Introduction: Make a Fabric Collage With Epoxy

About: I build, I write, I film... Mostly a woodworker.

I combined quilting squares with epoxy resin into an artistic collage, and framed it with cherry.

(And it has a woodworking theme.)

Step 1: Option: Video Build

If you like, you can watch a video build of this project.

Otherwise, read on!

Step 2: About This Fabric...

I've owned this piece of fabric for about a year, and I've been trying to figure out what to do with it ever since I got it.

About a year ago, my wife and I were on vacation and we decided to stop in and visit a quilting store. It was a large one with all kinds of interesting fabric and patterns. In the stacks I came across this woodworking-themed fabric. It looked interesting, so I bought it.

It has a kind of old-fashioned look to it. The tools pictures are not at all modern. I thought it was intriguing, and I wanted to do something with it. But what? And so it has just sat around for the past year.

In case someone else is interested in this fabric, here are the details of the pattern. This was printed along the edge of the fabric. It reads: "Dan Morris Design 2016 for Quilting Treasures."

Step 3: Chop It Up

After a lot of deliberation, I decided that I would cut it up into individual squares, I would then put them together in a kind of intentionally messy layered piece. This would give me a manageably sized project, as the original piece of fabric was fairly large. This would also allow me to skip some of the graphics that I did not like -- there are a number of images of mechanics tools, for instance, that don't really apply to my woodworking hobby. I was kind of thinking of a something like a "word cloud", but with images.

I used a rotary cutter to cut up the fabric into squares. For all the people out there who know nothing about fabric or quilting -- this is basically a sharpened metal disc that is mounted to a handle and used to cut fabric in a precise way. It's kind of like a pizza cutter. (I'm primarily a woodworker myself, but my wife is into fabric arts and has all these cool tools for that.)

With the fabric cut into pieces, I started sorting. I sorted out the pieces I didn't want. I sorted out some of the "maybe" pieces. And, I sorted the rest into categories -- there were four power drill squares, for example.

Step 4: Sort Sort Sort Think Think Think

I then started trying different layouts. I tried a few before settling on one that I liked. In the four corners I put the four pieces that looked sort of like blueprints. For the centre, I reserved the piece with the "Work Zone" sign. And for the rest, I just tried laying them out in different orientations and placements. For instance, I didn't want two circular saw pieces beside each other.

I also had to take care and consider what the partially covered pieces looked like. My wife came down at one point and noted that one of the drill graphics which was mostly covered, looked kind of like part of a pistol. That required a minor change.

Once I had a layout that I liked, I took a few photos of it, just in case the layout was disturbed. I then covered it with a piece of plywood, for protection, and left it for a while, to give me time to reflect on it and be sure that it was what I wanted.

Step 5: Spray Glue Is Easier Than Sewing

Some time later, I came back to the project, and decided that I liked the arrangement. So it was time to proceed.

I picked out each fabric piece one at a time, starting from the four corners, and starting with the pieces that were UNDER the other pieces. I applied some Spray adhesive (3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive) to the back of the fabric, and then stuck it down permanently on the cardstock-and-plywood back that I had prepared.

(And I realize that I didn't show anything about the backing board. I used a piece of 1/8" thick plywood as a back for the artwork, and over that I glued on a piece of bright white card stock.)

All this glueing and arranging took some time and care. I had my tablet close at hand, with the photo of the layout. I referred to that constantly, as I removed pieces from the "practise layout" and then glued them permanently in place on the backer board.

One thing to note is that I took some of the rejected pieces and glued them down in locations where I was concerned that some of the background might show through. I did not want to see any of the white background! I wanted the entire piece to just be a collage of overlapping fabric. But at the same time, I was trying to keep it so that the fabric pieces were mostly visible. So there was often not that much overlap at some of the corners.

Step 6: Trim Off the Excess

I left the glue to dry for a short time, and then flipped the panel over and used my wife's rotary fabric cutter to trim the fabric off right along the edge of the backer board.

And then you can see the finished backer board with all the chosen pieces glued down and trimmed to fit.

Step 7: Framed!

The next step was to frame the piece.

This project album is about the fabric and epoxy, as well as about the design, so I'm rudely skipping the frame build completely. I have details -- including video -- on my website of the easy-to-make frame stock that I like to build:

In brief, I prepared some cherry stock to a width of about two inches and a thickness of about seven-eighths of an inch. I glued it together using a strap clamp, and later added some splines across the miter joints. I like to run a couple of grooves down the face of my frame stock, for visual interest. For a final touch, I added a chamfer around the outside. Once it was complete I applied 3 coats of spray lacquer.

