Could Needlework Define Drawing?

A Quilt Block by Peony and Parakeet

Over 20 years ago, when studying computer science, control engineering, and automotive engineering, I got used to being the only girl in many lectures. But it was not only that. Whatever book I read, whatever formula I learned, it was all written by men. Soon, it felt natural. The field of technology was ruled by men.

Embroidered Heart by Peony and Parakeet

When I think about drawing, I see the same thing. Throughout the history, the skill of drawing has been defined by men. Many say that if you draw 3-dimensional and photorealistic images, you can draw.

Embroidery by Peony and Parakeet

But could needlework define the way we draw? Could we think more about textures, structures, and shapes than the actual dimensions? Could we tell stories where we travel inside rather than outside?

I don’t say men can’t do all that. My message is that too many women who are experienced quilters, seamstresses, needleworkers feel that they are far away from drawing.

Quilting by Peony and Parakeet

Why Draw?

When you hold the pen instead of the needle, you are able to experiment in much less time. With a little bit of guidance, your imagination will start to grow. You will be able to see your creativity in a new light!

My quilting and embroidery got a friend from art journaling when I began to draw.

Embroidery inspired pieces for the class "Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper"

Embroidery inspired pieces for the class “Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper”

There’s no reason why needlework could not define the way we draw. Or at least be our inspiration when we draw.

Exercises from the class Inspirational Drawing

Exercises from the class Inspirational Drawing

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Art Quilts in a Modern Way

Folk Music, digital art from handmade elements, by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s something that I have wanted to show you for a long time! I have been working with a custom order which made me think of a new idea: to create fabric prints and make quilted wall hangings from them. This idea is very versatile as you don’t have to be a quilter, you can print your art on fabric and use it for bags, purses, clothes – anything!

The artwork above has been composed digitally of various art pieces that I have made. The person who ordered the wall hanging is a fan of modern folk music and the color red. (If you have not listened to modern folk songs, try Hanneke Cassel for example!)

A leaf motif by Peony and Parakeet

I created one new collage piece for the artwork. All the other details are picked from my archives.

It was pretty exciting to send the artwork to Spoonflower. When I received the fabric, the print quality was really sharp and detailed! I already knew from the previous experiences that big areas of black don’t print well, so I avoided those.

A digital fabric print designed by Peony and Parakeet

If you are a quilter, you know that the fabric will look so much better when quilted! I sandwiched cotton wadding, two layers of fusible interfacing and backing fabric and took out my sewing machine.

Quilting an art print by Peony and parakeet

I am not very experienced with free-motion quilting using the free-motion foot, so I used even-feed foot instead. But with patience, I was able to create quilting that enhanced my brush strokes.

Making art quilt by Peony and Parakeet

The finished quilt is about 45 x 39 inches.

Art Quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

I used various colors of shiny embroidery threads for quilting. Using black thread brings the real black that was not produced by digital printing.

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

Quilting on watercolor!

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

Entering the flow state when playing modern folk was in the center of my inspiration.

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

I added the label to the printing file too.

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s another project that I actually made earlier to test the idea. This one does not contain much digital processing, I only took a good photo of the original art and enhanced it a little bit.

Original paper artwork and a fabric quilt made from it, by Peony and Parakeet

I think this artwork looks really good on fabric! The actual idea when creating the original was to mimic hand embroidery! Read about creating the original artwork: When Pens Replace Needles

Folk Leaves, digitally printed fabric quilt by Peony and Parakeet

I added some embroidery before quilting but found out that quilting works well as decoration.

A detail of a digitally printed art quilt, by Peony and Parakeet

A printed fabric label can be found from here too.

A detail of a digitally printed art quilt, by Peony and Parakeet

I also have more fabric prints waiting to be transferred into art quilts!

Fabric prints from paper artworks, by Peony and Parakeet

Paper prints news: New card sets have arrived at my Etsy shop.

Art Postcards by Peony and Parakeet

Life can never be too colorful!

Art Postcards by Peony and Parakeet

Stella and Cosmo send their greetings to all artists and quilters: Have a relaxing weekend!

Beagles with quilts by Peony and Parakeet

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Using Fabric on Art Journal Pages

So Much Gardening to Do, an art journal page that uses fabric pieces. A fabric collage by Peony and Parakeet
At this time of the year, at the beginning of summer, there’s a lot to do in the garden. I started early this year, but recently there has been so many activities that I feel I have neglected the garden. This guilty feeling also showed up on my latest art journal page!

