Friday, May 28, 2010

Burning a Quilt - Textile art with a Heat Gun and Synthetic Fabrics, Video Tutorial

This is my newest textile based artwork entitled "Pushing Up Daisies". I've created a video above so you can see the heat gun in action melting and distorting the fabric.

NB. when burning or melting any synthetic fabric, or cutting or scoring with a soldering iron work in a well ventilated area and wear a mask suitable for gas or vapours. You can buy disposables from large hardware stores.

I like to play with contrasts and in this case the normally pretty daisy flowers have been melted, and burnt, I like the way that this keeps the fragility inherent with flowers while giving it a harder, grittier edge.

I've played with burning before, most prominently in my leaf quilts, but with all of those I was melting smaller pieces and then using them to make or add to a larger work. In this piece I wanted to do a larger work and then burn the entire thing.

I've layered synthetic fabrics (felt, organza and satins) over cotton and stitched with Madeira metallic gold rayon and variegated rayon threads. I quilted the background quite intensely with little spirals as I having dense quilting here makes the stems, leaves and flower heads stand up more, and that in turns means they will burn quickest.

I used gold and copper Shiva oil paint sticks (I think these are called Markal paint sticks if you're in the UK) over the background quilting, these seemed to retard the heat effects on the background areas and the heat gun set the paint sticks instantly while only changing the colour slightly.

I love quilting on satin. The sheen really adds to the curves created by the quilting lines. The burnt areas of this are now essentially plastic, so it will either be framed or edged and hung for a wall piece.

Heat gunning will shrink a piece and I find it quite fun to watch it flatten and pull together. It helps the lesser quilted areas stand up even more.

This is my first video and I'm going to hopefully do some more in-depth video tutorials (both free and subscription) in the future. As always would love to hear any feedback - please leave a message in the comments section below.



  1. very interesting
    and you sound fine
    nothing to worry about
    nice voice!

  2. It's amazing what the "voice smoothing" feature in imovie can do :) Thanks Del! I do think I still sound a bit like a kid though :) The first take with smoothing on was sooooo good... and then I listened back twice and realised that I'd called the top layer 100% cotton!! I could just see people everywhere setting their cotton quilts on fire and though I bet to redo it. Just couldn't get it as good again so this is it :)

    Will try my hand at longer ones, and possibly even try selling some more comprehensive class as video type ones if feedback on the quality is good enough. Thanks again, doing your first video is scary - even if it only shows your hands!! :)

  3. Great video. Short and sweet! I've used the heat gun some but think you've inspired to try your layering/paintstick/quilting techniques.

  4. Thanks, Neroli! The video was good, your voice fine and very easy to listen to. Very instructional - I would love to see you do a CD of tutorials liek that, and sell them!

  5. lol thought I'd share this - my verification word was toasties!

    and this time it is pretties! lol

  6. Clear voice, precise details all round very informative video.

  7. Well done Neroli - your voice sounds fine.

  8. Nice job and I really like the work!

  9. The thing I find difficult with this technique is that you have done all that work and then are going to destroy some of it - I suppose destroy is not the right word but it approximates what I am thinking.
    Very interesting video - thanks.

  10. Funny how we dont like our own voices hey.....great video and very clear...wonderful work Neroli might have to try this.

  11. very interesting and useful Neroli, thank you! Inspired me to try some directed heating, rather than all over

  12. Hi Neroli, you sound just like me, on video.. lol.. was funny to listen to, as in like listening to myself.
    One comment I'd like to make, you could advise wearing a mask or working outside in well ventilated area at the beginning of the video.. from experience I know this is a smelly and fume ladden technique. I also end up with a head ache and feeling ill afterwards, so I don't use this technique very often. I am rather sensitive to that sort of stuff tho.

  13. Hi Annette, do you have a vid up anywhere so I can hear you? Excellent point on the fumes, I either work outside (which I did here) or where a disposable gas mask. I think I had that in my first audio track take which was so much better except I called the top layer 'cotton' and that wouldn't work at all! Have since added in bold the importance of wearing a mask etc below the video. Thanks for reminding me, it really is an important thing to have.

  14. Lindi love your verification word :) Most suitable!

    Cat I'm so glad it's inspired you to try something different. I did do all over heating to shrink up the background a bit and make the flowers stand up more but concentrated most of the heat on the flowers. I think the shiva seemed to protect the backing area from burning too quickly.

    Thank you to everyone else for all comments so far. I swear I have become a total feedback junkie and it really does make me want to do more of this type of thing in the future :)

  15. Great Video Neroli, very informative... I love the piece of art as well, lovely...
    cheers - Faye S.

  16. Thanks for the video Neroli. It think it was excellent. Nice clear instructions and a great image. Love your blog.

  17. Thank you both! I wonder when the thrill of getting positive feedback will wear off? It doesn't even seem to be waning. :)

  18. ELLEN H, aka MumJune 1, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Great as always Neroli, but I am biased. Still think you have done a great job as you always do. xx

  19. Thanks Mum! Great to see you reading my blog!! xoxo

  20. A really interesting technique. Great result.I don't know if I could tolerate the smell, etc.


  21. Hi Elaine,

    I always wear a mask rated for vapours etc (you can buy disposable ones from hardware stores quite cheaply) and I work outside when I can. You really don't smell it with a mask and ventilation at all. (I'm pretty sensitive to that sort of thing and would get a headache otherwise). When I work inside I do it under the kitchen extractor fan and keep the windows open.