Finding Silhouettes - Sometimes a technique is looking right back at you!

sue beevers headshotLouise Handley

By: Louise Handley– QCN
Date: 03/11/2010


My sister was coming to visit for a few days.  Some type of quilting project that we could do together seemed like a good idea, but what?  I was temporarily out of ideas.  My thoughts kept going back to a snapshot of the two of us on the beach as small children.  The photo was very poor quality, blurry and gray, but I had always loved it. 


What could we do with that photo? As I looked at it I realized that it was of such poor quality that I was really looking at a sweetly posed silhouette!  How could I use this in some kind of a quilt project?  It was too poor a quality to transfer to fabric.  What would happen if I enlarged the photo with a copy machine? Now it was large enough for something, but so blurry that it was hard to make out. I carefully penciled in the outline. 


There it was - a silhouette of two little girls on the beach!  Now, how to use it into a quilting project?  Raw edge appliqué had just started showing up in the quilt market.  Could I trace my silhouette onto bonded dark cotton, cut it out, and bond it onto a soft sky print?  Wow, that was it, I had “Sisters” that appears in my book, Fabric Silhouettes.  Needless to say, my sister’s visit went well, and she went home with her version of “Sisters.”      

I kept thinking about how delighted we were that we had made a great art piece from that old blurry snapshot.  Wouldn’t it be fun to pass the joy on by writing an article and submitting it to a quilting magazine?  Maybe they would print it in a hints column or something, so I began to write. . .  maybe it could be an article. . . I kept writing and soon had enough for a book.  Not really knowing anything at all about how to get a book published, I submitted it to C&T Publishing.  When the phone call came, I could hardly believe it!  Then the real work began!  All this from trying to think up a project to do with my sister!


After the book was published, I started teaching my Snapshot Silhouette technique, which involves using a number of easy tools to enhance  the cut out outline to create a recognizable silhouette.  I met some wonderful quilters who also had treasured snapshots that they were interested in converting to silhouettes, and, as always, when teaching, learned much more from my students.

As time went by realized that what I was creating in fabric could easily be used in developing scrapbook pages.  I could actually take a small silhouette wall hanging and after sizing it down at the copy machine, transfer it directly to a scrapbook page!  Do you realize that bonding material (I use Heat and Bond lite)  can be used to securely bond fabric to paper?  What fun!

My next innovation was using my method in an art quilt. Sometimes I transfer the actual photo along with the silhouette.  Silhouettes do not have to be done in black.  All you need is some good contrast with the background. Many of my pieces are embellished with jewelry, buttons, buckles and other items that at one time belonged to the person silhouetted.


The ideas are endless.  Soon I began assessing each snapshot I took for it’s possibilities in silhouette.


sue beevers headshot

Louise Handley is an active teacher, lecturer, quilter and author. Louise's book Fabric Silhouettes, and more info about her techniques are available at her website.
Visit Louise's website at

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