Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shrinking Cloth

In process Linda A Miller
Fluid Fissure 2 (detail) in process
For some time I have been exploring a shrinking technique, using washing/drying of quilted fabric sandwich to enhance the artwork's texture.  The resulting shrinkage produces wonderful distortion, and often with a three dimensional surface.   I further embellish the piece with oil sticks, paint, water soluble crayons/pencils, foiling, applique, embroidery and/or couching... but those are subjects for another post. 

I begin the process by layering the quilt top with 100% wool felt as batting.  Sometimes the backing layer is added at this stage, however, my preference is to use only top and batting for washing. There is better distortion of the cloth without that backing layer.  Also, I like the cleaner finish that comes with adding the backing at the end.  

This sandwich is machine quilted.  The amount of stitching can determine how much shrinkage occurs.  The denser the stitching area, the less the quilt shrinks.   See example below from "Fluid Fissure 2"-
In process Linda A Miller
Fluid Fissure 2 (detail) shrinkage in process

As shown below, large gaps (up to approximately 2”) between stitching on "In Flux" created puffing of fabric as the felt backing contracted.  Try this yourself to see the difference.

In Flux (detail) Linda A. Miller 2014

After free motion quilting, the piece is washed in hot water and dried in the dryer, often more than once.  Warning - The felt does leave bearding on the surface to clean off.  Thanks to Karen Rips, I have recently begun to experiment with wool gauze.  “Molten”  began with the gauze.  It works well, and I will keep you posted as I continue playing with it.

Molten   © 2014 Linda A. Miller
© 2014 Linda A. Miller

I work both with whole cloth and/or pieces.  For example, several works in the “Striations” series started with two squares of black and lavender.  After washing, the two colors were stacked together and a curving line was cut across the middle. (Note: What shows in the photo below are the remaining halves.)  Top and bottom sections were appliqued with satin stitch, revealing a turquoise gap.

in process
in process

 Striations 2  © 2011 Linda A. Miller
Striations 2 
© 2011 Linda A. Miller

“Fluid Fissure” series was done in a similar manner, by free cutting the inner lines for water and appliqueing edges with satin stitch.

Fluid Fissure 4  © 2012 Linda A. Miller
Fluid Fissure 4 
© 2012 Linda A. Miller

Experiment with fabrics - “Serenity” is comprised of a variety cottons and brocades in the shrinkage areas.  

Serenity © 2014 Linda A. Miller
© 2014 Linda A. Miller

I thank Karen Rips and C. June Barnes.  It was due to their amazing work that my interest in this process began in 2010.  C. June Barnes’ book “Stitching to Dye in Quilt Art” is a great resource, as is her website.    Experiment for yourself!

Linking to Off the Wall Fridays.  Drop by for a visit!


  1. I just want to get my hands on these in person. The texture is wonderful, and the hand stitches add so much. Thanks for sharing
    LeeAnna at not afraid of color

  2. Very interesting technique! I never would have thought of it, but you have some great results!

  3. I tried the C June Barnes techniques a few years ago and loved how they turned out texture-wise, think I might give them another try. The one thing I didn't like was dyeing after the stitching was done because I was a new dyer at the time, now that I have more experience it might turn out better. Never heard of Karen Rips, will be checking her out this weekend! Thanks for showing some great inspirations.

    1. Thanks Laura, I do not use the dyeing element as Barnes does. Have fun if you go back to it.

  4. What an interesting post. I love to read about process. Even though you use such brilliant, saturated colors, your works have a spiritual quality to them. Very lovely.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your technique. Every time I see your work and read about this process that you have developed so creatively I want to jump in and give it a try. Your art is always stimulating, pure eye candy and definitely balm for the spirit..


I welcome your comments!


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