Fabric Postcards

I’ve just completed fabric postcards for the 20th round of trading with Postmark’d Art. The theme for the group I am trading with is handwork. I used Carol Ann Waugh‘s method for combining decorative and utility stitches on the sewing machine with simple hand stitches. You can see my first work using her techniques here.

I used a fat quarter of some yummy batik fabric I had in my stash and started pulling out thread. Here is a portion of the fabric after stitching by machine.

Portion of stitched fabricNext came another layer of fun, the hand stitching. I prepared the fabric by cutting it into 4″ x 6″ pieces and fusing them to fast2fuse, my favorite sturdy Pellon interfacing for postcards. Next I pulled out my hand stitching threads, some beads and a chenille needle and let the fun begin. And here are the postcards (click on an image for a larger view):

I finished the blue-grey postcards  and postcard 8 by stitching as close to the edge of the postcard as I could, then sealing the edge with Jacquard Lumiere paint. On postcards 9 and 10 I zigzagged some Oliver Twists hand-dyed thread. I like both of these finishing techniques.

These little treasures have been a personal obsession of mine since 2004 when Postmark’d Art was established and I became moderator of the group. My participation in the group has been a key ingredient in my artistic development, the motivation for writing fast, fun & easy Fabric Postcards, an incredible amount of Fun, and the reason for many new friendships that I enjoy today.   This will be my final trade with Postmark’d Art but it won’t be the last time I create fabric postcards.

If you haven’t created a fabric postcard yet, I ask why not? Click on the BOOK tab above to learn more about my book on the subject, contact me about scheduling a class for your group of fabric enthusiasts (see the CONTACT tab above),  visit the Postmark’d Art website by clicking on the link above and then click on the JOIN A NEW GROUP tab, and/or check out one of my projects here. Now is the time to learn something new and have fun at the same time. Consider this your personal invitation!


White on White Done

The four designs I chose for the White-on-White theme with Postmark’d Art are done. Ta da! This has been especially satisfying for me because the inspiration for the 4 designs was immediate and all are completed before the official start date for the trade has begun. Believe me, it doesn’t always happen that way so I am celebrating.

Plus — and this is a BIG PLUS — thanks to Kalia, a reader who shared tips on getting better photographs of these postcards, I actually have images that are much truer to the actual postcards. Thank you, Kalia! To honor the time and effort you shared with me I looked into the resources you shared in your comment (see the comment here) and I had great success. (I’m looking forward to even more refinement with my next photo shoot because the recommended wattage for the light bulb was 100 but I had only a 75 watt bulb.) So here they are, all ready to stamp and drop in the nearest mail box. Click on an image for a larger view.

The metallic zing of the thread stitching here still does not show – – I need to do more research on how to achieve that with the camera. I chose an elegant silver rope-braid cording to finish the edge on this floral design.

Franki Kohler, White FloralThe ginkgo fairly begged to be finished with a traditional quilt binding. How could I refuse? Binding a postcard with fast2fuse™ in the middle is a challenge but I think it’s worth the effort.

Franki Kohler, White GinkgoWhite satin cording finishes the edge of the Maple

Franki Kohler, White Mapleand the sunflower.

Franki Kohler, White SunflowerNow, on to a larger project that is calling me.

This posting is shared with Off the Wall Fridays.

More White on White

The background fabric here is white with some hints of cream. I used metallic white thread for the leaves of the sunflower — though you cannot tell that from this photograph. And the beads are pearl finish, so they have a sparkle as well.

Franki Kohler, White on white #2The background fabric is fused to fast2fuse™, always my first choice for fabric postcards. This product is a heavy-weight pellon with fusible web on both sides. It cuts and stitches easily, has a great body which holds up to the US Postal Service and the fusible web makes it very convenient to use. The quilting thread is 12-weight cotton. I’m happy with the nice body it gives the design. The piece is 5″ x 7″ now and will be trimmed to 4″ x 6″ to finish it. I have some lovely white satin cord but I’m also toying with stitching on a traditional fabric binding. The final finishing decision won’t be made until I’m ready to apply the address side of the postcard.

