Motifs-Find Inspiration From Fabric Designs


Inspiration from Fabric Designs

I find inspirations everywhere. Keeping a record of them is very helpful like photos, sketching and clippings. I have gravitated away from using fabrics with prints and yet I still include bits and savor some of them as inspirations.

One of my favorite methods is to work spontaneously….with a plan. That is the key…spontaneity is fun (for me) but I have learned to prepare my approach and have a loose plan and/or goal in mind.

motif_stencil_results 1

Composition 1

I like to stitch scraps together as in this case:

This time my plan was to work with contrast such as: warm/cool, glowing/dull, light/dark.

This proved to be a lot to keep in mind, but I did my best.

I came up with several compositions that I liked. Some ended up with open spaces that were begging for details such as composition 1. I did include a print that has a large block style design (right side). I decided to extract a portion of the design as a stencil motif to fill the spaces and repeat the motif; repetition unifies.

First I drew the design onto freezer paper and cut out the openings.motif_stencil 1

Next, I pressed it to the chosen spot. The slick side of the freezer paper sticks slightly when heated with an iron.









The paint is applied with a stencil brush which has stiff bristles cut flat and blunt. The paint is actually tapped into the openings.

Watch this video demonstration:

Freezer Paper Stencil Paint Application from Deborah Babin on Vimeo.



motif_stencil_results 1






The stencil design has helped to balance the composition and now I will continue with free motion stitching. I like leaving open spaces for these opportunities and allow the composition to evolve. There are more spaces to ponder….this one is not complete; none the less I am pleased with it so far.

Making and painting stencils is fun and easy to do. You can learn more about developing your art with original methods in my online course:


The next session begins April 1st. You can sign up now!

Check it out here




Paper Shibori-Indigo with a Twist


Memory On Cloth by Yoshika Wada


I took a workshop with Joan Morris in August. She is an expert on natural dying and various resist methods. She developed the fabrics for all of the costumes in the Broadway production Lion King. Miles and miles of gorgeous fabrics! This accomplishment is covered in a book titled: Memory on Cloth-Shibori Now by: Yoshiko Wada. It is a beautiful book to have in your library.

Photos along with a presentation of how the costumes evolved for specific characters of Lion King are included. Joan conducts a very efficient course. She is specific and intent on the execution. She has very high standards for herself as an instructor as well as artist. She delivers more than one could possibly absorb. I truly respect that. You can see her amazing work on her website.

I chose to focus on the resist methods in the workshop; how to arrange fabric to create unique and beautiful patterning from the planned resists. Resist dying is when sections of the fabric are constricted so those areas will not absorb dye. This can be done with any dye. Methods for resist dying are ancient and were developed in multiple areas of the world. I learned a lot in this course; however, I did not come away with successfully completed examples. The natural dyes that we used call for certain steps some of which I didn’t get right thus, the results I have are too pale. Resist methods can only show up with high contrast.

I’m glad I took the course and I did learn what NOT to do when it comes to natural dyes.  I doubt I will ever use them except maybe indigo, someday. I prefer procion mx dyes and I am not up for another learning curve.

I enjoy working with paper  as much as cloth. After the course I decided to try some of the resist methods with paint and paper. The paint I like to use often is actually a dye paint: Adirondack Color Wash/Denim. This product is in a spray bottle and is concentrated. The color: Denim is very close to indigo.  I tried several kinds of paper: Lotka, Rice and Mulberry. These papers are hand made from very strong fibers. I am quite pleased with the results.

The steps I used:

1. The paper was scrunched up into a wad and then opened several times. This breaks the fibers and makes the paper soft almost like fabric.

2. The paper was dampened slightly and then wrapped, folded or clamped. Stencils and wood shapes (blocking) were used on some pieces.

3. Color Wash: Denim was sprayed on mainly to the edges on the surface.

I applied the paint sparingly to observe the absorbency of each type of paper; more color was applied as needed.

The papers were left to dry with a fan circulating the air; they dry fairly quickly. It is always a surprise when a bundle is opened…and I love this part.


Wrapping around a pole-The paper is wrapped and tightly scrunched on the pole to set up creases that act as channels. Minimal paint will seep into the creases thereby creating a resist. Depending on how the paper is wrapped the design will differ; no two are alike. Often the fabric and in this case paper, continue to hold the creases.

Arashi Shibori

Step 1-The paper is damp and will be rolled onto the PVC pole on the diagonal.


Arashi Shibori

Step 2-The paper has been scrunched up tight. Twine is wrapped around to hold it in place.

Arashi Shibori

Step 3-A minimal amount of paint is sprayed on at first.

Arashi Shibori

Step 4-The paper is completely covered with paint.


If the result is not satisfactory (not enough paint, not enough design) the same process is repeated.

Arashi Shibori

Arashi Shibori



A spot on the paper is selected, pinched and shaped to make a point. Starting at the point, thread is wrapped tightly around and down (as far as you choose) and then back up to the point; secure with a knot.. The longer the length of the wrapped point the larger the design (spider web). The dampened paper was pliable similar to fabric. I decided to make various sized webs on this piece.


Step 1-The thread has been wrapped securely around the point and knotted.


Step 2-Five points of various lengths are secured.


Step 3-The first application of paint is light.


Step 4-More paint is applied both on the front and the back.

The results are good.

The results are good.

Collectively, the various methods proved to work well on the papers.


Five successful results.

Top left: Itajime-Clamping, Top right: Itajime and wood template, Center: Folded Accordion style, Bottom left: Kumo, Bottom right: Arashi  (two applications).

Adirondack Color Wash Denim

Stencil Designs with Denim color wash.

Alternatively, stencils are effective with color wash paint. I used two stencils here. The top design with a circle is once. First the paint is sprayed over the stencil, second, the stencil is flipped to utilize the paint on the surface of the stencil. The design on the bottom was done the same way.