Introduction: Lovely Leaf-Printed Art Quilt

About: Welcome! Pleased to meet you, I am Barb; a Maker. I have been making things AND explaining how to make things for as long as I can remember. I was all about DIY before it was a popular term. I absolutely love …

Can you see them?! All those amazing leaf prints are printed on bedsheets by nature! Yes, those impressions of leaves are made by 'Mother Nature' herself via Eco Printing and there has been no drawing or painting involved. Who knew bedsheets could look like this?!

This simple design Art Quilt can hang on a wall or keep you toasty warm. Trust me, it's not that difficult (that's my motto, by the way)

In our modern day greys and beiges are quite calming and versatile. These neutral prints are perfect and the pattern is quite forgiving to work with. Use my pattern or make up your own landscape, it's not so fussy as those traditional colourful ones that grandma made (that we feel guilty about not using or liking).

Go grab a coffee or tea as this is quite the long tutorial... and possibly be introduced to Eco Printing.

Step 1: The Plan:

Every good thing starts with a plan. If you know me or see my site you will see I have a rustic flair to my design and take much inspiration from the outdoors. I never cease to be amazed at how beautiful a forest can be; in any season. 'How lovely the shadows dance across the hill...

The landscape design comes from the fact that as you move back into a scene the tones/shades become more grey. The foreground is darker and then feels closer.

Make a grey scale of the overall tones to figure out where they are best in the space. If you squint your eyes you will see less detail but overall 'value' of the grey. That is how artists plan their designs. I use the grey scale to plan each fabric to it's place in the plan.

After much 'Eco printing' I had amassed quite the collection of 'carrier blankets' and eco prints so this design just seemed perfect. Not one fabric pattern was purchased!

Download the pattern below:

Step 2: Where the Magic Happens:

Don't you just marvel when you see the great details of leaves? Each specie has different traits, levels of tannins and some have some amazing capabilities to create prints. Yes, the red are wondrous but they don't print that way! It's a journey of experiments but when the magic happens it's so fascinating!

The Fabric:

The fabric I used for these is 100% cotton as 'Mother nature' does not like to print on non-natural fibres. Used bed sheets make great fabric to use. It is best to scour your fabric to ensure no residue is on the fibres. Use about 1 tablespoon of Washing soda to 1 gallon of water, and about 2 teaspoons of detergent ( do not use fabric softener). Use the hottest water possible or even better; boil for a couple hours. Don't be alarmed at how much 'yellow water' comes out!

The Leaves:

Certain leaves give good results. My favourite are the maples, the sumac, rose leaves, and eucalyptus (certain variety) but many many more species are out there and vary also by country. You can use fresh or dry them for future use. India Flint has some good suggestions as well.

The Mordant:

A mordant creates the 'bite' so that the colour dyes (reactions of tannins with mordant) from the leaves can adhere to the fibre permanently. Iron* will act as a mordant. To make a solution of iron water* it is as easy as making some rusty iron objects, water (like railroad spikes) and some vinegar. It may take some experimentation to check the strength of the iron. Soy milk is another pre-mordant. Soak over night and rinse before using. Multiple dips will also help.

The Supplies:

Large dowels or pipes are used to roll the strips of fabric around and then tied tight with twine.

You can see more info on my site for eco printing

* Be safe and wear gloves when working with solutions.

Step 3: How the Magic Works:

To incorporate the 'iron water' you can either dip the fabric in it or soak the leaves (about 30 minutes) in it. The leaves are arranged on the fabric and it is rolled tightly. To prevent bleed through the fabric layers a barrier layer of plastic wrap or parchment can be rolled in between.

When printing on silk (for my scarves) I use a 'blanket' (piece of cotton) that is soaked in 'iron water' to help create distinctive prints. I use them multiple times and then they become quite dark and wonderful!

To process there are few options from steaming, boiling, and also dug into compost piles (pew, I have not tried that one). It can vary from 1 - 2 hours to get results.

But when it's time to unroll (as soon as it's cool or let it sit longer if you can wait) it's like christmas! You never really know exactly what you will get, as slight variations of fabric, mordant, strength of iron, specie of plant etc can all have an affect.

