Floral Photo Collage:
Luscious Fabric from Your Computer

Allison Aller © 2006

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Many crazy quilters have access to digital cameras, computers, and ink jet printers. With these technological toys, a whole new world of design possibilities is open to us because we can print our own fabric for use in our crazy quilt projects.

Flowers are a favorite subject of crazy quilters, and gardening is often a hobby for us as well. I combine these interests by creating floral collages out of fresh flowers from my garden, photographing them with my digital camera, and then printing those photographic images onto fabric. Then the fun really begins as I incorporate these home printed fabrics into lots of different embellishment projects.

To learn more about the technical process of photo transfer onto fabric, here are some good links to investigate:

These sites explain how to use Bubble Jet Set, a fabric treatment that causes the dye-based inks used in many printers to permanently bond with the fiber molecules in your fabric. They also explain how to actually run your fabric through your printer.

Pigment based inks are used in the Epson printers. These inks sit on the surface of the fabric, and do not require the fabric to be pre-treated in order to be permanent. But I encourage you to read the above sites for tips for good printing onto the fabric even if you do have a printer that uses pigment based inks.

Both types of inks create light-fast and waterproof images on fabrics.

To make a floral collage is a simple and playful activity!

I start with choosing a background fabric to lay my flowers on. I like to stretch the fabric around a wooden cutting board and tape it on the back, to keep it taut. This will eliminate wrinkles in the photograph, and also allow me to move my collage without disturbing it if I need to.


Then I go out into my garden and pick the flowers that I want to work with…sometimes I choose all white ones, sometimes just blues, sometimes a riot of all the colors I can find. Then I bring them inside and start placing them onto my fabric, usually after cutting off their stems. I like to place smaller flowers within larger flowers, too. I try to work within an area that is roughly 8 ½” X 11”, because that is the size of the sheet of fabric I print on, and I usually want my flowers to appear life sized. Sometimes I will place lace onto my background fabric, and even add beads and buttons, before or while I am adding the flowers.

When I have a design I like, I will shoot several pictures of my collage, load them onto the computer and look them over. Often I will find that a corner isn't quite square, or a flower is flopped over that I didn't notice, etc. So I return to my collage, reposition the flower, and shoot more photos. I sometimes go back and forth between my collage and my computer 10 times before I have my image just right….but there is no film to worry about, and no processing costs!

I don't use any fancy software as I work with my photos. I will crop, resize, and sharpen my images, but that is about it. These are very basic computer skills that any child can teach you (and believe me, they all know these things!)

I always print up a draft color copy of my image on paper before I print it in color onto fabric. I would rather catch any mistakes that way than goof up a piece of fabric and waste any ink.

Once I have my floral collage image printed, I am ready to use it in my projects.

I created a floral frame to create a commemorative portrait of my late mother. First I laid out the frame of flowers on blue dupioni silk and printed it.

Then I printed a photograph of my mother onto a separate piece of silk. Even though the photograph is black and white, I still like to print in color to catch more of the subtle gradations of color. Next I cut out around the inside of the printed frame fabric. If you look closely you will notice that I removed two of the carnations in the center; I decided that I needed more of the photo beneath the frame to show. Next I placed my mother's silk fabric picture behind the floral frame, added a quilt sandwich of batting and backing muslin behind these, and then machine appliquéd the frame onto the silk photograph. Then I added hand embellishment and hand quilting to the printed flowers.

I added the archway of the same blue dupioni silk that I had used for the background of the floral frame collage. I like the way the “original” and the “printed” silk look together.

Here is a picture of the detail of the embellishment.

Some times I will combine collages into a larger quilt, as in “Floral Cross”. For this quilt I actually laid out floral borders, corner squares, and a center medallion that I pieced together before I machine quilted and hand embellished it.

Here are the various printed components of the quilt, hot off the printer, before they are cut to size and assembled. (The two corner blocks in the lower left are on my draft paper copy.)


The far right is the finished quilt. It is 17” X 18 ½”.

I have laid out collages specifically to use in creating purses. Here is a round evening bag I made.

Multi color
And finally, I have taken floral collage fabrics and cut them up to use in crazy piecing for a crazy quilt. This is really fun! 

There are so many possibilities, so many ways to capture your lovely flowers and incorporate them directly into your crazy quilting. I hope you will experiment with this idea, too. To give you a head start, I am including a few of my photographs for you to play with. They are in a large format to give you the best possible print quality.

Please feel free to write me allison@AllisonAller.com if you have questions or problems.

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