Iron-on Appliques for Embellishing Beaded Art Quilts – Part 1

Detail of an iron-on applique of a Monarch butterflyNancy Smeltzer, MFA

Several past postings have been about appliques of various forms that are meant for adding on to other surfaces, usually to clothing. While I normally sew mine on, there are a wider number of ones on the market that are meant to be ironed on. Here are some of the ones that I’ve purchased.

Butterflies are some of my favorite creatures and I use a lot of them in my work, since many of my beaded art quilts have garden themes. This Monarch butterfly applique is readily available in many craft stores. While they have glue on the back,meant to stick when heat is applied, I don’t trust them to stick permanently/ I always sew them on, even though the glue makes them quite stiff and hard to pierce with a sewing needle. For this butterfly, I used black leaf beads with white veins for the body of the insect and the tips of the upper wings. Shiny, square golden orange beads accent the sections of the wings, while a small gold button with a crystal center serves as the head.

iron-on butterfly appliquesHere are a number of other iron-on butterflies awaiting a home on some future art quilt. They range in sizes with the largest center one being about 3″ or 7.5 cm tall. They vary in the amount of detail that is shown, and the trick is to be careful not to use too many buttons and beads, no matter how small, so that some of the original colors and markings still show through. Fortunately, you can get a wide range of colors on-line for just about any color scheme, realistic images or not, that you might want to create. One difficulty in embellishing these lovelies, besides the difficulty of beading thorough the stiff material, is not covering up the antennae on the insects. Sometimes, it’s just best to hold  them down in place with a single stitch in order to secure them.

Hand beaded buttterfliesOf course, there’s always the option of beading a butterfly by hand, which I have done before. These three butterflies were hand beaded onto butterfly motifs cut from fabric. The largest in this shot, is about 3.5″ or 8.75 cm wide. With a large round button for the head, bugle beads radiate out to give a sunburst effect. Glass rondelles were used for the heads of the two smaller purple butterflies. Those have spacers from necklace strands for their bodies, while the larger butterfly has two links from an old bracelet for its body. All three have a great deal of details on them, which make for lots of impact in the composition. However, each of the smaller ones took about 2 hours to bead, compared to an hour to stitch down the Monarch iron-on with all of its beads, and the Monarch is more than twice the size of these smaller purple examples.

Iron-on dragon fly appliquesFinally, here are some iron-on dragon fly appliques waiting to find the right art quilt to decorate its surface. In nature, dragonflies are the dive bombers of the insect world, as they flit across the surfaces of water. They don’t have as large of a wing span, so they don’t make as much impact in an art quilt, but sometimes,it’s great to have more subtle details for a viewer to find upon close observation of the surface. I’d like to think as a viewer gets closer and closer to one of my pieces, that there would be more and more interesting details to see. Here’s where dragonfly appliques can serve their purpose in a garden scene. While fewer beads can be used, in order not to cover up the insect entirely, there is usually room for some of the larger size 6 and 3 seed beads on the outer edges of the wings.

Using a pre-formed applique can free up your time to add other embellishments. Also, I like to use at least five of the same element when I can, so these butterflies and dragonflies can give more instant gratification to the creation of s surface design than beading them by all by hand. Considering that some of my larger art quilts can take 4 months to complete, I’ll take what time saving available to me if I’m not sacrificing the visual appeal of the work.

How do you feel about using commercially made embellishments in your work? Where do you draw the line as to what you’ll include?

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