Wood-burning Fabric Petals

Allison Aller © 2009

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When making three dimensional flowers for my crazy quilts, in the past I used to cut out my petals and then “seal” the edges by holding each petal over a candle flame. This way the fabric wouldn’t fray. But it was time consuming, a little dangerous, and I couldn’t get very articulate shapes, either.

All that has changed since I read about using a small wood-burning tool to “cut out” flower petals and leaves. Summerset Banks, creator of many prizewinning art garments, posted a tutorial about this on her wonderful blog, Pins and Needles (http://scpbanks.blogspot.com/2008/12/bluebird-of-happiness-coat-part-xx_10.html). Summerset has graciously given me permission to write up my own experiments with her concept.

I found that using a simple wood-burning tool with a fine point enabled me to cut out my petal shapes and seal the edges in the same step. Thin synthetic fabrics worked best for this, but thin silk also is a good candidate.

I purchased this wood-burner made by Walnut Hollow for under fifteen dollars.

You need to have a metal, (non burnable) surface beneath your fabric as you cut out your shapes. I used a pie pan; Summerset uses metal flashing from the hardware store. She also makes metal templates out of the flashing, filing the sharp edges after cutting them out. But I prefer to “draw freehand” with my wood-burner, and didn’t use any templates. Of course, you must be careful using such a hot tool. And because the synthetic fabrics give off fumes when burned, you must be in a well-ventilated space.

I found that drawing in strokes “away” from me, with the wood-burner held vertically with a firm pressure worked the best. I tried out lots of shapes, and cut off any little burned blobs with my scissors afterwards. The silk fabric petals and leaves have that characteristic burned edge. The synthetics do not.

It was a quick process to tack down my shapes into a little arrangement using silk thread.

A few beads and some stem stitching and my arrangement is complete.

I’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities of this new technique. Using common sense and caution, I hope you try it too, because it is fast and fun!

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