Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Landscape Quilting with 'Challenging' Fabrics

3 Hour Workshop sample
 You may not know it, but I sell landscape fabrics - I have over 100 bolts!  (The link to my online store is on the toolbar at the top, just under my Material Girl collage.)

 I decided to invest the profits from my first book's royalties into opening an online fabric shop dedicated to help landscape quilters find the fabrics they (we!) need.  The thing is, we are completely dependent on manufactures to make the right fabrics and many times they don't quite get it right.  Soooo, in this blog I'm going to show you how I use the not quite "right' fabrics.  


 This is a bark fabric I currently have in stock. Notice the horizontal print lines? This makes it not quite perfect for landscape quilting. However, I come armed with a wide array of markers. Some are simple Sharpies and some are called 'fabric dye markers'.  Sharpies you can buy at any office supply store.  The fabric dye markers are sold at Ben Franklin, Michaels, sometimes JoAnn Fabrics and at Hobby Lobby.  I used to sell these markers but I don't know if I'll restock them or not, they are a bit fat to ship easily in the Flat Rate envelopes that most of us online sellers use.

Assorted Markers
 You can see from the above pic that I have a wide variety, I'm only showing you the gray, brown and black ones. I also use the Sharpie Silver Metallic marker.  I've cut out a couple of tree trunks and I'm going to color them. 

 Look carefully and you can see the difference between the the untouched bark fabric and my tree trunks. First I used a brown marker and just colored up the center and left edges of the tree trunks.  Then I went up and down with the metallic silver Sharpie. (You can see the lines quite easily.)  The last thing I did was to bring in some black on the far left edges so the tree has the appearance of being 3 dimensional.  I was going to use that white marker - this is a marker in the scrap booking section of craft stores which creates highlights on dark fabric or paper, but decided that I didn't need to.  

The next photo shows you how the trunks will look on a simple batik background.
They look GOOD!

Finished trunks on a batik background

Bark print
 In this print we find the same sort of problems only now we have a goldish greenish splotch and too much of one color.  Depending on your landscape, the all over gray color of this bark might be just fine. I'm going to pretend that it isn't so I can show you something.  :)

I've cut out 3 tree trunks this time.
 For this fabric, I just used black and dark gray to to add depth and shading to the tree trunks. Once again, I kept most of the shading on the left side, I did not use a metallic Sharpie this time, just a dark gray one.
Shaded tree trunks
 You can see how you don't notice those greenish/golden splotches anymore.  Now, I decided to bring in just a bit of brown color for fun.... you can see how natural it turned out! 

Finished trunks

Smooth bark
 This is a beautiful rich luxurious brown. It doesn't have a lot of bark texture though. Sooooo - lets fix it up a bit!  I'll start with the metallic silver Sharpie to add vertical streaking, then I'll blend it a bit with some black and shade the left side.

You can also 'shade' your tree trunks by adding a narrow strip of another fabric. In this case, I'll just cut out another skinny trunk and use the WRONG side of the fabric to highlight the dark tree trunks.

Skinny strip - wrong side of the print

 First thing to do is darken the new skinny strip and add a bit of texture by using a brown marker to make long 'barky' lines up and down the strip.
 When I'm done I'll just use a glue stick and glue that skinny strip along the side of the wider tree trunk.  Viola! 
Tree trunks from a smooth brown print

Birch or Aspen bark fabric

 This excellent fabric is by Kanvas, for Benartex. It won't be around long so I bought 3 bolts.  When it runs out, I'll have to go back to making light colored tree trunks the 'old' way, lol.  In my example below, I'm using a warm light Stonehenge print. (By the way, if I wanted a 'whiter' and 'brighter' tree trunk, I'd just use the wrong side of the Stonehenge, it works great.  Always look at the wrong sides of your fabrics - they might be perfect!) 

2 Trunks, Stonehenge 

Adding gray horizontal splotches

 The first thing I did with the these trunks is to add gray splotches in a somewhat horizontal pattern. I used a gray Sharpie, but it wasn't a metallic gray. 

The next thing I did was to use an extra fine point black Sharpie and add some more horizontal lines.  Once that was done, I placed  the tree trunks on a batik and used my black marker to darken some portions of the gray splotches.
  Leaves are a continual source of problems, I just can't find enough really good leaves! Here is how I fix up leaf fabrics.  
3 leaf fabrics 

 Because leaves are such an integral part of our landscape quilts, they really need to look natural. Very rarely do you see a tree with all the exact same color of leaves. Look closely and you'll see that some leaves are turning golden a bit earlier than others, some still are green while others are turning red and some are brown and falling off while other are just beginning to turn. 

Green/Gray leaves

 This fabric is pretty gray.  To add more green color to the leaves, I used 2 green fabric dye markers. To add some golden highlights I used a bright lemon yellow and a golden orange marker.  They make a huge difference.  If you want more blending ability, just spray the fabric with water and dampen it before you add the marker color. 

The WRONG side of the green leaf fabric

 Sorry, my shadow is showing up on the photos here. Ugh.   Anyway, to get a lighter effect on some of the leaves, use the wrong side of the fabric and color it too! 

Golden leaves
 Do the same thing with the golden leaf fabric. Now you have leaves which can be used to add a bit of color . Mix them in with the golden leaves and prevent your trees from looking too uniform. 

Wrong side of the golden leaf fabric

Red Leaves
 These dark red leaves need a bit of help... so I added greens, browns, bright lemon yellow and gold to the mix.  Now they are much nicer!
Wrong side of the red leaf print
Once your fabrics are ready to go, you can start designing your woodland landscape.  I hope you've found this helpful!

As always, comments and questions are welcome. Happy Quilting! 


  1. I've only just recently started a landscape quilt, and have now started quilting it. So this comes a bit late, though I may still improve parts of it with the help of this technique. It will surely be useful for future work.
    Thank you for this post.

    1. There are many many times I use a marker after the quilting is done. Many. Times. You just have to be careful about the bumps, humps and ridges caused by the quilting.

      Have fun with your landscape but be warned that making them can get addicting. :)

  2. This is a great tutorial. So glad I found you. mickie

    1. Glad to help you out! Thanks for letting me know - it's encouraging to find out that my blog is liked so I appreciate the comments!

  3. Your blog and book are much appreciated as I dip my toes into the world of landscape quilts, a far cry from all the quilts I've made for family members to keep them warm.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words! There are so many ways to put landscapes together and this one is only one way. It's actually the easiest if you ask me - but only if the right fabrics are on the market. These days it's getting harder and harder to find good leaves. Anyway, I'm glad you like the blog!