Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Doodling from ink to thread

Hi, this is Susan Brubaker Knapp – posting here for the very first time. I signed up to participate in The Sketchbook Challenge when it started in January of last year, and I’m pleased to be participating this year as a host artist.

I have to admit that I’ve never been much of a doodler. I think it is because I am so product oriented –  and because I am so busy – that I don’t allow myself much down time. This is not a good thing. A lot of good stuff finds its way out when you allow the brain to wander (ever notice how great ideas come to you when you are in the shower?), and this concept is at the core of doodling.

I am a fiber artist; I make my art mainly with fabric and thread. Diana’s “Doodling” theme for this month made me consider the similarities between doodling with a pen or pencil and with thread in my free-motion quilting motifs. For example, the repetitive lines that define the feathers in my piece “Psychedelic Peacock” (below) are simply stylized lines like doodles.

“Psychedelic Peacock”
Detail from “Psychedelic Peacock”

“Free-motion stitching” means that you control where the machine is stitching. It is not done by a programmed, computerized machine. So it is very similar to sketching. Here is a traditional quilt I completed lately that has a design I doodled – over and over and over – across the surface: 

“Williams Anniversary Quilt“
Last night, I doodled this design on paper:

I drew the numbers first, in pencil, then outlined them. After I drew over my pencil lines in ink, refining them as I went, I doodled in all the little circles. Once my sketch was done, I transferred the numbers onto fabric using a light board, and doodled the same design with my sewing machine.

The fabric is a silk-cotton blend that I hand dyed, and it is stitched with silk thread. I love the sheen; it almost looks metallic. Here is a detail shot where you can see the stitches more:

One of my goals for participating this year is to make sure that some of what I work on in my sketchbook gets out of those pages and into a piece of thread-sketched cloth, my medium of choice. I know that for some people, a sketchbook is its own finished product. For others, it is a place to work through ideas. I use my sketchbook to relax and unwind, and to  s l o w   m y s e l f   d o w n  so that good ideas will come to me. Why not try taking a sketch – or a doodle – and making it into a work of art using a different medium? It would be fun to take one doodle and recreate it in different ways: collage, assemblage, fiber, watercolor… pick one and take your doodle to the next level!


  1. A woman after my own heart! though i have no where near the same level of expertise, that is exactly what i was going to do with my doodle. Love the idea of turning the drawing into a textile. Off I go..

  2. Excellent! I love that you explained the breakdown of doing the numbers and then the fill inbetween. not having started as a quilter, this way of getting my doodles onto cloth hadn't occurred to me. I have been wanting to make the transition, because I love FME, but couldn't work out how to do it without loads of stops and starts.
    Sandy in the UK

  3. Beautiful, Susan! Thanks for the inspiration. I am not a stitcher, but I love your broadening the concept of doodling into free-motion stitching and fabric.

  4. Time for a quick kick in the pants- thanks for the inspiration. Just hope I keep up.
    Happy New Year

  5. I started using a sketchbook several years ago to work out drawing with a continuous line so I could quilt drawings for small art quilts. I find it really helpful for working out other quilting designs as well. It's been a really big help to become a better doodler!

  6. I love the stitched numbers Susan! I see some inspiration for the background pages of my 2012 SBJ!
    Thanks for sharing,

  7. love the peacock. Striking! I'm also a fiber artist, though was drawing way before I got into fiber. I've always kept a sketchbook -- untiil I took up weaving. You make me want to go seek it out.

  8. I love your numbers thread-sketch. It makes my fingers itch to get the machine and fabric out!

  9. ooh fabulous - totally inspiring.

  10. Awesome post Susan! Just what the blog needs and loves! You're gonna fit in just fine. Just. Fine.

  11. Brilliant work with thread!

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  13. What amazing work and stunning inspiration. I just joined this month, and hope to participate as much as possible. Looks like there is a lot of creativity here!

  14. Truly beautiful Susan. Inspirational.


  15. Susan thats great! I love what you have done - I have previously drawn zentangles onto coth directly, and quilted parts of it, but your idea is great - thanks for sharing.

  16. Oh Yes! You are really "onto something", Susan, when you write how the things we doodle often sneak out of the sketchbook and onto/into other works of art.
    I agree with you about the sewing machine needle and thread being another form of doodling. My free-motion stitchwork tends toward the same thing.
    I am so glad you are part of the host artists this year!
    Love your post!

  17. These are so beautiful, especially the first one. It's very inspiring :)

  18. Thank you Susan. I have from time to time been a doodler, but I have not ever carried that over to FMQ. Very inspiring message

  19. I love the doodle & as a lapsed quilter (who pieced better than she quilted !!) I think the fabric project is just brilliant !


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