White on white is tricky to photograph. I tried quite a few times and used 2 cameras, but the images were not satisfactory at all. I finally scanned the piece and, while this image is not completely true, it is closer to reality than my cameras allowed. The lessons just keep coming!

I’m eager to start work on a third design I have in mind for this white-on-white theme. Stay tuned. See the first white-on-white design I worked on here.

Fabric Postcards – White on White

The new round of trading has not yet begun for Postmark’d Art but the theme ideas that are being voted on are inspirational — particularly White on White. The trade (our 19th round!) will officially begin February 1 so I have time to play with some ideas that are bubbling up.

I couldn’t resist pulling out some ribbons to create a new fabric. Here I have used cream grosgrain and cotton ribbons along with a very white ribbon that decorated a box of chocolates. The gold lettering says Coco Délice and, I think, lends a little touch of sophistication.

Franki Kohler, White on WhiteI used 12-weight variegated cotton thread on the body of the ginkgo and outlined it with variegated metallic thread. I really like the pattern created by the textures of the woven ribbons and I think I’ll be forgiven for including cream colors — they provide contrast and punch.

I’m trying to decide if this needs more thread work or other embellishments before I cut it apart for two postcards. Meanwhile, I have a start on another idea.

This is an Off The Wall Friday posting.

Vintage Hawaiian Postcard

My friend Heather was in Hawaii for the Thanksgiving holiday and she mailed me a postcard made of wood with a vintage design. The design side:

Franki Kohler, Vintage Hawaiian PostcardAnd the address side:

Franki Kohler, address sideThe card is about 1/4″ thick so had no problem withstanding whatever the postal service dished out. I think the surfers on the address side are wonderful. Documentation on the bottom edge says it was made on Kauai and that the image is by Melinda Morey. I tried contacting both the manufacturer and the designer to get more information but was unsuccessful. I can only guess that the ocean view with the plane is the original — now vintage — design and that the surfers are by Melinda.

Heather knows that I am involved with Postmark’d Art, a group of artists from around the world who create and trade fabric postcards. The card is very charming but what is even more touching is that Heather thought of me while on vacation and mailed it!

Fabric Postcards

When I signed on to trade with two groups of Postmark’d Art, I thought I had a good idea about what I wanted to do. As so often happens, though, the ideas kept coming and the postcards I finally created are somewhat different — though I am very happy with them. They also turned out to be more challenging that I had anticipated. And so it goes.

Karen Musgrave suggested a Deck of Cards as a long-term trade idea and a well-spring of support followed. We decided to start with the Heart suit and formed several groups of eager artists. Each group has 7 participants, each being dealt 2 cards (King-Ace plus the Joker) as their inspiration. I drew the Jack and 8 of Hearts.

I have had a package of Artist Transfer Paper (ATP) for some time but had not used it. Now was the time. I did some internet surfing and settled on inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. The Knave of Hearts was quite a rascal and I couldn’t resist him.

Franki Kohler, Jack of HeartsFor the address side of the postcard I scanned a playing card back, converted it to black and white and lightened it. I quoted Lewis Carroll to complete the idea.

Franki Kohler, Jack of Hearts AddressI was happy to be dealt the 8 because I know that the number 8 and the color red are considered to be lucky in Chinese culture. With this idea I challenged myself to create a word cloud. Maureen Callahan wrote a very good tutorial for us on creating word clouds — I highly recommend it as a starting point to a fun adventure.

Franki Kohler, 8 of HeartsI used red acrylic paint to finish the edge of the postcard. Again I scanned the back of a playing card to use on the address side.

Franki Kohler, 8 of Hearts AddressAnd it was fun to have a project so perfect for using my chop. Read about the chop purchase here.

The other theme group is My Town (something symbolic, distinctive or map-ly about where you live).  There are many things to crow about in my town but the single item that rose to the top of the list is Lake Merritt, the Jewel of Oakland. It’s unique, it’s beautiful and it is very well-loved in this city. And it recently underwent a face lift that is attracting even more locals.  I used TAP again to transfer a scanned map onto fabric.

Franki Kohler, My TownGertrude Stein (1874-1946) famously said of Oakland, “There is no there there.” The much-quoted statement appears in Gertrude Stein, Everybody’s Autobiography (Random House 1937, p 289). Well, things have changed. Oakland boasts big metal letters that spell THERE. So there. And here they are.

