Stitch your Pics: Printing and Stitching your Photos on Fabric | Marie Elcin | Skillshare

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Stitch your Pics: Printing and Stitching your Photos on Fabric

teacher avatar Marie Elcin, Fiber Artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Welcome to Stitch your pics!

    • 2. Gather your supplies

    • 3. Choose and edit your photo

    • 4. Printing on fabric

    • 5. practicing stitches

    • 6. Stitching photo tips

    • 7. Frame your project

    • 8. Going forward

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About This Class


You’ve taken a thousand or more photographs- which one could become an heirloom? Whether you are an embroidery novice or pro you can mine your camera roll for stitching inspiration. You will learn how to print photo imagery onto fabric, explore which stitches best express the textures your camera captured, and complete a photo-inspired piece of original stitchery.

Maybe you want to forever remember a special event or make a one-of-a-kind souvenir of your last amazing vacation. Turning your photo into a work of embroidered art will rescue it from the digital cloud and make it last forever!

Meet Your Teacher

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Marie Elcin

Fiber Artist


I'm a fiber artist and art educator from Philadelphia. I have taught screenprinting, basic design, and fiber artist at Fleisher Art Memorial for over 8 years. My favorite media are embroidery, textile design, printmaking, and watercolor painting. I love sharing ideas and techniques with my students and seeing their creativity bloom!

