Thread Matters 2021: Just Add Paint

Greetings Aurifil family! As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator I’m thrilled to introduce Artist and Textile Illustrator Lorraine Turner of Calico Horses to Thread Matters. Today, we’re delighted to share her techniques for combining Inktense pencils and paints with her favorite Aurifil threads to create unique works of art. Huge thanks to Lorraine for sharing her artistic knowledge with us today!

Is your shop, group or guild looking for insightful, inspiring and educational information on thread? Consider booking a virtual or in-person program with one of our skilled Aurifilosophers. Learn more about Aurifilosophy and find your favorite Aurifilosopher here.  

Happy Stitching!
— Karen L. Miller

As a textile illustrator I’m always looking for new ways to add interest and excitement. Experimenting with different weights of Aurifil threads, adding fibers such as merino wool, tussah silk, dyed cheesecloth, and lace has taught me that PLAY TIME is where the best discoveries and happy accidents occur. I also believe when you set your intention to help others, extra magic seems to appear.

While I was creating for my charity auction to support endangered animals, I found an interesting element to complement the thread work… Fabric paints! 

After experimenting with the various paints available, I chose Inktense pencils and paints as they work beautifully with Aurifil. The number of color combinations is limitless. You can paint over your quilting and blend into the colors of the threads. Amazing!

Have you ever searched for a fabric depicting an element that you want to add to your sewing project? Well, look no more. You don’t have to be an artist to do this work, you just need to trace, stitch and PLAY! Simply search for FREE clip art. Once you find what you want to illustrate, download it, and print it to the exact size you wish for your project. Use a pencil to lightly trace it and be sure to leave extra space all around for seam allowances. Or, draw your own… remember you are EXPERIMENTING, so allow yourself to wander down this path of SELF DISCOVERY. You may be a better artist than you realize!

This insulated lunch bag was created using a pattern by fellow Aurifil Designer Minki Kim. After determining the exact size of the front of the bag, I was able to illustrate and use this instead of fabric. You begin to look at patterns in a new light once you realize YOU will be creating the art that is showcased. Free motion quilting was added using Aurifil 50wt threads.

All fabric paints include color fast directions, but even after following the instructions exactly, it doesn’t always work. Be sure to test on some scrap fabric and launder as usual.

Most fabric art will fade after several washings. The best way to keep it as bright as possible is to add textile medium to the water.  Simply make a solution of 50% water and 50% textile medium, substituting this as your water when you begin to paint, and this will help to keep it colorfast. There are many textile medium brands to choose from, and I would recommend selecting one that is not glossy. If you are making wall art you don’t need to be concerned about washing.

As you can see, this form of art works perfectly for quilt as you go projects. I recently led a monthly Zoom group that created quilts based upon the theme “My Favorite Things.” I chose my favorite travel destinations and this block depicts Cinque Terre, Italy. There are several ways to do this:

1) Trace the art, sandwich it, free motion quilt it, and then paint.


2) Trace, illustrate, and then create the quilt blocks.

Keep in mind you can quilt it however you wish and paint after. The quilting lines are then painted over and take on the colors of the fabric paints. Either option always looks clean. I used a permanent fine line Faber-Castell marker to trace, Aurifil 50wt threads, a Superior 90/14 topstitch needle, and Tuscany Silk Batting by Hobbs. I did not quilt every line, just enough to outline the line art with Aurifil 50wt on the top and 40wt on the bottom. There are various QAYG tutorials on the internet, find one that suits your style. With the incredible color selections of Aurifil threads, your art is sure to be sensational. 

Your fabric stash may be waiting for the right project to come along, perhaps this is it. Find a pattern that allows you to insert a block of fabric painting. I chose another pattern by Minki Kim.

Next, select your FAVORITE fabrics, those containing colors that you cannot seem to match. The fabrics you’ve chosen determine which paints to use. 

I illustrated the wolf by matching the colors in the fabric. Once assembled, you can free motion quilt this using any Aurifil thread color or weight you wish. Now is the perfect time to PLAY with fabrics that have been waiting to become masterpieces.

Remember, we are ALL students for life, no mistakes… only LIFE LESSONS. I have many beginners who never thought they could illustrate, and now they are happily creating home décor, quilts, purses and more. 

I hope this blog has inspired you to try something new. I have several fabric painting webinars coming up. Please visit my website to learn more.

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Lorraine burst into the world of textile art in 2018 with a 26-piece special exhibit at IQF in Houston, just two years after creating her very first art quilt in 2016! In that time, she has become an Aurifil Designer & an Aurifilosopher, has been featured in Quilting Artsand Machine Quilting Unlimited magazines, has appeared on the Quilt Show with Ricky Tims, and teaches and lectures internationally.

She brings a lifetime of creative experience to her textile art. A commercial artist for forty years, Lorraine is the winner of two Emmy Awards as a lead designer for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the recipient of multiple awards at the San Diego International Comic-Con in her role as Art Director of the Library of American Comics.

The overriding passion behind her textile art comes from her activity as a professional animal communicator. She illustrates the conversations of all of the creatures she meets and uses her fabric art to raise awareness and funds for endangered animals. Look for hidden elements of plants and animals within Lorraine’s work, as she symbolizes the dynamic relationship between all species sharing the natural resources of our planet.

The clean lines, exaggerated color, and bold brushwork depicted in comics has also influenced her art—and you could say that endangered animals are her superheroes.

Lorraine works from her studio in Clearwater, Florida.


  1. Lorraine is a gem!
    She experiments, educates and encourages while continuing to be straight forward and one of the most giving people I have ever met!

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