Franki Kohler, ThereTo be fair, she said this in 1933 after coming to San Francisco on a book tour. She took a ferry to Oakland to visit the farm she grew up on, and the house she lived in near what is now 13th Avenue and E. 25th Street in Oakland. The house had been razed and the farmland had been developed with new housing. So, even though Paris had been Home since 1903, the complete erasure of what she remembered so well about her childhood in Oakland was gone. I can understand her waxing nostalgic.

I converted the above image to black and white, lightened it quite a bit and added the quote by Stein for the address side. There. All done.

T is for Toile

Postmark’d Art is wrapping up a trade inspired by the alphabet.  It has taken us four rounds of trading to get through the alphabet — and what fun it has been!

For this round I selected the letter T. Along with a love of gardening, I thoroughly enjoy spotting birds in the backyard. We have feeders, nesting boxes and water features in our yard to attract them. And I have a collection of embroidery bird designs created in the toile manner. I knew you’d follow all this. Keeping toile fabrics used for home decorating in mind, I decided to stay simple and graphic with my design. I used seven different bird designs and the word toile. Hover your cursor over the image for more information. Click on an image for a larger view.


Rnd16-Toile-Nuthatch Rnd16-Toile-Downy-Woodpecker Rnd16-Toile-Chickadee Rnd16-Toile-BluebirdRnd16-Toile-CardinalRnd16-Toile-Scarlet-Tanager
Here is the fabric I used for the address side:


I had the letter N for inspiration in the last round.


See what I did for the first two rounds of alphabet trading here and here.

Unconditional Love

Can anyone have too much? I think not! Mendelssohn has once again inspired a design in fabric — this time for the postcard trade I’m doing with the Typography theme group of Postmark’d Art. (I shared two of the postcards I’ve already received from this trade here.)

Here is Mendelssohn digitized — that’s software speak for turning a graphic line — in this case, using a photograph image — into a line of stitching.


Using my digitizer software, I designed the lettering then combined the 2 designs into one on my embroidery machine. Pretty nifty stuff really. August 20, 2000 is the date that he came to live with us.

I looked through my stash of fabric to find something appropriate for the address side of the postcard. I don’t think it gets any better than this!

12-21 Address Fabric

Here is the postcard finished:


A simple line of stitching at the very edge of the postcard is the perfect thing to hold the edge and not distract from the design. The edges were then painted to hide the white fast2fuse filling and create a smooth edge in case the postcard is subjected to machine franking at the post office. (The post office charges 20 cents extra to mail them due to ‘special handling.’ Most often, though, they are put through the same machine as any paper postcard.)

And the address side — here I have blocked out the recipient’s information:

Franki Kohler, Typography, address side

The same photograph inspired the creation of a quilt. You can read about that here.


Postmark’d Art is in the midst of its 16th round of trading. One of the themes that I am trading in is Typography. I’ve received two that I can’t help but share here. Lynn Chinnis used a quote from Ellen Lupton to illustrate her point.

Franki Kohler, Typography by Lynn Chinnis

And Karen Musgrave clipped words from newspaper and magazines to create a ransom note.

Franki Kohler, Ransom Note by Karen Musgrave

It says: “We have your muse. You have 2 days to send 5 lbs. of dark, organic chocolate or we put her in a small simple wooden box without toys until our demands are met! No excuses! Go! Run! No coffee breaks. Thank you.”

And, yes, I did indeed send her some chocolate — wouldn’t you?

More van Gogh Inspiration

I showed you half of the van Gogh-inspired fabric postcards I obtained through Postmark’d Art, the international group of fabric artists I am fortunate to be a part of, last week. Here are the other four of the collection.

Debbie Geistweidt of Texas was inspired by Cypresses. Her fabric collage is covered with sparkling tulle and heavily stitched.

Jan Johnson of Nebraska was drawn to Sheaves of Wheat. I’m sure her part of the country had an influence there.

Janet Hartje of Minnesota used a fused-raw-edge applique technique and Pentel dye sticks to mimic Sunflowers.

