Sunday, May 15, 2011


“Papillon” by Susan Brubaker Knapp – 20" x 13.75" (2010)

This is Papillon, a piece I made in early 2010 when I pitched my idea for a book to C&T Publishing. My concept was to teach art quilters about how to take better photos, drawing on the basic principles of design and composition, and then, how to turn them into beautiful pieces of art made with fabric and thread. I envisioned a book with lots of ideas for teaching yourself to be a better, more artistic photographer. And with lots of projects, including some with fused applique, some with non-traditional materials, and some that showed how to take realistic photos and interpret them in an abstract way.

That book, Point, Click, Quilt! Turn Your Photos into Fabulous Fabric Art, is coming out in July! So I thought I’d start sharing some of the projects you’ll find inside.

I took the photo on which this piece is based (below) at the butterfly garden at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga several years ago. When I started working on interpreting this photo in fabric, I spent hours searching for greenish-yellow butterflies online, hoping to find out the exact species. Eventually I went back and looked at other photos I’d taken that day, and I realized that the butterfly was actually just white and black, and that all the color was simply the colors in the leaves and foliage that was coming through the semi-transparent wings!
Original photo by Susan Brubaker Knapp
Most of my projects have a lot of thread sketching on them, and this piece is no exception:
Detail shot of Papillon
I used a web of light-colored thread, thread sketched in horizontal and vertical lines along the edges of the black spots on the wings, to make them a bit hazier, the way they appeared in the photo. 

If you look at the photo and then the finished piece, you can also see that I chose to take out the background foliage. I thought it distracted from the strong lines and colors in the butterfly, and that a deep blue sky would make the butterfly more of a focal point. I used to try to interpret every detail in a photo very literally. Now I understand that removing, adding or changing elements in a photo is part of my artistic process.

If you would like to get more information about when my book is available, just e-mail me at and let me know. I’ll add you to my mailing list and let you know when you can order it.