Carol Sloan here.
I love to build up texture and layers on top of canvas or just plain white cotton fabric.
I usually use a variety of items on the background, ranging from vintage papers to hand carved stamp images.
Another great item to use in collage is paper napkins.
Most of them have at least two layers (called ply) of paper, some as many as four.
I always deconstruct them so that the layer with the image printed on it will be very sheer in the background.
Here is one of the collages that I made using paper napkins in the background.
There was a beautiful flower image on it that I really liked and wanted to take a little farther than they did on the napkin.
You can see all of the layers in the background, creating dimension and texture.
After sealing the entire surface with matt medium (and letting that dry), I sketched the lines of the flower with a pencil that I wanted to stitch.
Using a darning foot on my machine, I did some free motion stitching with black thread.
I used Tsukineko All Purpose Inks to apply a transparent layer of color to the surface.
The inks worked perfectly for this application, allowing me to add progressive layers and build the color up as I desired.
I loved the sheer napkin in the collage as I could add (or leave out) any details on the flower that I wanted to.
Here is the actual napkin to show you how I used it as a "jumping off point" in my design.
It's similar but not the exact design.
Here's the back of the piece, showing my stitching. I just thought that you might like to see it.
I always turn things over to see the stitching...
I hope that you will look at your "paper garden" a little differently now.
Pull those napkins out and see what you can draw- using either pencil or thread!