Art Couture: Three Wearable Art Techniques to Try – Quilting Daily

Whenever I go to an art exhibit, a quilt show, Quilt Market, or a similar kind of event, I always keep an eye out for fashion. Not haute couture, but art couture–garments or accessories that reveal someone to be an artist or art enthusiast.

At quilt and fiber-related gatherings, you often spot felted handbags, fiber art brooches, woven belts, and embroidered vests.

Even at events not specifically related to art–from a neighborhood party to high school soccer game–my eye is immediately drawn to the person wearing handcrafted jewelry, a macramé and metal belt, or a hand-knitted scarf. We make eye contact as if to say, “Yes, I acknowledge our mutual love of handmade art.”

Finding handmade art to wear is as easy as visiting a craft fair or your local artisan collective-not to mention shopping online. But if you want to make your own art couture, I have three ideas for you.

1. Jeanne Williamson, known for her surface design work using plastic construction fencing, has used her talents to create monoprint blouses.

A peplum blouse become wearable art,
by Jeanne Williamson.

Here are some of Jeanne’s tips:

  • Choose a pattern style that fits your body type.
  • Make a sample blouse first and tailor it to fit (or purchase a thrift shop top or t-shirt)
  • Be aware of the size and scale of the monoprints you add to the clothing. Make sure they complement the garment.
  • Add additional surface design to monoprinted garments with fabric paint and stamps.

2. Susan Brubaker Knapp has spent two years embroidering designs on a denim jacket she bought for $3 at a local thrift shop. Using solid and variegated perle cotton, she “draws” with a running stitch and fills in with hand stitches she refers to as “chicken scratches.”

hand embroidered art to wear brubaker knapp
Susan Brubaker Knapp added embroidery to this jacket for more than two years, wearing it in the meantime.

The beauty of this creative embroidery project is that Susan can wear it while she works on it. She lightly traces the patterns on the denim and fills them in as she has the time.

3. Here’s an idea for anyone who wants to practice machine embroidery: Bianca Mandity draws designs on plain tailored shirts using free-motion stitching.

wearable art shirt bianca mandity
Free-motion doodling turns a plain shirt into a wearable art piece. By Bianca Mandity.

Here are some of Bianca’s tips for success:

  • Try doodling your design on a scrap piece of paper before you begin to stitch to get an idea of how it will work out. For more confidence, you can draw your design out full size, put it under the shirt against a light source (such as a window) and lightly trace the design onto the shirt.
  • As you stitch, don’t worry if your retracing goes slightly off the original line, this makes the stitching look more like doodling, and gives it its own unique flair.
  • Every machine is different and everyone’s stitching rhythm is different, too, so tension needs can vary. Practice to get the tension just right.

Try your own hand at wearable art, whether you make a garment from scratch, use thrifted find, or upcycle something from your own wardrobe.

If you need garment ideas, check out BurdaStyle’s offerings.

Other topics you may enjoy:

Leave a Reply