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1. Welcome to Stitch your pics!: Hi. My name is Marie Elgin, and I'm a fiber artist from Philadelphia. I don't know about you, but I have so many photos on my camera that nobody ever gets to see in this class. I'm going to show you how to pick out some images that are suitable for embroidery. How to print them onto fabric. I'll show you some embroidery stitches that you can use to embellish your work. And finally, I'll show you how to frame your work is that you can take your photos from your camera to the wall. This is one example that I've done passed. It took this picture of my great grandmother, and I wanted her to become kind of the same of my studio's face. So I printed the picture of her out onto fabric, framed it with another photograph of all of these flowers, kind of like a frame or a halo around her. And then, if you look really closely, I did some additional embroidery on top of the photo. And this is something that I want to keep forever, and it's hanging in my studio, and it combines my memories of her and her talents as a seamstress with my talents as a fiber artist. 2. Gather your supplies: thank you for joining me for Stitch your pics to get started. You want to gather some supplies. First of all, you'll need some digital images off of your cell phone or camera. You should upload them to your laptop or computer, Hopefully on your computer, you have access to some photo imaging software, such as photo shop Were online pick slur. You will need access to an inkjet printer, and you'll need to obtain some photo fabric. This is a paper Bach fabric that is ready to go through your ink jet printer. It is available on this 8.5 by 11 sides or on a role for the embroidery. You'll need some extra fabric to try out the stitches before you work on your printed fat image, and you'll need some needles to stitch with thread. I like this pearl cotton, but you could also use embroidery flaws, and you'll need some scissors and an embroidery hoop. I like to plan out my designs before I get started on stitching, so it's helpful to have a sketch book and a pencil handy. Finally, the whole point of this project is to get your pictures off of your camera and onto your wall, so you'll want to have a frame or two to put your pictures. I'd like to work in a four by four find format and a five by seven format, and it is a good idea that to get your frames before you start so that you know what sized . Print out your pictures. Now gather up all of your supplies and join me for the next step. 3. Choose and edit your photo: I'd like to talk a little bit about which kinds of images you might want to pull off of your camera bowl to use for embroidery. There's two ways you could go with us. One is to use a picture that has personal meaning to you. Maybe you want to come memory an event or honor someone or strengthen a memory that you have. Another way to go about it is to just pick a picture that has really great visual elements and and go for athletics. Instead, I have four images that I'm thinking about using, and I want to go through why some of these air, good or not, this one is a picture of my daughter, and we went to this art museum and saw this installation, and I love it. I love the picture both for its visual elements and because it's my kid. So, um, as you're picking out your pictures, think about what parts of the picture would be good for em. Bordering on with the strong visual string elements here, please be really great to stitch on toe emphasized, Um, and another thing to think about is what size oven image or what format oven image would you like to have? My frames are four by four and five by seven. But frames also common very standard sizes, like eight by tens, 11 by 14. The fabric I have is eight by 10. So that's probably the largest size I want to go. And, um, before I print this out, I don't wanna waste any fabric, so I want to crop it down to the size I need. So I'm going to use the crop tool here and pick Slur, and I'm going to change this to a more square format. And then she's in the center and and she's emphasized, and I'm gonna play with all of these strings later. Once I've got the format I want, I'm just gonna hit enter, and it's cropped. Another thing you might want to use your photo imaging software for is to bump up the contrast when you print the's on fabric. The fabric is a little bit absorbent and so that images can get a little bit washed out and blurry. So I'm going to bump up the contrast to help prevent that from happening. All right, that one's good to go. Instead of emphasizing an area of interest in the picture. You might want to add information to your picture through embroidery, so this image has this wonderful blank area down at the bottom of soft texture. It's a rectangular format that will fit perfectly into my five by seven frame, and it's Commemorating a trip that my family took. So in order to share that information of what this image represents, I could use this blank area toe. Add in some stitching of the name of the park that we went to or the date, or maybe I could create an embroidered frame around it. But that's another way to use the embroidery. So instead of trying to outline or emphasize something in the picture, you can also add information to the picture. This one has great contrast already and the formats perfect, so I don't think this needs any changes. This picture is from a trip we took to the whistle Hicken Park in Pennsylvania, and I loved all of this moss on the rock behind the foliage here. But this photograph just isn't doing it. It's it's very busy. There's a lot of texture in the background. There's a lot of texture in the foreground. And this flower, which should be my focal point, got kind of lost because of everything that was happening behind it. Now I could print this out as is and then use my embroidery to go back in and emphasize the flower and the branches here. However, I think another version of this picture might work out better. So on this one, I zoomed into the flour because that's what I wanted a picture of. And I like how the flower here is much more detailed against a softer background. I did that by focusing just on to the flower, and now the textures of the foliage and the moss are no longer distracting from the main part of the image. However, this is a lot of negative space, So I think I'm going to use one of my four by four frames for this and crop this down now. One cool feature of this cropping tool is that when you open up the frame, it has the snap grid of three in in composition. There's this rule of threes, and what makes this a good composition is that it has 1/3 here. The top is blank background. 