This page is made on a spread of Moleskine Sketchbook, so the image is fairly small, about 10 inches in width. A special feature here is that I have added two small cotton fabric pieces to boost my imagination. Using the technique of fabric collage was just a sudden idea, but I love how the page feels when touched!

Creating fabric collage with fabric pieces and freehand drawing, by Peony and Parakeet

I attached the first fabric piece at the early stage. Golden Soft Gel Gloss Medium was used for attaching the fabric.

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

After attaching the fabric, I doodled with a black drawing pen to get the creativity going.

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

When I began coloring, I realized that I want to create a spread instead of a page. So I attached another fabric, purposefully a bit different from the first.

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

While coloring the page, I added more details. As my garden looks wild at the moment, I wanted to show the growth on the page too.

Tulips in the garden

Here’s one corner of our front garden. Tulips bloom beautifully, and peonies (my favorites, of course!) grow fast.  Lots of weeding to be done!

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

Why not try some fabric collage in your journal?

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

How to Create More Often

Art journal pages inspired by modern quilting and embroidery, by Peony and Parakeet

For many years, I have been dreaming about constantly making quilts. I have even recorded that into my art journal. Even if I have quilted almost all my life, especially in the recent years, I have had difficulties to arrange time for it. It has always seemed to require so big block of time that I am able to arrange that only few times in a year.

I am especially fond of modern quilting. One of my favorite quilting blogs is Crazy Mom Quilts by Amanda Jean Nyberg. She is especially focused on quilting from fabric scraps. I also love her book Sunday Morning Quilts. There are so many days that I have browsed the book, admired my fabric stash and felt sorry for myself not to have enough time for the actual making.

Unfinished quilt project with printed rose photos, by Peony and Parakeet

I don’t like showing unfinished projects, but as a proof, here’s one of the many patchwork projects which has been untouched for months. And, my dream is to make more of these quilted boxes for the fabrics (the pattern is from the book Sunday Morning Quilts)

A quilted box, the pattern is published in the book Sunday Morning Quilts

The problem: How to create more often?

I have asked so many times:
– How to quilt more often?
and answered to myself:
– Arrange more time.
– Buy more fabrics, books, classes or subscribe to a magazine.
– Follow more blogs, have a Pinterest board for inspirational quilts.
– Organize your scraps first.
– Take more/less time for planning … etc.

None of that worked. But now have found the solution! I have developed a method derived from digital scrapbooking, another hobby of mine.

A Case Study: Scrapbooking as a regular practice

I had a similar kind of problem with digital scrapbooking, just not so bad. I wanted to do more of that but often realized that I had not done anything for a long time. Last October I decided to start scrapbooking one page a week with Project Life style: insert photos to a grid and make it simple. I only included one photo of each day or two, so it was not a big task to fill the page during the week. I decided that one page per week would be my minimum dosage. If I wanted to do more digital scrapbooking and be more creative, I could create more pages if I had any energy left.

What happened? I have not only created those weekly pages but 12 other layouts as well. That’s 33 pages total in 3 months which much more than my usual pace! Surprised by the result, I began to think about the magic behind that. And – could it be use for quilting as well?

Here’s is what I discovered.

1) Lack of time is not an issue, moving from one task to another is.
It did not require much time to take a sewing machine and start sewing. The reason I needed bigger and bigger time blocks to begin, was because I was thinking about too big tasks that seemed overwhelming. In other words, I required too much of myself. After working late in the evening, I should have started sewing a big quilt in a snap! The more I thought about starting, the less time I had to actually to do that and the less inspiring it sounded. When moving from one very different task, like writing, to another, like quilting, is not easy for the brain.

2) Lack of energy is not an issue, if the task is small and interesting enough.
It’s amazing how tired we can feel ourselves, but still spend time browsing computer or watching tv instead of going to sleep! There must be some energy left in us! I got that energy in use by telling myself that I was allowed to make only one little task. That way I did not imagine doing a lot and feeling a lack of energy for that. It also helped if I had some freedom to perform it. Then it sounded not only manageable but also interesting.

3) When the task is done, move to working with bigger projects.
The biggest thing that I learned is that I should always keep the promises for myself. If I presented a little task to get myself going, I should never ever make the task considerably bigger. Why? Because the next day I remember that one small task is actually a huge one and I don’t want to start it anymore. After I have made the small task and if I feel like doing some more, I can move to the bigger projects – to those unfinished ones that I actually want to finish!

