photograph by John Stalowy

Note:  All my friends are convinced I used them as models.  My lips are sealed, but each quilter was made with a smile on my face.  The gals had a lot of fun at the last quilt show deciding who was who, and not all agreed.  The husband, of course, is mine.  I made him pose for a photograph.  This is a true story:  He didn't like the first man because he thought he was too "wide" so I had to remake him to a more acceptable size.

My favorite comment came my friend, Laura F., who lives in Palm Springs, "Oh my gosh, I have every pair of those shoes in my closet!"   Don't we all?

When making my people, I am really playing with paper dolls.  Most of the time, I work from a photograph or picture to give me the proper dimensions.  Using a light box, I trace the basic body parts onto a light-weight Pellon® (fusble side down) and cut them out.  For the head, hands, and feet I rough-cut flesh colored fabric slightly larger than the body part.  I lay the fabric right side down, the Pellon® fusible side up and, using my small crafting iron,  fuse the seam allowance down.  You can accomplish the same thing with basting glue or liquid stitch if you don't want to fuse.  As with all appliqué, clip the curves as you go. Now I paint the facial features,  fingers, and toes if needed. 

I can hear the groans now . . . but I don't know how to paint.  My tip to you is get Bonnie McCaffrey's book, Portrait Quilts: Painted Faces You Can Do.  It has been out of print, but is now back on the shelves.  This is my Bible.  I had NEVER painted a face before my first pictorial quilt, Hanamachi.  I literally followed her step by step guide and did the most amazing faces and hands. Go to her web site ( and check out her student's work.  Amazing. 

Now comes the fun part: dressing the paper doll.  I usually start with shoes, then pants and lastly, shirt.  For this quilt, I did not do any dimensional folds in the clothes, but in Hanamachi, I put folds in the kimonos and the clothes took on a whole dimension (see below).

After the dolls are dressed, I add any shading with water color pencils, fabric markers or paint.  Whatever works for you.  Hand appliqué all the body parts together and sew onto the quilt as a whole person.  I always trapunto the hair.

photographs by Shelley Emslie

Sample of folds in clothes in Hanamachi.