1/3 of this has my focal point in it and 1/3 here is the foreground and has another element that's interesting. Also, another part of the rule of three Here is wherever these lines intersect are good parts of the picture toe lead the eye to So having this branch come up and around and come close and having this flower come close to those intersections makes this an interesting picture. So I'm going to finish cropping it by hitting enter. And now this picture is the size I want. I think I will go back in and just bump up the contrast a little bit. And when I stitch, I can outline this. I might emphasize all with the pollen with some French knots. Even in this negative space, I could add in ah, word or or some extra detail to make this more interesting picture. So all of my pictures are ready to print out now. What you can dio is now look through your picture rule and decide which pictures would make good embroideries. What do you want to make an heirloom? What memories do you want to emphasize and keep up all the time in your house in a frame. So if you'd like to go through and pick out a few and Adam to our class project pages. 4. Printing on fabric: Okay, we're finally ready to print out our pictures. We need to make sure that the fabric is in the correct orientation and your printer every printers a little bit different. Some of them want you to have the the feed face up. Some will be face down. You may want to do a little test print on a regular copy papers that you know that you have the printable side of your paperback fabric in the correct orientation. The fabric is the front side. Of course, on the paper is the back. Now I'm going to go into my computer and open up the pictures that I want to print out. And I have this one that I originally intended to have five by seven because that's my image size for my frame. My print screen here opens up this dialog box where it doesn't really matter what size the file it is. It just automatically puts it into these four months. So I do not want a full page photo. Four by six is going to be a little too small. Here's that five by seven. Perfect. Now you'll notice I have one here with text and one without. I'm going to do a little bit of, ah, test strip here because my fabric directions say toe wash out after it's been printed, and I want to see if there's really any difference between washing it out and not washing it up. So this is ready to print. Make sure your printer is specially chosen and the size is correct, and I'm going to try this one on plain paper, setting the directions on the photo fabric. Say to wash out the fabric and then blot it dry onto a towel face down. You can also use your iron set to the cotton setting to make sure there aren't any wrinkles . While you're at your printer, go ahead and print out a few paper copies of your images as well. That way, you can explore sketching on top of thumb to plan out which embroidery stitches you'd like to use. Now, if you're feeling a little more ambitious and the eight by tens of this photo fabric isn't working for you, you may want to use a resource online called spoon flour dot com. This is the resource that I go to when I want to print out large scale digital images onto fabric and then in border on top of them, I upload the photos to spoon flour. I can choose any kind of fabric I want to use, and then they'll print them out and on. Send them to me. Now that you've got your fabrics printed out and you have some extra copies, it's time to do some sketching and doodling. 5. practicing stitches: let's practice some of our stitches before we work on our photographs. We want to hope the fabric. To keep it tight, place a solid ring of embroidery hoop on the table, placed a fabric over top and then placed the adjustable hoop over that. Tighten the ring, and then we want to stretch this tight as a drum, so work around the edges of the hoop, pulling the fabric talked to thread your needle. Hold the end of the thread between the fleshy parts of your forefinger and some press the eye of a needle down between your fingers on the end should just go right through. Pull the tail to about half way down the length of your thread, and as you're stitching, you'll want to draw that end so it always stays about halfway. The end of the thread gets tied into a knot wrapped around your finger and passed the tail back to front through the loop. You may need to do that twice, depending on how dense your fabric is running stitches. The easiest of all of the stitches. As always, you want to start on the back and pull up that way. You're not stays on the back of the work. I like to use sowing method, which loads several stitches onto the needle at once before pulling through for running stitch. All you need to do is move the needle up and down, up and down. You can play with the size of the stitch as well as the size of the space between your stitches. It's a good stitch. If you would like to outline something but not have it be too bold. It's also good for making textures like for hair, bark or water. When you're done, all you have to do is pick legal back to back and pull through all the way. Try experimenting with running stitch. Let's try backstretch next, like running stitch. You come up and take a stitch and come up again. But this time, instead of moving forward to make a dotted line, you move backwards to meet the end of the last stitch, and that creates a solid line saying, Move up a stitch away and back to the end of the last stitch up a stitch away him back to the end of the last stitch. It is possible to do the stitch in hand, but you can get much more precise length of stitches if you use the stab method back stitches. Excellent for creating any solid line, and you can even make it more solid by whipping it to whip. You come up at the end of your line and then slide the needle under each stitch. And this winds the thread around your row of stitches, smoothing out all of the bumps. When you're done, you just insert the needle again. Let's try chain stitch. Come out where you'd like to start. Insert the needle in the same place where you started and come up stitch away. You should be inside a circle of thread and you pull that closed, so you hold the threat aside. To maintain that circle, insert the needle inside that loop and come up with stitch away and pull it closed again. We'll decide. Insert the needle into the same hole, the threats coming out and come up