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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Dress Form Fabric Collage

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Finished Dressform Collage
Finished Dressform Collage

FINISHED! While at an annual sewing retreat at the Compass Retreat in TX with my sister last year, they showed off a collage hanging sample of the PERFECT FORM pattern by Laura Heine. I immediately knew this would be the perfect hanging for my Sunroom Sewing Studio exterior door. AND... the size of the included pattern was just right as well, as you can see from the photo above. Let me share with you some specifics of the process.

FIRST...FABRIC HUNTING What a delightful excuse to go fabric shopping! I was astonished at how hard it was to find fabrics with distinct floral motifs!!! I worked at that for months - but only here locally at JoAnn's and our 2 local quilt shops. I did keep my collection in a bag handy to go along with me whenever I landed in a fabric shop. Though I had the color scheme pretty much established in my mind, I found it useful to have my 'collection' along when adding to it.

Honestly, I purchased a few more fabrics than what you see below, but they were more 'all-over' texture-type pieces that I didn't end up using at all. It became obvious as I started to work, that only the distinctly floral fabrics worked. The only other fabrics I used were the black texture for the stand, some butterfly wings, and the backing fabric. Below, you can see the fabrics I used.

#1 The first fabric at the left was perfect: distinct separate floral motifs. This is what you want to look for.

#2. The second fabric honestly was 'hidden' from me while I worked (meaning, lost among too many projects on my table...), but it too would have been great. I did end up using some of the leaves as filler - the grace and shape of them was very useable.

#3. The third fabric was harder to use - you can only see a sliver of it, but the floral motifs were kinda water-color looking, and indistinct really - plus an 'allover. When you search, look for fabrics like #1 and #2, with distinct floral motifs floating on a background.

#4. The large aqua poppy-type fabric 4th from the left was REALLY large, but worked well for me.

#5. These are very stylized flowers, but the problem was how they overlapped each other. This fabric did come in handy for the 'bust' level.

2nd Row of Fabrics...

#6. A good medium-dark value, this fabric was ok. I especially liked the whimsical butterflies, and made use of them up around the shoulders on my collage.

#7. Another pretty perfect fabric, but the flowers were all the same color...

#8. The butterfly fabric ... I liked the soft water-color effect of colors in the wings. Play "I SPY" to find them in my collage.

3rd Row of Fabrics...

#9. This fabric provided the aqua as a dark 'medium' tone, and the red as dark flower value.

#10. The aqua fabric shown a couple of fabrics below along with the dress form stand dark fabric was also used.

Now I see that I used up all of the darkest value fabric, which was a kind of hydrangea-looking fabric of smaller clumps of dark navy fabrics. If you look closely at the waistline area, you can see that fabric. You can also see a bit of it at the left about half-way down in the picture below.

Laboriously cut pieces with Steam a Seam 2 backing.


While I agree with Laura's instructions, that you need plenty with which to work once you start placing them on the design, I wish I hadn't done quite as much fusing/cutting in advance, as I found they went further than I anticipated initially. To the right, you can see how many MORE pieces I fused and cut that I did not end up using (hence, are included in the PROJECT LEFTOVER Product at my website that you can find HERE.

Since the Steam-A-Seam 2 was fused to large cut-out areas of each fabric to begin with, I seriously dulled at least 2 of my Kai scissors. It's tough: you need a sharp, good scissors to accurately and interestingly do the detailed cutting, but since you are also cutting through fusible web and paper backing... you get the picture.

By the way, all of the fabrics in the 2nd picture above of the fabrics - are ALREADY FUSED to Steam-A-Seam 2. I blasted through 2+ packages of Steam-A-Seam 2: 9" x 12" ($5.50/package).

Even though it does waste substantial fusible product, I still think fusing to pretty much the whole fabric, or at least large cut-outs as you can see to the left here... makes the most sense, as the intricate cutting is actually easier.

I will share that though I read Laura's good, comprehensive directions numerous times, I the end... I grasped the concept and then 'went with it' by I figured out would work.

A WORD ABOUT THE BACKGROUND FABRIC The sample I saw at the Compass Retreat Center was done on the great fabric I purchased and used: CAP-L3006 Love Meaning by AGF studio, the Letters collection. I did not purchase for the entire length (68"), but rather half that and I have a seam across at about the high hip level. I don't think you'd see that unless I pointed it out. Look closely at the pattern image below, and you'll see she has 6 different fabrics, graduating from lighter to dark. Laura's pattern cover was amazingly helpful. Collectively, her work is all of a darker value than mine turned out to be.

Laura Heine original pattern - for sale in my Kit.
Laura Heine original pattern - for sale in my Kit.

Also...note the hint of 'border' floral around the edges, which I have to admit, I like, and just now 'see'. Too bad - mine is DONE! I likely had plenty of fused fabric cut-outs to do the same.....


The interesting part of the scope of Laura's ingenious plan is a 'base' of the dress form itself. She suggests a lace - and though I looked, I ended up with an off-white organza. I'll leave the exact how-to's of the backing and how to fuse/peel/fuse to be details offered only with this Kit, or purchase of the pattern alone at this link HERE. But I will show you that I left this 'base' in the wire cage portion of the piece as you can see below.

