Sunday, March 4, 2012

Passion Flower: From sketch to art quilt

Passion Flower – ink pen, watercolor, watercolor pencils
Susan Brubaker Knapp here. For years, I skipped working in a sketchbook partly because I thought it a waste of time. Why take the time to sketch when you could skip straight to the main event – making a piece of art? But I’ve seen the light. Here’s a case in point. I did the sketch above working from this photo of a passion flower that I took in the summer of 2010:

Creating the sketch helped me to more closely examine and get intimately acquainted with the structure of the flower, so that when I started working in fabric, things made much more sense.

I started by fusing down pieces of fabric for the leaves and flower onto the background:  

And then I started adding details with thread. I call this process “thread sketching.” It is cool to see how much detail – color, texture, line, movement – I can add with the thread alone. Look at how the radial filaments (those squiggly purple strands at the center of the flower) pop with the addition of the white thread: 

I’ve just started the thread sketching on this piece. I’ll go back in with a lot more thread colors to make the piece more detailed and dimensional. 

When I work in my sketchbook now, I think about how my sketch can inform or enhance the process of making a piece of fiber art based on the same subject. It’s an opportunity to work through ideas, test and refine things, and prepare for more important work.


  1. love it! also thanks for sharing how your sketch book helps you

  2. Lovely piece, Susan ! Show us again when it is finished please.

  3. So Cool! I totally see how sketching helps the vision of the quilt. What brand of fusible do you prefer for thread sketching?

  4. Beautiful! Loved seeing your steps from photo to finish.

  5. Thanks for this post. I thought, like you, why not just skip to the end product but have found now that I've started sketching (thanks to the Sketchbook Challenge) it is helping me to think things through and design better quilts.

  6. Thanks, everyone! If you are interested in the thread sketching process, you can see my progress on my blog here:

    It already looks different from when I wrote this post. I haven't been working for the past few days because of my youngest daughter's soccer tournament, but I'll be posting more as it moves along.

  7. Hi Susan, I love your work. Please tell me what you use in your sketchbook. Everyone tells me copic markers are the best but they are too expensive. Do you use watercolors for all of your work. I watched you on QATV the 900 series but I still am not sure the best for the book or the actual quilt piece. Can you give me just an idea. Thanks. alena

  8. I adore passion flowers! and love how you see the value of drawing something to really get to know it. beautiful quilt, Susan!


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