with such a way inside a circle of threat, which you will pull closed. I'm working towards myself, which might not be comfortable for all people, but I'll show you another way to whenever you're done. When I finish off the chain, tack it down, but placing the needle down into the fabric outside of the loop instead, Working away from yourself, you still hold the threat aside. Insert the needle where he came out with the started, pushing away from myself and pulling away to close the loop. So there's either way, whichever works for you, making it feel comfortable. Chain stitches. A good stitch for making a very thick line. It can also be used as a solid fill by working rose right next to each other in alternating directions. Tryout, chain stitch. And whenever you're done, tack it on the outside of the last loop to make a French, not pull the thread wherever you want. That dot hold it aside. Wrap the needle and insert it back into the fabric. Hold onto that working thread as you pull slowly through. If you don't pull slowly through, it will not up on you again. Wherever you want. The dot pull yours right up. Hold the working threat aside. Point the needle towards her thumb, Wrap Veneto three or four times. Insert the needle back into the fabric past your hand behind. You can tug on the thread to make sure that the loops are taught and then slowly pull the thread through. The trick of the French not is really holding that working threat tart as the threads going through. If you let go too soon, you're not will become loopy. I get very addicted Teoh making French knots. They go so quickly, and they're really great for making textures or nutty like leaves or curly hair. Or if you just need a dot somewhere, like the ibo of someone or the center of a flower, I try it out. You'll see how addictive there. The last stitch I want to show you is satin stitch. It helps to draw out of shape before you start, because satin stitches for filling in solid shapes. If you have an outline to work from, your edges will be smoother. Always start on one side of your shape and then go down on the other side of the shape. You feel the shape with these slanting stitches that are right next to each other. Come up on one side and down on the other side. You don't want to change the direction because the beauty of satin stitch is the sheen that develops as stitches line up next to each other. If the stitches change direction, the shiny nous will be muted. Follow the edges of the sheep and try to make your stitches as close as possible. If you leave too big a space between your stitches like this one, you can always go back and fill in any spaces or gaps. Whenever you've run out of thread or finish stitching in a certain area, you want to go to the back of your hoop and slide your needle under some stitches. If you don't have a lot of stitches, you can slide your needle under one stitch and then passed your needle through the resulting. When you're done, you can trim away any excess thread. Now that you have an idea of what your stitches will look like, you might want to go on to a paper copy of your photograph and figure out what stitches would look best over this picture. You can also take time and pick out any colors you'd like to use and make sure they match all of the colors in your picture. Well, if you have finished a sampler Or if you have finished a sketch of what you think your project might look like, go ahead and upload it to our project pages. 6. Stitching photo tips: by now, you should have all of your photos printed out onto fabric, and hopefully you've practiced some embroidery stitches. It's time to jump into your project As you're looking at your work, think about what stitches would look good over top of this picture. Different stitches will make different parts of your picture stand out better. And whenever you stitch on top of a picture, it creates a dimension. Instead of it being just a flat surface of your photograph, you'll now have a slightly three D effect. So one thing to think about in the pictures is what is closest to you physically and the visual space. And if you stitch over those areas of what is closest to you, then the picture will make sense with stitching on top of it. If you try to stitch something that's only in the background, the dimension of the threads will make that come forward. In this picture of my daughter, with the threads hanging in front of her, I'm going to stitch over top of the threads. They're physically in front of her, and the threat of my embroidery will also become physically in front of her and create a sense of three dimensions in the picture. That's one of the great things about using embroidery is adding a three dimensional feel to a two D surface. Stitching can take a long time, and just sitting at a table can be a little boring and repetitive. So as I'm stitching, I like to you either listen to podcasts or watch a movie on the side. It's also a very portable medium. One of the reasons why I started stitching was it. I needed it to be something that I could make art with wherever I went, whether it was on the bus, on a car trip or winning of the doctors office, I always wanted have something to work on, something to keep my hands busy, some way to feel productive all the time. Stitching over your photograph is also a new opportunity to add other colors that might not already exist in the photograph. I really like using these variegated threads that change suddenly as you stitch from light to dark. This adds a bit of movement in the picture and interest, and by only using one thread that's very gated. I'm still able to achieve the effect of having many colors. Stitching is repetitive and calming, and it's one of my favorite things to Dio. Something to think about, as you stitch is, how can you combine different stitches to create a unique texture? I've completed a passage of running stitches across this picture, and that could be enough. But it's even more interesting by combining two different kinds of stitches here, The running stitch makes very small mark. This chain stitch is going to be much bolder. It's also a greater dimension. Three dimensionally, it stands out more. And so I also used a brighter color, a warmer color that will stand out. And another thing to think about is the direction I'm going from top to bottom with this chain stitch. When I reached the bottom, if I returned using the same stitch going back up, the direction of those loops would look different. So on my way back, I'm planning on doing back stitch to get back up to the top. Otherwise