Debra Svedberg of Minnesota said that she is intrigued by van Gogh’s use of the impasto paint stroke. She used embroidery floss to ‘paint’ Les Alyscamps. Her focus was to capture the trees as van Gogh did — vivid with autumn brilliance. I’m sure you’ll  agree that she was successful!

There are ten themes to choose from each time we trade. Among the theme choices for our next round of trading are Chagall, Klee and Monet (we seem to be on an artist kick). I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with! Now can you see why I’ve been creating and trading fabric postcards since 2004?

van Gogh Inspired

Postmark’d Art, the international group of artists I trade fabric postcards with, just completed a trade with the theme Vincent van Gogh.  I now have a fabulous collection of eight pieces of fabric art inspired by a master painter. Here are four of them.

Meta Heemskerk of the Netherlands created two thermofax screens, one from a Dutch postage stamp and a second screen using Dutch words that she associates with van Gogh. She used the screens to print fabric which she then stitched.

Sarah Ann Smith of Maine was inspired by Willows at Sunset. For her, van Gogh is all about color, spontaneity and line.  In the fall of 1888 he completed the painting and wrote to his brother

My dear Theo, . . . Everywhere and all over the vault of heaven is a marvelous blue and the sun sheds a radiance of pale sulphur, and it is soft and lovely as the combination of heavenly blues and yellows in a Van der Meer of Delft. I cannot paint it as beautifully as that, but it absorbs me so much that I let myself go.

Suzanna Bond of California painted an old linen tablecloth using acrylic paints. She then  cut it up, stitched it and mailed what she called “A Piece of Art.” Here is the full painting before cutting

and here is the piece of art I received

Even here you can see the thick strokes of paint she applied. Can you make out which slice of the portrait I have?

I created a single piece inspired by Starry Night which I cut up as well. I kept #1 of the nine pieces. I wrote about the process here and here. This was actually the second time I have felted a large piece and then cut it up for postcards. I reminisced about the first project — also inspired by van Gogh — here.

I am so fortunate to be a part of this thrilling art community. Postmark’d Art has been going strong since 2004 and, frankly, I think we’re getting better with each trade.

This poem appeared as the daily reading on the Writer’s Almanac May 14th.

On Mondays

by Marilyn Donnelly

On Mondays when the museums are closed
and a handful of guards
look the other way
or read their newspapers
all of the figures
step out of golden frames
to stroll the quiet halls
or visit among old friends.
Picasso’s twisted ladies
rearrange themselves
to trade secrets
with the languid odalisques of Matisse
while sturdy Rembrandt men
shake the dust
from their velvet tams
and talk shop.
Voluptuous Renoir women
take their rosy children by the hand
to the water fountains
where they gossip
while eating Cezanne’s luscious red apples.
Even Van Gogh
in his tattered yellow straw hat
seems almost happy
on Mondays when the museums are closed.

I’ll share the remaining four postcards next week.

Starry Night Done

I swung into action last week working on my project for a Postmark’d Art trade and posted about it here.  The process for me is always one of adding, viewing on the wall, and adding.  It began to look more painterly to me here.

One of the lovely things about felting on the black batting is that it’s easy to steam with the iron and have it come back to almost 100% full size. I steamed from the wrong side to avoid melting the tulle on the front. I’m getting closer to being satisfied with it here.

Beads were in order, then I trimmed and cut the final piece into nine 4″ x 6″ pieces.

And here they are ready to mail.

I used clear MonoPoly filament on the edges because I didn’t want to disturb the design by creating a formal border. I think it’s appropriate that one of these postcards will be headed for the Netherlands. I hope all of my trading friends will enjoy their piece of this larger work.

This is not the first van Gogh project that I’ve done. When I bought my felting machine in July 2008 I was eager to get acquainted with it. I dove straight into creating a swirling sun in the van Gogh style.

As you can see, this was a much larger project creating 21 postcards.  I placed snips of cotton fabric onto white felt, covered it with tulle and needled it. I have traded and sold all but one — the very center.

Work in Progress: Starry Night

Today is the 159th anniversary of Vincent van Gogh’s birthday. Happy birthday Vincent! The words to Don McLean’s hit song Vincent has been swirling around in my head for several days now and, unlike other times when I’ve found it annoying to have a tune linger this long, I’m enjoying its calming effect.