Step 8: Pause...

I did test fit the piece before I took the frame out to the garage for the spray lacquer, and I thought it looked amazing.

Note, that this would make a good stopping point if I didn't want to go the epoxy route. The fabric collage looks great. The frame turned out great. And I'm really happy with the overall look of the piece. I could add a piece of glass or plexiglass over the fabric and call it done. However, my intent right from the beginning was have fun experimenting with epoxy, and so I moved on to the resin part of the project...

Step 9: Ready for Epoxy?

As I was getting ready to do the epoxy pour, my very wise wife asked me how I was preventing it from leaking out of the bottom. I'm sure I would have thought about that... eventually.

I applied packing tape to the back of the artwork, covering up all the gaps and cracks where the artwork was fitted into the frame.

I used "ArtResin" (amazon link) for this project. I'd seen this used in a youtube video, and I liked the fact that it was advertised as a "No VOC" product. No respirator is needed. These are mixed in a simple 1:1 ratio -- equal parts resin and catalyst/hardener.

I wondered how much I would need, so I measured the area of the artwork, assumed a depth of 2mm, and converted the result to litres. It turns out that I would need almost a half litre to fill the piece to a depth of 2mm. But I realized that 2mm was not enough. It is certain that the epoxy would soak into the fabric, and there was also 2-3 layers of fabric in places. So, I did not think 2mm was sufficient.

Therefore, I ended up using the entire amount in both bottles. That is around 900ml of resin, or .9 of a litre. This should give a depth of 4mm over my workpiece. (The artwork is 16.5" by 21.5" in area.)

Step 10: Epoxy Pour!

In the first photo, I am at the start of the actual pour. I had mixed all of the resin and stirred thoroughly for 3 minutes. The resin started soaking in very quickly. You can see towards the bottom of that photo how the resin was making the blue fabric appear darker.

I used a heat gun on the low setting to help clear away any bubbles in the epoxy. There were not that many bubbles.

The final photo is an extreme closeup of the piece at a sharp angle. The epoxy was clear like glass. In this photo I am using a toothpick -- as directed in the ArtResin instructions -- to try and pick out little dust flecks. Of course, this is a woodworking shop. There is dust everywhere. I try to keep it clean, but it is most certainly dusty.

Step 11: Full Disclosure

After it dried, I thought that result is gorgeous. The frame looks great with the dark glossy artwork.

In the interests of full disclosure, these two photos show some of the problems I had.

First, one of the fabric pieces lifted up along one edge -- indicated by the red arrows. I don't know if the epoxy lifted up the fabric, or if the spray adhesive just wasn't properly applied. It is a small 1-1/2" line of fabric that is sticking JUST above the surface of the epoxy.

In the next photo you can see a small horseshoe-shaped piece of dust. There were several of these in the piece, but they were almost impossible to photograph. You need to look closely to see them, but they are still a small disappointment. Next time I need to be more careful with making the area as dust-free as possible.

Step 12: Depth and Layers

This was also hard to photograph, but the epoxy made the fabric somewhat translucent. This gave a very interesting depth to the piece, as I can see shadows of the fabric pieces showing through. So in this photo, you can see the "Under Construction" piece showing through the "Clamp" piece at the bottom-right section of the photo. There are other details to be seen if you look closely.

Step 13: Final Thoughts

And here are some final photos

When this project started, I confess that I was somewhat ambivalent about it. I knew I wanted to do something with the fabric, but I was not completely sold on this plan. But, as the project proceeded, I became more and more delighted with the progress. Once I had the pieces glued down, I loved it. Adding the epoxy just made it even better by adding a rich depth to the piece.

Thanks for stopping by.

Step 14: Supplies:

If a project like this interests you, here is a list of supplies that can help you make your own: (Affiliate Links)

(I don't remember which of those spray lacquers was used, but both are fine.)

I've tried to find a link to the particular quilting fabric that I used without success. I suggest trying a google search for "Dan Morris Designs quilting fabric craftsman". I tried searching for things like "tools", "workshop", "woodworking", and so on, but "craftsman" was the only keyword that gave some correct hits and those were on etsy and other places where the links do not stick around for long. So I thought giving exact links would likely just result in dead links on this page, so instead I'm just telling you how I suggest you search.

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