Fabric Sculptures

Fabric Sculptures

Fabric sculptures are easy to make and great fun. You can use up all kinds of scraps: strips, odd shaped pieces, unwanted pre-cuts... You could also add pieces of yarn and embroidery floss to make your sculptures even more interesting.

Depending on the type of fabric medium you use the finished sculptures can be used as bowls, lampshades, or just put on a shelf to look beautiful and be admired. Their texture can be as diverse as the material you can use to make them.

The process can get a little messy, so working outside is recommended. From our experience, kids love everything about fabric sculptures, both the process and the result. Do warn them, however, that the balloon will not burst when pricked to prevent major disappointments.

Difficulty

Easy

Materials needed

  • Fabric scraps

Note:

Both shape and colour of your fabric scraps will determine what the surface of your fabric sculpture will look like. Strips will give it a different appearance than odd shaped pieces or shapes as flowers, hearts etc. Remember that the fabrics may be a little darker in the finished sculpture than they are in their “virginal” state.

  • Balloons in different shapes and sizes
  • Optional: Perle embroidery floss
  • Fabric medium: washable PVA glue which will produce a shiny surface or cellulose which will produce a matt surface. Both are available at your local craft store.

Note:

The fabric medium we used is water soluble and non toxic. It can be removed easily from smooth surfaces, hands and the tools used throughout the process. We strongly recommend you to use an equally non-toxic product, especially when working with children.

  • Optional: glass beads, sequins, etc. and an appropriate glue to embellish your sculptures after drying

Other Tools and Notions

  • A cheap shower curtain and/or a plastic tablecloth to protect the surface you are working on
  • Optional: A camping table if you are working in a field or on the beach
  • Old clothes or a plastic apron for protection
  • A plastic tray (ca. 3” by 6”) used for craft purposes ONLY
  • A small plastic bucket or container with rounded edges to hold the balloon
  • Access to water or water in bottles
  • An old brush
  • If you are working outside: DO NOT FORGET A SUNHAT, SUNGLASSES AND APPROPRIATE SUNSCREEN!
  • Rubber gloves
  • A pair of old scissors
  • A pointed object to destroy the balloon, e. g. an embroidery needle or a pin
  • Optional: a hairdryer

Materials and Tools

Preparation

  • Cover your worktable with the shower curtain and/or the plastic table cloth. Optional: Put on apron and other protective gear.
  • Mix the fabric medium according to the instructions on the packet or bottle into the flat plastic tray. The texture will depend on the medium used. Ours was similar to single cream.

Texture of Fabric Medium

  • Blow up a balloon to the desired size. For your first fabric sculpture we suggest that you start with a fairly small balloon.  Rest the balloon on the container with the smooth surface uppermost.

Balloon

Technique

  • Immerse the first fabric scrap in the fabric medium and let it soak for a few seconds. Remove it from the solution and let drip off excess fabric medium. If necessary, use your hands to speed up the process.

Immerse

  • Start placing the soaked fabric pieces over the balloon. It is not important where you start. Just make sure that the balloon is well covered. Leave a few empty spaces between the fabric scraps, but they shouldn’t be larger than 1 square inch or so.

Place Strip

Next Strip

Placed Strips

  • Let the fabric strips dry off a little. Then with the help of the brush, apply some more fabric medium, especially where different pieces of fabric meet and need to hold together well.

Add more fabric medium

  • Let the sculpture dry completely. You can use a hairdryer to speed up the process. If you prefer to let the sculpture dry in the wind, remember that the air trapped in the balloon will decrease in volume when it cools down. This may cause your sculpture to crumple. Unless this is a desired effect, we suggest that you do the drying in a fairly warm place.

Drying

  • Be careful about hanging up the balloon whilst it is still wet. The fabric medium will slowly sink to the bottom and create a “glue nose”.
  • After the sculpture has dried completely, the most exciting step in the entire process is about to happen. Take a pointed object (e. g. a pointed embroidery needle, a pin, a pair of sharp and pointed scissors) and make a hole into the air balloon. Don’t worry there won’t be a bang, just a little slightly suspicious crackling. It is best to prick the balloon close to a piece of fabric.

Crucial Moment

  • As soon as the balloon starts to lose air, the sculpture will crumple and distort. Help your sculpture keep its shape as much as possible by carefully easing the balloon away from the fabric pieces. We made a short film showing how we did this and have put it on Youtube:

 

  • Mould the sculpture back into its original shape and let it dry off completely.
  • Optional: Cut off any fabric bits sticking out from the open edge.

Clear edges

  • Optional: Glue sequins or glass beads on the surface of the sculpture.
  • These sculptures also make wonderful and original lamps.  We recommend using small battery powered light fixtures which emit a cold light. We do not recommend tea lights or candles.

Lantern


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