Also note in this photo:

1. I have lain a folded up quilt on top of my cutting mat. Doing so allowed me to both place and fuse once I got everything designed.

2. Note on the folded back upper half, that I underlined the Love print background fabric with a solid white fabric, go give extra body.

3. After all of this was done, I backed it with quilt batting as well both for dimension, and to block the light coming in through my door.

I'll also share that since my project was for a door (privacy) hanging, when I held it up to 'see what it would look like', the empty holes in my collage design showed up.


For the Cage, I used a black shiny embroidery thread. Dropping the feed dogs and installing the Free Motion Embroidery foot on my machine, I did the cage work with 'free motion'

technique. Along the sides and bottom, to make them heavier, I did a narrow zigzag stitch first, then covered it the same as I did the interior cage lines. Those, I did by a back and forth motion, about 1/2" forward, then backward, then 1" forward, then achieve the darkness I desired. You can see as you look closely, that it is NOT perfect work, but I think imperfection adds a bit of home-made charm, myself. I will tell you also that it is best to NOT carry threads all over on the backside (achieved by NOT taking time to stop and snip threads as you go), as your work can get 'hung up' on these long carry threads. That may all be old hat to you expert quilters, but this gal is NOT a quilter, and ready to admit that.

The important thing to remember when free motion quilting, is to LOWER YOUR PRESSER FOOT. NOT doing that WILL make 'Bird Nest' stitching on the back side, as there is no tension or 'pull' on the top thread, and it gets pulled to the back side. See some of that 'boo boo in the lower half of one of the center lines in the photo below on the right.

I work primarily on an old Pfaff 7550 that I sold to my mother years ago when I had my dealership...but I LOVE that machine and work on it daily. Mind you, in my Studio where I teach, I have 7 machines from which to choose, including a big, new Brother, but I find myself always going back to my beloved Pfaff.

I got so carried away this 'cage' creation, that I neglected to realize that the center pole of the stand should have actually been under the organza...too bad, mine is on top. :)

For the vertical quilting, I utilized monofilament thread in clear. Specifically, one of my favorites - a nylon, Wonder Thread from YLI, as the upper thread for the quilting through the collage and backing fabric. I opted for 'wiggly' straight vertical lines the entire length of the work. You can see that stitching in the close-up photo at the left.

In this photo, if you look at the stitching right above my finger, you can see that some of the quilting lines intersect. I just did what the design 'told' me. I also tried to catch the majority of the edges of the collage with stitching.

My Pfaff 7550 has the awesome feature of Dual Feed, this gizmo at the back of the presser foot to pull along the top layer like a walking foot. Without that, I definitely would have made use of a walking foot for this quilting task.

MANAGE THE GOO I was grateful for the Super NonStick Needle from Schmetz - and have included a package of 5 in Universal size 12/80 in my Kit available HERE. Stitching through numerous layers of fused fabric created quite a build-up of 'goo' on my needle. In the photo below at the left, see my finger pointing to the clump of goo.

While the Super NonStick needle prevented most of that, I still had some build up. Therefore, occasionally I had to stop at times to remove that 'sticky' from my needle. Some Lemon Extract on a paper towel worked well.

DISTRIBUTION OF COLORS & VALUES to get the concept of large and small, it is necessary to use light value fabrics to advance, and dark value fabrics to recede, or look smaller. Therefore, the bust is lighter and the waist/midriff areas are darker. Also study the distribution of colors around the collage. The yellow of the butterfly wings worked well to add some 'pop' to areas. I also loved working to make the edges interesting/NOT smooth, and to add some whimsy with the butterflies. Below is a close-up of my distribution that may help you understand how this is done. I found one of the most-used/important parts of Laura's pattern was the colored picture on the front cover. With this Blog post, you then have 2 distribution examples for the collage work. Have some fun and play 'I Spy' again to locate the butterfly wings.


Carefully measuring the glass pane portion of my Studio door, I calculated the width of borders I would need. A batik seemed the best fabric selection. I used the same batik for the back of the piece, which is viewable from the exterior of my Studio. It will be perfect once I get the exterior of the door painted aqua.


Trying to keep my 'stash' manageable, I have collected everything I have left into a 'product' at my website for sale. I've come up with a value of $115.00, which includes a spool of the YLI Wonder Thread, the Schmetz Super NonStick Needles, and a package of the Steam-A-Seam 2. Along with the pattern and fabrics as shown on the product, I am confident you would have plenty to fabric o duplicate my collage. ALL you need is the background fabric(s), batting, and fabric for the back and border. I'm wondering how long it will take for someone to snatch up this collection to make a twin collage hanging....

My KIT is available HERE.

This was one VERY FUN project, and truly the execution didn't take that long. I imagine after the cutting work, I could have done it in a solid 1-2 days. Sew.... go for it, and send me pictures of YOUR Perfect Form. Thanks, Laura for a GREAT pattern!

Want to collect on your own or has someone beat you to my one and only Kit? Laura's great pattern alone is available at my website HERE.

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