Here’s how I adapted all that for quilting:

Sew One Block per Day

I decided to start a new quilt. But instead of planning and measuring, I just set few simple rules for each block. If I feel exhausted I can only pick one fabric, cut one 4-inch square and call it the block of the day. At the most I can make one 12 ” square with as much piecing as I feel like. But that’s it – no other blocks are allowed on the same day.

I started the quilt on the 1st January and here’s what I have made so far. This won’t most probably be my greatest quilt but more importantly, I have started to make a quilted box, a red one for the red fabrics. And – it is so much fun to sew it!

Sew 1 Block per Day, a quilting project by Peony and Parakeet

As the result of the new project, my studio has turned into the sewing room!

Peony and Parakeet's studio

The little project bags are also handsewn (two of them are made just recently!). The old cardboard box is for buttons and been inherited from my husband’s grandmother.


Now you might ask:

How to apply this to art journaling?


Why not make a page in phases from element after another! Here’s what I have made in two days: two little ornaments. I continue adding one doodled element or text each day. When the page is full, I will start coloring the elements, each at the time.

Preorder my class: Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper

D.H Lawrence has said: “Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law.” You can replace the word “love” with the word “creativity”! But whether love or creativity, I believe that we need to do a little push to make the blossoming really happen. Like one doodle per day!

If you love crafting, quilting and needlework and want to show it in your art journal too, preorder my class from 21 Secrets Spring 2015 art journaling workshop! Let’s add little treasures to our pages! (Here’s also a recent blog post about the class).

How to Make Folk Bags

Folk Bag Workbook - Instructions on how to design and make creative drawstring pouches

Since 2008, I have had a dream: teaching how to design and make folk bags. When I invented the idea of the folk bag, I drew a sketch. That sketch was the first piece in the pile of documentation gathered for the workbook.

The workbook has 40 pages and about 100 images. You will be guided from the planning to the making of unique folk bags which you can keep, give away or sell.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet

I feel so happy and relieved at the moment!

The book includes instructions for three folk bags: one small with stripes, another large with solid-colored fabrics and third medium with printed fabrics. But the best thing in the workbook is that it guides you how to create unique bags in various sizes. Starting from choosing the theme and fabric and ending with setting the final decorations in place!

Folk Bag Workbook - Instructions on how to design and make creative drawstring pouches

Buy the book for 15 euros (about 18.50 USD) here or from my Ravelry store

Writing a Craft Pattern

At first, I should probably give you a warning: I am in the middle of the chaos, this not so organized as my posts usually are! With this post, I invite you to the process of writing a craft pattern. I have had this idea for 6 years and it has become hugely important to me.

Sewing Folk Bags, by Peony and Parakeet

I designed a drawstring pouch which combines yarn and fabric in 2008. I have made tens of those bags, which I call folk bags, during the years and dreamed about writing instructions of how to create them. Within years I have learned a lot of making these bags. What first started a simple idea and simple sketch of a pattern, has become much more. It became clear when I began working with the pattern that I won’t be writing a regular craft pattern. I am writing instructions and formulas about how to design and customize folk bags so that you can make your own unique bags.

Fabric Stash

Writing a pattern is not just writing. I have to test each sentence for many times. So I need to actually make more bags while I am writing.  Going to the fabric stash in the morning feels as inspiring as grabbing the pens and paints. What I find challenging is to go back and forth from knitting and sewing to writing. I do not know if it was a good idea to make the pattern both in English and in Finnish – and write the both language versions at the same time! Sometimes I get so mxed up that I have to translate the most simple words from English to my mother tongue Finnish! The good thing with working with two languages at the same time is that the instructions get checked much more carefully.

Folk bag Emily by Peony and Parakeet

I knew I had taken a lot of photos of my bags during the years. It seemed to be a good thing. All the ideas that I have had and that had been implemented are recorded. Furthermore, I have a special folder in the photo organizing software where they all are. And yes, that’s great. But there are over 500 photos plus the new ones I have took during the writing. I need to pick the best images for each chapter and then process them. There’s still 250 photos to go through and few more to shoot.

A Folk Bag by Peony and Parakeet

After all this, I still have to confess that my heart sings when I am writing the pattern. I hope that with this work I am able to spread more joy than if only I made the bags. I wish that there will be more people experience the joy of both making the bags and receiving them.

