Ink & Thread Sketched Pet Quilts

One of the many benefits of having a smartphone is the ability to use it as a virtual sketchbook. Laurie Russman uses an app called Popsicolor to change the value and contrast of her photos making them exceptional source material for ink and thread sketched pet quilts.

She demonstrates her method for manipulating the photo, transferring to fabric, and stitching using a single color against a white background in the second episode of Quilting Arts TV Series 2000. Here is a brief tutorial of Laurie’s method for making her thread sketched quilts:


  • Digital photo from your smartphone photo gallery
  • Popsicolor smartphone application from the App Store (
  • Copy paper
  • White batik or similar tightly woven fabric, 10″ square
  • Small pieces of batting and backing, 10″ square
  • Fabric ink pen (I used Fabrico® by Tsukineko® in the color of the piece you are making.)
  • Thread to match


1. Choose a clear photo with sufficient contrast. Make sure there is a balance of light and dark in the face of the subject. For pet portraits, the more striking the markings, the easier this will be.

2. Open the Popsicolor app on your device, and tap the camera icon on the bottom left. Choose Import>Photo Library, and select the photo from your album. The app will immediately go to work creating its own version of the image, and you will see a range of color choices on the top and the bottom of the screen. For this project, select the black (licorice) Popsicle at the top and bottom of the screen. The image will immediately switch to black on white.

NOTE: As you get to know this app, you will learn techniques for making further adjustments to your image. This is a perfect activity for those moments on the subway, bus, and supermarket line.

3. For now, tap the heart icon in the bottom right of the screen and choose Save to Photos.

Left: Image of the cat printed on copy paper. Right: The photo after it’s been traced using a printed image as source material.

4. Open your photo album and you will see this new image. Print on copy paper.

5. Tape the printed image to the surface of a lightbox, window, or another light source. Tape the fabric on top of the picture and trace the image onto the fabric with the fabric ink pen.

TIP: If working with an animal picture, make your pen strokes in the same direction the fur grows. This creates a helpful guide for your stitching.

6. After the photo is traced, heat set the ink following the manufacturer’s instructions.

7. Make a quilt sandwich with the traced fabric, batting, and backing. Baste.

NOTE: I use lightweight fusible between each layer to stabilize the sandwich for quilting. Basting spray and pins are other alternatives.

8. Select a thread to match the ink color. Free-motion quilt the inked area. (figure 3)

9. Switch to white thread and quilt the background around the image.

10. Trim the piece and finish the edge with a zigzag stitch.

I didn’t even make it through the end of Laurie’s segment before I started perusing my camera roll for pictures of my cat so I can make a pet portrait of him!

Tune into Quilting Arts TV Series 2000, sponsored by Bernina and QNNtv, to explore more quilting inspiration! Check your local listing to watch Quilting Arts TV on PBS. Or better yet, order the complete series on DVD or purchase the digital download available in our shop!

Happy quilting,


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