Postmark’d Art currently has a group making and trading postcards inspired by van Gogh and I’m part of that particular group.  At first I thought I would use one of his sunflower paintings as inspiration but when Janet Hartje sent her postcard with sunflowers I knew I’d jump on my second choice — that wonderful swirly night sky.  And (drum roll) this is another opportunity to use my needlefelting machine. I say it’s Kismet!

Focusing on the top right corner of the sky — it has plenty of drama — I’m using a piece of black batting as my surface to needle wool roving into. I covered the first layer of roving with a very fine netting that has flecks of sparkle on it. Most of it has been removed here.

Hum along with me and stay tuned.

Starry, starry night.

Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,

Swirling clouds in violet haze,

Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue.

Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,

Weathered faces lined in pain,

Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I was looking through my collection of fabric postcards the other day to create a slide show for the Postmark’d Art site when I came across this lovely postcard that Sherry Boram sent to me in 2006. Sherry is a charter member of this international group of artists who have been trading fabric postcards since 2004. She has a wicked-funny sense of humor, an always-original way of interpreting a subject in fabric and, though we have yet to meet in person, I consider her to be a dear friend.

Don’t over do the corned beef, and, by the way, Happy Spring!

G is for Gray

Not so long ago I was distracted by dryer lint and started running amok. That first sidetracked adventure turned into a successful (by my standards) landscape postcard — affectionately known as the Lint Landscape. Well,  the adventure continued and here I feel I should explain. My fabric postcard trading group Postmark’d Art is in the second round of a trade series based on the alphabet — each round for trading we’ll be using 6-7 letters of the alphabet, members sign up for a letter which they use as inspiration, they create postcards to send to each person in the trade group and keep one for themselves. After four rounds of these trades each member will have a full set of the alphabet. We’re into the second round and the letters available were G, H, I, J, K, L and M. I chose G. While I was felting that first bit of lovely gray dryer lint I hit upon the idea of using Gray as a theme for creating a series of postcards. Not wanting to repeat the same postcard seven times, I began to let my mind wander about the possibilities as I created landscapes. Here’s the second one

That was fun. How about orange?

And gold?

Okay, time to move on design wise and use up the lint. Circles anyone?

And more circles. . .

Fewer circles and the last of the lint. . .

And now for something completely different

So there it is. The creative process beginning with cleaning out the lint trap on laundry day, selecting the letter “G” as inspiration and three different design ideas.

The Chop Challenge

Last week there was quite a buzz among the Postmark’d Art group about Chops. No, not the kind you eat, the kind you use to sign your art. Jane Davila had a wonderful story she shared about obtaining one while she was teaching in Korea earlier this year. That prompted the question of where one could find someone to make a chop right here in the United States. Sherry Boram found an on-line source which she shared; Kay Laboda found an article on-line with great history and how-to information and a second site which details how to carve your own Chop. Then Sherry remembered that Marjorie DeQuincy uses a Chop to sign all her fabric postcards. “So Marjorie,” wrote Sherry, “do you know any place on your side of the country for Chop-hungry artists to get their fix?”

Well, that did it for me. Marjorie lives near me so I picked up the phone and had a long chat with her about obtaining a Chop in China town in San Francisco. As always, Marjorie had all the inside skinny for me.

Armed with her insights, my husband and I headed to San Francisco last Wednesday morning. We landed parking on the street (unheard of!) and walked by these charming sea creatures. Not there strictly for aesthetic beauty, they keep the skate boarders from battering the cement structure they are on. Note the more blah fixtures on the cement structure just beyond the turtles.

I haven’t been to The City to explore for some time so I detoured to stop by the Ferry Building to see what they had that I couldn’t live without.

Bingo. . . I found a bottle of Sherry vinegar that I’ve been searching for. The trip was already a success! The Ferry Building is such an icon of this city. And so is the view behind the building — the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Onward…Marjorie was explicit about walking straight up Grant Street, the tourist entry to China town. Here we are at Grant and Bush Streets.

Just two blocks up the street I came across Vincent Zhao seated at a card table in front of 555 Grant Ave. He was working on a painted name piece for a woman named Colleen. His sign said $1 per letter but when he finished he announced, “Three dollars, please.” She got a deal! My turn. I told Vincent what I was looking for and selected the Rooster blank from his inventory on the table. I paid $30 for the Chop and a dragon’s blood stamp pad and agreed to return after having some lunch.

