Workshops - Totem of Life




 In this workshop we will stylize some of your favorite characters in nature and arrange them into an interlacing appliquéd fabric collage, a colorful and graphic “Totem of Life”.

Come to class with a chosen “theme” to help organize your ideas. For, example, you could pick “Autumn” as your theme. Your characters could be fall leaves, moths, chrysanthemums and a harvest moon. Or your theme could be Butterflies and Flowers, Ocean Life or even The Planets.

Then you will collect photos and prints of the characters that are candidates for your composition. From these we will stylize ( simplify and exaggerate) each object so they can be made as graphic fabric shapes for appliqué. Your composition will evolve as your shapes begin to “play off” one another.

This is a perfect way to learn my appliqué and construction techniques, but also a chance to make a uniquely personal project.


 •Large photos and prints of the subjects in your theme. Since these designs are organized symmetrically, I recommend looking for vintage scientific prints that often display the objects as flat and symmetrical. Pinterest and Google Images are a great resource. You can often drag a picture to your desktop or email the images to yourself for printing at home. There are also sites like which offer libraries of free images. If possible, please print the subject so it fills the entire 8.5” X 11” page or bigger. Bigger is better.

•Drawing materials: Lg. drawing paper tablet, pencils, lg. tablet or roll of tracing paper like Golden Threads, eraser

•Construction paper - inexpensive pack of many colors 

•Sewing basics: scissors, pins, etc. 

•Sewing machine in good working order and at least a few decorative stitches like satin stitch

•Open-toed embroidery foot - optional, but very useful)

•Aileen’s Tacky Glue

•Masking tape, craft knife with #11 blade (optional), paper scissor 

•Fusible interfacing: white, medium weight, 4-6 yds. (Shir Tailor 950F by Pellon is best)

•Wonder Under or some kind of iron-on adhesive, 1 yard

•Rotary cutter, mat and ruler

•Fabrics: a good range of fabrics in solid, batik and simple prints to match your subject matter

•Threads: basic 50wt to 30wt to match fabrics.

•Digital camera-optional, but very useful

•Flannel or some other method for pinning work to the wall (optional) 



Large projection screen 

Sturdy table for projector and laptop

2-3 quilt hangers or other safe way to display quilts 

2 tables for teachers use

3-5 irons and ironing stations, big board ironing surface is best 

Electrical cords and extensions, multiple-outlet strip, adaptors, lighting (if necessary) 

Plenty of workspace for each student