After the printing is done, they are rinsed, washed. They can even go through the laundry but some detergents have harsh things like enzymes in them so a milder PH neutral soap is better.

Step 4: Simple Tools and Pattern

Traditional quilts are sometimes a nuisance to assemble! They are so tedious since the pattern is repetitive. This one is more 'rustic' so the design can never really turn out wrong.

Some basic supplies needed for the sewing:

  • Eco printed fabric & accent colour for border (yes, all were once a bedsheet)
  • good scissors
  • rotary cutter (makes it so much easier)
  • cutting mat (to save your table)
  • pattern
  • sewing machine (basic straight stitch type will do)
  • Thread, ( obviously, matching colours and also some invisible thread )
  • pencil
  • tape measure
  • Quilt Batting (polyester or cotton fibre)

Once you have the pattern, you will need to make a large full size version.

The trick to scaling up an image is to use a grid system. Make the same number of squares on both sizes and then follow roughly from small to large working square by square (basic artist method). They are just wavy lines anyways - that's why I l LOVE this design; so easy. My main image square is 36" x 36"

I made 2 copies of the pattern, one without the trees.

Step 5: Cutting the Curves:

At first I was a bit scared of sewing curves, but it really is quite simple! Who knew?!

Lay the pattern on the fabric and leave an extra 1/4" of fabric at the top. This will be the extra for the 1/4" seam allowance. (note green dimension). Pin if necessary and use rotary cutter to cut through the paper and the fabric at the first curve line. You may place 2 layers to cut the next edge at the same time. Or you can just run the cutter again along edge with other fabric ganged up under it.

Work one curve at a time. I taped the paper back (few pieces of tape) to keep it all organized.

Mark some short lines to make sure that you match the curves.

Step 6: Sewing the Curves:

Lay the curved fabric next to each other and match up edges. You can pin and also follow markings. It is a 1/4" seam and will allow easing the edges together as you sew.

As you sew make sure to keep it smooth and no little folds happen. Slight pulling helps to flatten the curves.

Press seams to one side.

Step 7: Sewing All the Other Curves:

Once you have sewn one curve you will notice how easy it is. Follow the same idea with the rest.

Do remember to allow the extra 1/4" at top of pattern to give the seam allowance.

  • Lay pattern on fabric with extra 1/4" of fabric at top (working top to bottom)
  • Cut curve through paper and fabric
  • remove excess and place next fabric under curve edge and cut a copy
  • match edges and sew together (right sides facing)
  • steam press well to one edge

-- repeat -- with next curve.

Step 8: The 'Tree Line' Section:

The pattern has a distant tree line that is made of strips to form one curve. To mimic trees they look like some triangles. Choose some mid-tone (not too dark or too light) shades. It's always good to look at patterns from a distance to see overall value.

Cut some random triangular strips alternating patterns. Make sure they are longer than needed as it will be trimmed later (MUCH easier than fussy exact pieces!)

Test the fit on the pattern.

Step 9: Sew the Tree Line Strip:

Sew the pieces together alternating the direction of the triangle. This will make the strip relatively straight and create some tree-like shapes. Press seams nicely.

Follow the previous instructions to cut the curve shape.

Repeat with the next curves to the bottom. Test the tones against each other each time.

Step 10: Free Motion Sewing the Trees:

It was easier than you thought? Wonderful landscape scene! It could be a beach or desert but we want trees.

For fun I have been doing some free-motion-sewing so I decided to sew some 'crazy trees'!

Adjust the presser foot to have very little pressure (loose enough that you can slide the fabric as you like). I did not have to change the foot ( there are some available)

Also, there is suggestion of using a embroidery hoops. Sure, if you would like to. I used a pair of rubber gloves to keep a good grip and kept my hands around the fabric while sewing to endure that it stays flat.

The fabric does not get turned, you just slide it in any direction that you like. Yes, it is a bit messy looking but it IS a tree!

Step 11: Easy Trees:

I saved the darkest eco prints for the trees. The biggest foreground tree should be the darkest and lighter as they go into the distance. (yes, I also paint sometimes...)

Cut strips that taper as they rise and have enough to fold under about 1/4" or less

Plan the pieces on the pattern. Fold under the edges and iron well.

Transfer the trees to the fabric and pin. Pay attention to overlap. Closest tree should overlap the back ones etc.