Just a little further we came across the Four Seas Restaurant. The menu looked interesting — Chinese cuisine plus dim sum. When I stepped inside the entry to the steep stairway that lead to the restaurant I saw this plaque and decided it was worth a try:

It was Wednesday so we assumed that the hubbub from the rear dining room was the Rotary Club. Another sign at the reception area said that the restaurant has been there since 1960. How could we go wrong? The food and service were good. And there was a delightful group — 40 elementary students plus four adults — dining when we arrived. The whole dining room joined in on Happy Birthday when it was sung for one of the students. When they left, they were in single file and alphabetical order, making it easy for the adults to ensure everyone was accounted for. Amazing.

When we were done with lunch I was eager to get back to Vincent to see what my Chop looked like. And here it is:

and the set:

and Vincent:

As we were leaving China town I noticed this window display:

I know that the color red is considered good fortune but sleeping pigs? I’ll have to look into this.

I’m glad I took the Chop challenge and I can’t wait to use my Chop!

Postmark’d Art Has a New Face

Postmark’d Art, the on-line community of artists creating and trading fabric postcards through the mail, has a new face! The new site, which now includes a blog, went public  Sunday, October 16th. Karen Musgrave of Illinois and Lynn Chinnis of Virginia, both charter members, are working with me to fine tune the information and ease of navigation on the site.  I’ve moderated this group since its inception in July 2004 (when we became a group and first appeared in cyberspace) and I can tell you that the group is as lively and fun as when we first formed. As fiber artists who are sharing our art and skills with each other, we continue to learn and grow. And we’re all very jazzed about the potential for sharing this infectious form of art making with everyone who clicks on by.

Part of the appeal of making fabric postcards is the opportunity to experiment with new techniques and/or materials in a small format, and to know that these “experiments” will go to an appreciative audience.  A second plus is seeing the techniques and materials used on the postcards we receive.  Many of our members have graciously shared their techniques and those articles can be found on the FEATURED TECHNIQUE page.

I signed up for a trade called “alphabet” this round: Six members, six letters (A-F), each person creates a postcard using their letter as inspiration.  Place your cursor over each image to see the title and name of the artist:

Will the new face for Postmark’d Art launch a thousand ships? I don’t know. But I’m going to continue focusing on the #1 rule we’ve held dear from day one:  Have FUN!

Fabric Postcards

I’m yearning to work in a small format. I have a stack of 5″ x 7″ and 16″ x 16″ fabrics sitting on my cutting board and I’ll be turning those into postcards and 12-inch-square quilts over the next 7 – 10 days. While I’ve been pondering these stacks and the possibilities, my mind has wandered back to a project I did in 2009 for a trade with  Postmark’d Art, the fabric postcard trading group that I moderate.  It was one of the first projects that I completed using my then-new felting machine.

Using the felting machine to complete one 4″ x 6″ fabric postcard would be most difficult. For this project I thought of a larger image that I could then cut into many postcards. I called it my “Van Gogh Project” and it was very fun to use fabric in an impressionistic way.

I layered small fabric chunks on top of white felt then placed a layer of tulle over the whole surface, pinned it here and there and took it to the felting machine. In the center-most section of the piece I tucked in a tulle that had flecks of white sparkle — voila, some real sizzle for the center of the sun.

Hover your cursor over the image for more details. (And if you see the fern quilt as a header at the top, or no header at all, click on the title of this posting for a header which will reveal a closer view of the center portion.) The project is complete here — already cut into 4″ x 6″ pieces, edges stitched and sealed with gold paint, yielding 21 fabric postcards. Each postcard was numbered —  1/21, 2/21, etc. I traded many and sold many of them (I mount them on 8-ply museum-quality rag mat) and I have just one left, the very center. It’s actually the one I like the most so I’ve been happy to have it hang out with me in my studio. It will be mounted and ready to sell during my solo show, “Borrowed From Nature,” in October.

If it sells I’ll be a bit sad. Then I’ll just have to get busy with the felting machine.