New Year, New Inspirations – the Alma Thomas project

After viewing all the gorgeous Alma Thomas paintings for last week’s artist post I was inspired to create something beautifully colourful – and something I could share to spread the joyous nature of her art. So for this week’s project we’re making a postcard. It’s quite a quick, fun make so I highly recommend making two – one to keep and one to send to a friend!

I made my postcard 4″ x 6” but once you have the idea you could make some larger ones later if you’d like. As always – make sure you read through all the instructions before you get started.

Inspiration / design

Take some time to look at the paintings of Alma Thomas – either in last week’s blog post or do a search on the internet. Choose one to inspire your postcard. I chose Spring No 2 painted in 1968.

Draw a 4″ x 6″ rectangle on a piece of paper and design your card in this space. Look at the areas of colour created in the painting you’ve chosen. For example my inspiration has lines of colour – others may have concentric circles or triangles. Draw lines on your design and choose which colours are going to go where. Don’t try to recreate your inspiration painting – you’re working in a much smaller space – you are using it for inspiration and are aiming for the look of Thomas’ work.

What you’ll need to make your postcard:

– Scraps of fabrics in your chosen colours
– Double sided fusible webbing – i.e Bondaweb / Heat n Bond or similar
– White fabric – 5” x 7”
– Wadding – approx 6″ x 8″
– Card – or pelmet vilene if you have it
– Thread(s) for quilting and finishing the edge

Making your card

  1. Draw a rectangle 4″ x 6” on your white fabric leaving an equal border around it. This can just be done in light pencil but I’ve done mine darker so you can see. This will be your guide for adding your pieces.

2. Cut a square about 3” x 3” of your fusible webbing for each fabric that you’re going to use. Make sure you know which is the glue side of the fusible webbing – it’s the none-paper side. Place glue side down on the back of your fabrics and iron in place

If your fabric scraps are a different size or shape don’t worry – just adapt your fusible webbing accordingly

3. Start with the first colour you need for your design. Cut out the lozenge shapes as seen in the paintings – my pieces are between 1/2″ and 1″. Don’t try to get them all the same – you want them to be different. Make sure you cut enough to fill the space for the first colour on design.

4. For the next stage, I work on my the ironing board so I don’t have to move my work around and risk losing the little pieces! Peel the paper off the back of your fabric shapes. Position onto the white background fabric. Use your design as a guide but don’t worry too much about being exact. Leave about 1/8” gap from the drawn line.

Once you are happy with your positioning press in place – it’s a good idea to cover your work with a pressing cloth or parchment paper before ironing as these small pieces can easily flip and get stuck to your iron. Press down firmly with your iron rather than ironing back and forward so you don’t move your pieces.

5. Work through your colours, adding them one at a time to your fabric in the same way. Make sure each colour is fused well before moving on to the next. Use your design as a guide but don’t worry if your postcard doesn’t end up exactly the same – there’s no right or wrong here!

Once all your pieces are in place iron the whole thing really well from the front and back.

6. The next stage is to quilt your postcard – this will hold all the pieces in place. Position the postcard front on a slightly larger piece of wadding. Use spray glue or pins to hold it in place. We are not adding a backing fabric to the piece as we’ll be adding the card later to make the postcard.

7. Put your walking foot on your machine if you have one. Choose a thread you are happy to see across your postcard.

The card is quilted using ‘matchstick quilting’ – this is straight(ish) lines of quilting which are very close together – mine are about 1/8″ apart. Start at one edge and quilt from top to bottom using the edge of the foot against the drawn line as a guide. Work across the card quilting your lines. I like to quilt a foot’s width apart so I can keep my lines fairly parallel and then go back and quilt in-between to get dense quilting.

8. Once your postcard is quilted, trim to the drawn line using a rotary cutter and ruler.

9. Now you’re ready to make this into your postcard. Cut a piece of double-sided fusible webbing the same size as your postcard front. Iron (glue side down) to the back of the wadding. Peel off the paper and put the glue side onto a piece of card – I use a slightly bigger piece so I can trim later. (If you have pelmet vilene you can use this instead as this is stiff enough to use for a postcard and can be written on).

Press from the top and the back – but be careful ironing the card – you don’t want any scorch marks. You just want to make sure everything is stuck together. Trim any excess card round the outside.

10. Sew a zig zag or satin stitch around the edge of the postcard to hold everything in place and finish off the edge nicely.

I used a zig-zag stitch with a stitch length of 0.6 and a stitch width of 3.0. Test your stitch before you sew on your postcard to check you like it. If you want a denser stitch you can always go around your card twice.

A couple of tips for sewing the edge:

  • Because I used card as a backing, I stitched the edge with the front of the postcard facing down. This allows the feed dogs to grab fabric instead of slippery card and makes the sewing easier.
  • Use a back stitch or lock stitch to secure your threads at the end of the sewing.
  • To turn the corners neatly, sew to the end of one edge and stop with the needle down right at the corner of the card, just off the edge. Lift the presser foot just a bit — enough to rotate the card 90 degrees. Try not to pull the card away from the needle. Once you’ve got it turned and lined up again, you just start stitching as before. Turning corners can be a bit tricky at first but you soon get the hang of it.

Posting your card

I have been told by friends that they have safely sent fabric postcards through the post but I like to put mine in envelopes before I send them to keep them extra safe!

As always – we love to see what you make. Tag @youngishquilters in your Instagram posts so we can admire your work.

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