A Folk Bag by Peony and Parakeet

I hope to get the pattern published in this month. I already have finished many chapters and soon I will begin to insert the texts and images to the desktop publishing program. The working title of the pattern is Folk Bag Workbook. It will be available for purchase in my web site and at Ravelry.

Folk Bags by Peony and Parakeet

Next week I have more news, also textile related in a way!

Make Samplers to Save Bits and Pieces

Samplers by Peony and Parakeet, using stamping and embroidery

My sampler madness began when I found an unfinished embroidery project. I had started it two years ago on an online course called Happy-Go-Lucky Stitchalong. It was led by Amy Powers and the goal was to embroider a sampler showing all the things that make you happy.

An embroidered sampler by Peony and Parakeet, a phase photo

It was only a two-week course and I got some more squares done than what is shown here but there was still plenty to go. I had dyed the fabric with monoprinting method and quite liked it. I was not happy with all the embroidery that I had made but I felt compelled to finish this project. The embroidery floss I had to finish this looked so tempting!

Embroidery floss

So I began to work little every day for a couple of weeks. Some of the squares were remade and some were complemented with extra stitches.

Stitching an embroidered sampler, by Peony and Parakeet

In the end I added some more details to the background fabric using the same method than in the beginning. By using a glass plate and textile dye I was able to prints some more color and doodling to make the result even more interesting.

Monoprinting fabric, by Peony and Parakeet

I painted the frame with bright coral red to create an athmosphere of hot summer days (which I love and which are all too rare in Finland).

An embroidered sampler, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

I am pretty happy with the finished piece. Can you spot a peony and a parakeet there?

While stitching the sampler, I was thinking about samplers in general. They can be really handy of saving things. Even virtually! Isn’t Pinterest like a big sampler too?

An embroidered sampler, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

I chose not to spend an extra hour at Pinterest but make a stamped sampler showcasing some of my favorite stamps.

Phase photo of a stamped sampler, by Peony and Parakeet

Folk style suits well to samplers so I decided to make a sampler that reminds me of folk costumes. I doodled around the stamped images to get extra details. Then I colored them with colored pencils and markers.

Phase photo of a stamped sampler, by Peony and Parakeet

Thinking of folk costumes, I got the idea of adding buttons in the middle of each square. They all had to be different, of course. That way they would repeat the idea of a sampler too.

Adding buttons to a stamped sampler, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

Before sewing the buttons I had painted the frame with faux antique paint. Many folk costumes use a lot of lace and ribbons so I picked all the stamps which were like them. Luckily I had so many that I was able to use each once and get the decoration around the frame.

Rubber stamped sampler inspired by folk costumes, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

While making this sampler I got the idea of a sampler made from handdecorated papers. Wouldn’t it be cool to have an art journal page showcasing the scraps of papers? Or just coloring and drawing 9 squares while on vacation, one per day and then gather them into a sampler. Or giving each family member a square … The possibilities are endless!

Rubber stamped sampler inspired by folk costumes, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Fabric Collages

A collage made from fabric pieces, by Peony and Parakeet. See the instructions to make fabric collages!
The idea for this card came from the pile of fabric scraps that I have. I began to wonder: could I use these instead of papers to create fabric collages?

Fabric scraps in a drawer

Fabric Collages – A School Project from the Past

I also remembered one happy moment from the childhood. I was about 10 years old. A teacher asked us to bring fabric scraps to school. We were asked to cut the fabric into pieces and create a collage from them. My schoolmates were not excited but I was thrilled. I cut the fabrics into tiny pieces and began to glue them on a paper.

Fabric collage, a detail

When I had finished the collage, I was very pleased with it. I had also had such a good time. Little did I know that I would be cutting tiny pieces whole my life – that the moment I picked the scissors was to follow me many times afterwards!

A fabric collage made by Paivi from Peony and Parakeet, in the age of 10

1) Cut and Glue the Fabric Pieces

The supplies for fabric collages are simple: scissors, glue, paper, fabrics.

Creating a fabric collage, by Peony and Parakeet

2) Add a Layer of Gel Medium

Because my collage was small, I wanted to add some fine details and extra layering. To be able to do that, I covered the first layer with the gel medium.  When dried, I would be able to doodle with markers and create dimensions by adding more layers.

Creating a fabric collage, adding layers with gel medium, by Peony and Parakeet

My favorite is Golden Soft Gel Gloss but any gel medium will do. Even if I am not a big fan of buying more stuff, purchasing this is a good investment. You can use gel medium not only to create surfaces but also glueing paper pieces when making paper collages.

