A New Stained Glass Technique

Allison Aller © 2006

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Back in my “sane quilt” days I developed a very simple way to make “stained glass” style quilts. Recently, I have found that the stained glass look combines beautifully with CQ embroidery, embellishment, and appliqué, so I would love to share my technique with you…just in time for Christmas!

This little project is an example of how these textile practices can combine. By taking you through the construction of this little Christmas quilt, I hope to show how this stained glass technique can be integrated into your crazy quilting repertoire.

Making the Letters:

1. I start with printing up letters on my computer using Word, choosing a font and size I like. For this example I used Copperplate Gothic Bold at 280 points. I print on the “draft” setting. 
2. Trace the letters onto freezer paper. 

3. Prepare the fabric you will be cutting your letters out of by ironing some fusible web to the back of it. I chose bonded gold lame because it looks so festive.

4. Iron the freezer paper with traced letters to your prepared fabric. 
5. Cut out letters, and then peel off the freezer paper. 

Adding the Stained Glass Leading:

6. Now to make the leading! The reason I use ultra suede is that it does not ravel, gives a clean edge with no fuss, fuses down wonderfully, and has a nice saturated black color. You can also use other fabrics that don't ravel; in fact I have used the same bonded gold lame that I've used for the letters here as leading in other projects, and it gives a shimmering, gold-leafed look.

(The Clover notions company makes fusible bias tape for this purpose in many colors, but it is far less expensive to make your own leading. One advantage is that you can vary the widths of your leading strips as you cut them, rather than have just one uniform width provided by the commercial bias tape. These varying widths can add a lot of depth and interest to your stained glass piece. Another advantage to making your own leading is that the ultra suede is less bulky than the cloth bias tape.)

Prepare the ultra suede by ironing fusible web to one side of it.

7. Using a rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat, slice black strips of the ultra suede on the bias. The strips should be slightly wider than 1/8th” thick for this particular project. I call a pile of them my “black spaghetti”!

8. Prepare the background fabric by fusing interfacing to the back of it. I chose green silk dupioni for my background, but you can use any woven fabric (I don't recommend velvet). Interfacing adds stability to the fabric, which is useful later when adding the embellishments and appliqué. It also cuts down on the dupioni raveling. Zigzag around the perimeter of your background fabric to further prevent raveling, as we all know it is a BIG problem with dupioni silk.

9. Line up letters with a ruler in position on the background fabric, then fuse them in place. **Use a sheet of parchment over the letters so that you don't melt the gold lame, and keep your iron on a low setting!**

10. To iron on the “leading”; if you are right handed, hold a leading strip in your left hand, and with your iron in your right hand, use the tip of your iron to fuse the strip down along the edge of the letter. (Reverse these hand positions if you are left handed.) Overlap the strips at the corner, or on the curve of the “O” and continue ironing, then clip. Because the strips were cut on the bias, the ultra suede easily is ironed around the curves.


11. Notice that the ultra suede is clipped on an angle, as at the top of the “Y”, to give a clean edge to the letter. Sew down leading with a zigzag stitch, using smoky colored monofilament thread in your machine with black thread in the bobbin. Set the width of the zigzag so that the needle enters the fabric just on either edge of the ultra suede. Be sure and use the “needle down” feature so that you can lift the presser foot to pivot the fabric with the needle down. This way you can sew all around the letter without starting and stopping.


12. Cut ½” wide strips of the lame for the borders. Iron them on, lining them up with a ruler as before. Iron on more black leading and zigzag down.

13. Cut a very fine strip of the leading--you can get it as fine as 1/16th of an inch--to add a few lines between the letters and the border to add to the “stained glass” effect. Iron them down and zigzag them as above, remembering to narrow the setting on your zigzag stitch.

Time to Embellish:

14. Now for the embellishment! I decided to give my quilt project a mistletoe theme. I stitched a small gold herringbone stitch around the perimeter of the lame border, then buttonhole appliquéd some velvet leaves, after fusing them into place. Next I added some white mother of pearl buttons for the berries, and then stem stitched the berry clusters to the velvet leaf sprigs.

Finishing the Quilt:

15. Because I wanted to display this piece on a little stand at Christmas time, I finished it in an unusual way. First I ironed under the edges of the background fabric of my quilt top and fused the edges down from the back. (Those edges ended up pretty skimpy, too, so folding them back and fusing them helped me out of a jam.) I cut out a piece of Timtex slightly smaller than the embellished top, then cut out a piece of backing fabric a bit larger than the quilt top. I folded and fused the edges of the quilt backing the same way as I did the front. After pinning the three layers together, not catching the Timtex, I whip stitched the edges together. For my thread I simply pulled some of the weft threads from my dupioni, so of course it matched my fabric perfectly.


I hope you will take this basic stained glass concept and make it your own, combining it in new and interesting ways in your own crazy quilting.

Suggested Materials List for this Quilt:
Bonded gold lame fabric, 12” X 12”
Black Ultra Suede, 12” x 12”
Silk Dupioni one piece, 12” X 24”
3 colors green velvet, 6” X 6”
Embroidery threads for buttonhole, stem stitch, and herringbone stitch
Approximately 20 mother of pearl buttons
Printed letters for cutting out
Fusible web
Fusible knit interfacing
Freezer paper
Smoke colored monofilament thread
Black thread for bobbin
Strong white thread for sewing on buttons
Rotary cutter, ruler, mat, sewing machine, iron, parchment paper (the release paper for the fusible web works fine)

*Note* If you are interested in seeing more of my stained glass quilts, I invite you to click over to: http://www.allisonaller.com/EW-stainedglass01.htm

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