.
Thread sketching can often be done without stabilizers and depending on the amount of stitching to be applied can be done straight onto the quilt sandwich with batting and backing in place. Where the sketching finishes, the quilting can fill in the open areas.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that:
Thread Painting – Paints the image, filling in colour and structure, texture and leaves little of the image behind, it is what it says it is “thread painting”, “painting with thread”.
Thread Sketching – Enhances the image or design, adding details and structure, outlining and enhancing, leaving much of the image behind visible. The actual painting is made from the paint or fabrics underneath the stitch.
and it’s also been referred to as machine stitching, but I’m not going there! 🙂
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ? I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR POINT OF VIEW…
Thread Painting Artists you might like to check out:
Alison Holt Alison Holt refers to her work as Creative Machine Embroidery rather than Thread Painting…
Pam Holland Pam does wonderful Thread Painting as well as thread sketching.
Thread Sketching Artists you might like to check out:
Lorraine Roy An extraordinary artist who creates wonderful natural art quilts.
Sue Duffy An all round artist and traditional quilter.
Lois Parish Evans Thread painter and art quilt artist