Unfinished fabric collage, doodling on the gel medium surface, a technique by Peony and Parakeet

3) Add Doodling

When gel medium dries it becomes transparent and you can doodle with thin markers or gel pens on it. Make sure to dry it first throughly!

4) Add More Details From Fabric Pieces

Adding gel medium on fabric surface. See instructions for creating fabric collages! By Peony and Parakeet.

After doodling on the first layer, I wanted to add details like the house in the middle. After constructing the house with fabric pieces and glue, I added gel medium to the details to add some doodling on them.

The photo below shows how the fabric is layered. A part of the card is covered with gel medium and feels like plastic. There are also fabric pieces without any coverage on the top and they feel soft.

A fabric collage card by Peony and Parakeet

You do not need a sewing machine to enjoy working with fabrics!

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Mixed Media Pie Party

Mixed Media pies, Karelian pies by Peony and Parakeet

Karelian pies – tears come to my eyes when I remember a childhood memory of my past mother making them. And her story of my grandmother who made a pile of those for her six daughters every Saturday. Just some water, flour, rice and butter was needed. Or well, that’s what I thought before I made some by myself after moving away from home. Patience too, I recognized!

Mixed Media pies. Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

I wanted to experiment with creating something not so serious. So I recreated Karelian pies. These mixed media pies are made of fabric, wool, lace, beads, buttons etc. And they look like baked after I added some fabric dye in the edges.

Mixed Media pie. Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

When making these I remembered the emotional connection I have for the Karelian pies. They represent caring and love for me. In the area where I grew there where no celebration nor funeral where Karelian pies would not be served. The finer the occasion, the smaller the pies – and there were a hundred of them!

Mixed Media Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

I thought I would create a fantasy world with my pies, linens and fancy tea but my thoughts became more real than I had ever suspected. I became to think how important people from the past quietly fade away when the time goes by. And how we can bring them back to our minds. Like inviting them for a cup of tea, even only in our thoughts.

Mixed Media Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

While taking the photos I remembered a small table linen that I had embroidered as a teenager. Back then I dreamt about the future and wanted to make something very traditional Karelian for myself to treasure. I was inspired by the stories of how young women made their linen before they stepped into the marriage. That embroidered piece combined with the Karelian pies really speaks to me.

Art is freedom. Give yourself the freedom to create! You will get something precious in return.

Get more creative ideas: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Things Learned From Quilting

Learned from Quilting, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

My latest collage here is influenced by fabrics and quilting. After being linked from Amy’s Free Motion Quilting Adventures blog I got the idea to blog about my roots in quilting. And even more: what I have learned from quilting.

I used to be a quilter you know. Within years my quilting became more and more complex. I fell in love with hand embroidery and it felt like the needle was my pen. Quite soon after I made this, “The Time of Miracles”, I knew I could not just go on. It took too much time to complete one, even small quilt.

The Time of Miracles, a quilt with hand embroidery by Peony and Parakeet

I discovered paper crafting hoping it would be faster. And it was! That time I also combined paper with fabric.

Paper and fabric by Peony and Parakeet

But after taking the first steps in paper crafts I realized that I had learned a lot from quilting.

1. Using ugly colors
Choosing only pretty colors makes them all ugly. Every quilter buys neutrals, blacks, whites, solids and other duller fabrics to make pretty even prettier.

2. Selecting colors that differ in intensity
Hues that have the same intensity look flat and unappealing together. Like in nature and in photos, the hues vary and I think it looks beautiful.

3. Mixing patterns
By bringing new and new fabrics to the quilt it gets more and more appealing once the colour choices work. I love mixing a variety of patterns together!

4. Layering 
Applique is the technique where the fabric motifs are sewn on the background. Layering creates depth and makes the end result interesting. I try to maintain clear color contrasts between layers.

5. Attachment
In quilting all the pieces are first attached by sewing. They form a connection within each other even before the final step: the actual quilting. In collages I always try to group elements and give them some kind of border. Pieces that float look like they do not belong anywhere.

Quilted Zip Pouch by Peony and Parakeet

I still make quilts now and then. I do not make traditional blocks or plan my quilts. I like sewing intuitively like I would be drawing something unexpected.

Skills can be mixed and styles can evolve from the experience of making a wide range of things. Whatever you create, hopefully this encourages you to combine your skills for the next project!

Quilted Heart by Peony and Parakeet

More design advice applied to crafting: Folk Bag Workbook