Step 12: Attaching the Trees:

I had originally intended to piece in the trees. That is also doable, but you would need to start earlier before finishing all the curves. (maybe next one)

Top stitching is a great easy way to attach the trees. Sew with matching thread or invisible quilting thread as close to edge as possible without falling off.

Again, pay attention to the layering of the background trees to the foreground and lift branches to sew back ones first.

Nice thing is that they can be as wavy or straight as you like. There are no rules for trees! Perfect!

Step 13: Cutting the Bottom and Top Accent Bands:

To make a tall quilt I added some 'design elements'. I love all the details the eco prints make so I wanted to showcase some more.

I like to be free from exact shapes so I cut a bunch of random width strips of a variety of prints.

My mother used to do some strip-quilting. The idea is that you sew strips together lengthwise first and then cut them into strips to make it quicker. That makes for WAY less fussy piecing together. (one of the reasons I was not into making quilts)

Step 14: Attaching the Accent Bands:

Once the strips are sewn and ironed, cut across into strips and if needed piece those together.

The original drawing has a thin white border (2.5" - 3.5") around the main image and the accent. That keeps it fresh and outlined. (bed sheets again)

Sew the white border to bottom and top of main image (press) and then add the accent strips.

Wow, this is going quite quickly...

Step 15: Larger Borders:

The larger medium grey border (another bed sheet) is perfect to keep grimy finger prints from showing... Make it as wide as you like.

I like to rip long strips for borders as it ensures that it is perfectly straight. Easy-peasy.

Sew and press neatly. Exciting to be so close to done...

Step 16: Filling With Some Softness:

There are many options for batting to insulate quilts. You can super thick or thin, cotton or polyester or even silk. I think about storage, washing and also sewing through the quilt.

I choose a thin batt, which is still quite warm.

Cut a back panel the same size as your front panel. Piece it together if needed.

Lay out the entire quilt on a large flat surface (probably the floor) with the back and front panels facing each other. Either lay the batt on floor or on the top and pin quite well.

Sew all the way around except for an opening to turn (like making a pillow). Sew with the fabric side up for ease of not getting the batting stuck in the foot.

Turn the stitching at the corner and clip the corner once done sewing.

Step 17: Turning the Quilt:

In the quilt world they use the expression 'birthing' the quilt for the turning inside out of the large rectangle pocket.

Use the blunt end of something to push out the corners to have neat points.

To help with the hand sewing, pin the opening shut.

Use a running stitch that alternates top and bottom and is well hidden. This closes the quilt body.

Step 18: 'Stitch in the Ditch':

Gee after the 'birthing' it's stitching time.

Pin all the layers quite well making sure it's all quite flat.

Invisible thread is great as you don't need a matching colour. It is super fine as well. See the difference of the visible to invisible examples.

I am an impatient person, so the finishing is all machine done. You could also hand-stitch all the quilting. For this design the 'stitch-in-the-ditch' worked quite well. The stitching is meant to hold the batting in place inside.

To save time I cut threads after sewing all over. Roll the sides the quilt to lessen bulk as you need to get to the centre. My mother used to use pants clips. This is a fairly small quilt so it was easy and quite quick.

Step 19: Love, Love Love Your Cozy Warm Quilt:

Move over stodgy old fashioned quilts and welcome new age 'Art quilt'! Great shades of grey and neutral.

Not to mention that no fabric prints were bought (super inexpensive) and only bed sheets were used. Go check the linen closet...

The unique prints are so interesting to gaze at, so much detail from each cell of the leaves. 'Just magical! I also love how random and unexpected the prints are. In our modern high-tech world we just love adding the 'warmth' of nature, especially rough and textural ones like live edge wood. These rustic prints are so perfect as an accent.

And so functional to keep you cozy warm... like 'Mother Nature' has her arms around you!

If you like this you can also buy yourself a silk scarf or actually make one yourself.

THANKS for stopping by...

-- Dedicated to my late mom who did not get to finish all her quilting endeavours and to 'Mother Nature' for her endless gifts --

Step 20:

Sew Warm Contest 2018

Runner Up in the
Sew Warm Contest 2018

Epilog Challenge 9

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge 9