Using Unusual Materials

I was raised by grandparents who grew up during the great depression.  We made do with what we had and we didn’t throw anything away!  I still have trouble throwing things away.  Watch me save those hard plastic tags on potato and onion bags; I know someday I will come up with a use for them!

With the current economic conditions we face, quilters are looking to use what is in their stash.  A recent exhibit at the Illinois State Museum shop gave me an opportunity.  The exhibit was called Repurposed, Renewed, Reborn.  Each participant was to use items they already had and not purchase anything new. I went a step further and actually used re-cycled items in my entries.

A little bit of history: I save and paint old pieces of fusible web.  You know how the glue eventually comes apart from the release paper?  Well, I don’t throw it away; I paint it.  Used dryer sheets don’t leave my house for the landfill; I paint and stamp on those too and use them in my art.  Both of these items are perfect for creating layers and dabs of colors.

Used dryer sheets painted with acrylic paints.



pink/orange dryer sheets

If you paint  fusible web while on its paper, you get nice textural marks on the fusible that are also useful. It can be painted with or without its paper.

painted fusible web

As soon as I heard about the upcoming exhibit, I knew what I was going to do.  I had an old tattered quilt that I picked up somewhere, thinking I might restore it (not).  It was  hand quilted and had blocks like wagon wheels.  I cut sections of 4 blocks to experiment with.

4 old quilt blocks

The first step was to paint a coat of white artist’s gesso on the quilt.  Gesso prepares the surface for painting and helps the paint stay on the surface of the cloth rather than sinking in to it.  The other thing I like about using gesso is that it gives a whitewashed effect, which is what I wanted; I wanted to tone down the darker colors since I was going to collage on top of it.  I wanted the blocks and the colors to just be faintly seen.  Also, you will notice that on a pre-quilted piece, the gesso doesn’t completely cover, but leaves the areas around the stitching in their original colors.  You could brush the gesso down into the stitching and cover it, but that is not the look I wanted.

gessoed quilt blocks

The next step was to add a piece of a yellow sheer fabric and to start adding the painted fusible web.  I also cut a painted dryer sheet to echo the shapes in the blocks and fused it to the quilt. I really fell in love with the way the painted web melted onto the quilt, adding random dabs of color, and compressing the stitched areas.  Be sure to always use a pressing sheet or a piece of release paper when heating  fusible with an iron.


It felt like I was actually “painting” when I ironed the fusible to the quilt. I kept adding the fusible to areas where I wanted the color to be. (It’s the orange color in the photo.) There’s another aspect of  painted fusible that can be used in an artistic way: it provides a fusible surface to fuse other things to, such as threads, dryer sheets, etc. You are only limited by your imagination!

The edges of the dryer sheet looked too “hard” after I applied it, but, not to worry, I  added some more fusible to soften them and blend it better into the overall look.  Another thing I used on this piece was a section of a gold onion bag.  I always buy the sweet onions at my store because they come in a  gold colored mesh bag that makes cool texture when heated and fused to my art.  White dryer sheets with circles stamped on them seem to melt into the surface and the only thing visible after fusing is the painted circles.  Some hand stitching added with two colors of perle cotton helps move the eye around the piece.

Surface Matters
“Surface Matters” – 19″x 19″

(See my etsy shop at to purchase a complete set of painted dryer sheets.)


  1. Posted June 11, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    excellent, Katherine! and loved watching the process. I’m saving my dryer sheets today….great inspiration! thanks for sharing.
    Hope you received recognition at the show.

  2. Posted June 11, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Christine! I’m glad you enjoyed the post…and no…I didn’t receive anything special at the show…although my quilts were very different from what others did.

  3. Posted July 1, 2009 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Wow, Katherine. I LOVE what you did with this! Not only is it very creative, but the results are wonderful. I have an ugly duckling quilt in my closet that’s been waiting for a rebirth…and I own somc gesso…hmm.

  4. Judy Weiss
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Hi Katherine:
    I have been painting and using dryer sheets too. I use them with my embellishing machine. They fold and texturize wonderfully. They have enough body to form 3D shapes, and to raise the surface for lots of tactile interest. It’s wonderful to see what you’ve done with the painted fusible. Thanks for sharing.