How to Turn Your Portraits into Patternscomments (6) October 22nd, 2008
As soon as I started stitching again, I wanted to stitch portraits. I saw Jenny Hart's Dolly Parton and I was inspired. I'd never considered using embroidery as the medium for portraiture, but once I saw her work it all seemed so right. My first portrait was my friend, John, and his dog, Peanut, and I've been learning ever since then.
Here's how I figured out how to make patterns out of my family's treasured portraits. These make great gifts for family and friends and are perfect for Christmastime.
- A portrait you'd like to stitch
- Two color photocopies
- White paper
- Transparent tape
- Clear acetate (you can find it at an office-supply store where you find the overhead projector supplies)
- Tracing paper
- Black marker
- Iron-on transfer pen
- Your choice of fabric
First, you'll want to make a color photocopy of the portrait you will be making into a pattern. I do a color copy even if the original is black and white because you get a clearer contrast than you do with a black and white copy. This is also a chance to resize the image if it's too small for your stitching needs. Make at least two copies, one to use to trace your image and one to study for the details like clothes, freckles, smiles, etc.
If the background of your photo is dark or busy, you might want to cut the subject of your picture away from it to make it easier to trace the image.
Both of my portraits are somewhat dark and soft so it was hard to get a clear image through the tracing paper. To solve this, I did a basic line trace on clear acetate.
You will now do your first tracing with the tracing paper. This is your chance to add all the small detail you see on your reference copy, the bits that you have to squint to see. It wasn't until a closer look that I saw that my grandfather was wearing a vest in his picture, so I added it in this step. I also added a basic guideline to the waves in my grandmother's hair. I like to leave my patterns kind of open so that I can add as much or as little detail as I want. I also like the freedom to add texture, especially to the hair. You can choose to go super detailed in your pattern if you prefer to have everything already sketched out on your fabric for you.
Now you're ready to make your pattern! Flip your detailed tracing over and trace the reverse. If you don't do that, your portrait will be backwards when you transfer it.
If you're worried about making your final copy in pen first, you can do it in pencil and then go over your pencil lines with the transfer pen.
Once your pattern is done, you're ready to iron it onto the fabric of your choice.
Once your fabric has the pattern, you're ready to start stitching! Next week, I'll show you how I went about stitching my grandfather's portrait.
After you make this project, show off your work to other members!
Post your project in the gallery