I'd have to end my thread and then start again at the top. You don't want to take too big a jump on the back of your work from one area of an image to another because it can change the tension of your work. Right now, this piece is held in tension by the hoop. But once that hoop is gone, the stitches how create tension on the fabric. And if you'd have too big a jump, it can pull in a funny way. As you're looking at your photograph, consider what stitches will best match the kinds of texture that already exists there. I chose French knots for this flower because the pollen itself has these tiny circular sphere pieces. So the French non is the best match for that texture. As you're stitching, consider what areas of the picture do you want to keep. And what would you like to cover up with? Stitching the pedals on this flower, their weight and completely blank. So I lose nothing at all by stitching over top of them. But keep a careful balance of what was photographic on what will be embroidered as you're working, really take your time to be careful. Good craftsmanship will make a huge difference in the finished product. I was like to say if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well. So an embroidery that means trying to make your stitches as consistent as possible in size , being careful of where stitches start and stop and making sure that your your thread is pulled smoothly. Not too too hard. You don't want to pucker or wrinkle the fabric and think about the backside to. I know nobody really looks at it, but keeping the back side of your work tighty on cutting short any threads that are long. Once you're done with, um, we'll make sure that nothing is pulled through to the front and that it's not difficult to stitch through. If the back of your work gets too busy and matted, it can make it harder to stitch through your fabrics. So take your time, enjoy the process and make this something that you're gonna wanna pass down to your grandkids. 7. Frame your project: Now that you're finished stitching your image, it's time to frame. I got this frame from a local craft store, and it's four by four inches. Some come with a piece of cardboard, but you might need to cut a piece of map board to fit. You couldn't remove the glass because you will not need it to start mounting your work, place your card stock or cardboard down first. Then layer two pieces of quilt batting over top of it. I cut one smaller and one larger than my square. Then layer you're finished embroidery over top of the stack. Line up the edges. If you need to adjust, you can good. When everything's lined up, flip over the stack and check that both sides of your fabric fold in but don't touch. Since my two sides do touch here, I'm going to trim away the excess. I have about an inch and 1/2 all the way around my picture, but you can from mount your piece with even 1/2 inch all the way around. When you're ready, stretch a long piece of thread. This threat should be longer than he normally stitch with because it needs to be long enough to stitch back and forth across the back of your work in both directions. Tie a good strong not at the end, so that when you're pulling the tension of the lace ing's you're not won't pop out when you're ready to start stitching, start at the point where it lines up with your cardboard filthy edges in and take a stitch from under the fabric to the top. Move back and forth in a zigzag motion placing up the two sides. It should look like you're lacing your shoes or lacing up. Of course it as you take your stitches stitch about a centimeter away from the edge of the fabric. If your stitches taken too close to the end of the fabric, your attention might pull the threads right out of the fabric. Work your way all the way from one side of the peace to the other side. Once you've reached the other side, you want to even out the tension before you secure. The not the tension should not be so tight that the cardboard bows, but it should be tight enough so that there are no wrinkles, and the other side of your fabric showing you might need to do this more than once to even out the tension. Keep a hold tightly as you pluck from where you started to where you finished. Once it's all tight. You can secure the threads with a stitch. You can stitch twice in the same spot where you can take a stitch and then pastor needle through the loop to make a Not before he stitched the other two sides together. Check the front and make sure it's lined up correctly. You can also check that the spacing for the other direction is good, too. Then turn it over and we're going to miter the corners just full of them in. So you get a 45 degree angle and take a stitch. To secure that first fold. Hold everything in place where you couldn't pin this and then fold in the other side. As before, tick stitches from underneath to the top and lace back and forth, just like your lacing up your shoes. By monitoring the corners, you make sure that no excess fabric is on the end of your piece. It just looks nicer, or might it up like this As you reach the end, make sure that finished side is also folded in. Take your last stitch and then before you finish again, go along and pluck everything tightly, even out the tension and make sure they're no wrinkles on the front of your work. Lacing up your work this way instead of using an adhesive to attach your your fabric to the mounting cardboard. Makes sort of. This piece remains archival. It is flexible as temperature changes, and you don't have any adhesive. It's going to degrade when you're done. All you have to do is pop your work right into your frame and then check the direction of the backing peace and play set over the top. These commercial frames come with tabs that fold in to secure the back in place By using the quote batting of the beginning, the image will poof out slightly from the frame, and it's good to not have the glass in there so that the threads aren't pressed up against the glass. This way. Without glass, you can still touch those lovely stitches 8. Going forward: thank you for joining me for Stitch your picks. I hope you enjoyed your adventure into embroidery. Perhaps this will become a brand new hobby for you, or even developed into a creative passion like it is for me. You're a printed, stitched and framed photos could become a great addition to your home decor. Or you could whip one up easily to give us a gift to someone special. When you're done with your projects, I hope you'll post them on our class projects Page. And I hope to see you again sometime on school share.