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"Friendship Bird" Adapting the Yarn Painting Techniques of Robert Forman
(A Gallery featured Artist)

Our project is based on a bird motif from Robert Forman's yarn painting, "Anna y Maria", which was inspired by the Huichol Indians of Mexico, who are masters of this type of art. Robert lived with them and studied their work and made this painting as a tribute to 2 Huichol Indian children that he met there. You can print out the B/W design outline, mount it to a board and follow these step by step instructions to make it. When you are done you will have your very own folk art piece ready for framing and hanging.

Materials/Tools Needed:

  • Scissors (with a sharp point and edge)
  • Foamcore board or stiff cardboard approximately 11" x 13" or larger
  • Elmers glue and a wide roll of double stick tape /double sided tape or spray adhesive
  • Ruler and Exacto Knife
  • The Caron Collection Watercolours Threads or similar weights and colors of other threads - Blueberry or dark blue, Twilight or turquoise, Peach Melba or yellow, Royal Jewels or Forest Fire or orange, Holiday or red, Emerald or green, Peach Melba or purple, Snow White or white, Charcoal or Dark gray.

(Note: In order to simply illustrate the techniques used for yarn painting the photo illustrations show the various steps but don't depict the project as it would appear in actual progress if you follow our directions step by step.)

Step1: Print out the pattern or draw the pattern freehand on a white sheet of paper as closely as you can. (We used a 5 x7 design for our project.)

Step 2: Trim your cardboard or foamcore to about 11" x 13" leaving about 3" all around the pattern.

Step 3: Using the spray adhesive or double sided tape, glue the pattern onto the cardboard or foamcore, centering it. If using the double sided tape, cover most of the back of the paper with it so that the pattern lies flat and is very secure on the backing board. If using the spray adhesive follow the instructions on the can.

Step 4: Cover the front of the pattern (printed side) with the double stick tape in one layer, covering the whole pattern. The tape can overlap the edges of the pattern. That will be trimmed off later. Remove the backing tape from the double sided tape after you've applied it to the printed side. You can also use Elmers glue to secure the threads but it's messier and takes time to dry. We recommend using the tape becasue it is easier to work with. You can also see the pattern through the tape much more easily.

Step 5: Using the red thread, start with the innermost part of the eye, laying the thread down (approximately 1/2") and trim it as close as possible to the outline of the pattern. (Figure 1) Press each thread down securely after it is set in place and trimmed.

Step 6: Using the turquoise thread, start at the bottom of the eye and place the new thread around the red thread , laying it along the left side to the top and then down the right side to meet up under the eye where you started. (Figure 1) As you work with each new thread, butt it up against the previous thread so that you cover the pattern on the paper. Use the black lines on the pattern as the guidelines for shaping the threads as you work with them.

Step 7: Using the yellow thread, go around the turquoise thread, starting at the bottom left of the eye, going up to the top, around and back down the right side ending and trimming the thread where you started. (Figure 2) Press the threads down to secure them in place as soon as you have positioned them where you want them.

Step 8: Starting at the middle of the body of the bird, use 1 thread of purple for the middle, same as you did for the first red thread for the center of the eye. Then lay down 1 layer of blue around the purple, starting at the bottom, working it up the left side, over the top, and then back down the right side to the bottom where you began. (Figure 2) You will be laying down the thread in an oblong circular shape as you do this.Trim the thread to fit the pattern as close as possible and press the thread down to secure it to the board.

Step 9: Go around the blue thread with yellow thread in the same manner as you have been doing. This time you will be making 2 rows of yellow around the blue thread before trimming it. Then do the same with the green thread, making 2 rows of green around the 2 rows of yellow threads. Keep going in the same direction as with the threads you placed earlier, from the bottom, up the left side, around the top and back down the right side to the bottom where you started. Now do 1 row of red thread around the green threads. (Figure 3)

Step 10: Starting at the bottom part of the bird body, but above the tail (Bottom of Figure 3) using the blue thread, wrap it around the red thread going up the left side of the body to the neck, bringing it in to create the neck, then up the left side of the eye to the top of the head, then around and down the right side, coming in with the thread at the neck to butt it up with the blue thread on the left side. Then continue with the thread down the right side of the body to the bottom of the tail. Trim the thread at the bottom of the tail and repeat the same procedure with the 2nd row of blue thread. Add a 3rd layer of blue thread just to the tail to fill it in according to your pattern.

Step 11: Repeat the same procedure that you've been using for laying down the threads, for the beak, using 1 row of red, yellow and turquoise in the center, and then 2 layers of blue around those. (Figure 4)

Step 12: Using the purple thread, start in the middle of the left foot and loop the thread around once to fill in the middle area of the top and bottom parts of the foot. (Figure 5). Then go around the purple with 1 row of green thread, and around the green with 1 row of white. (Figure 5) Follow same procedure for the right foot, substituting blue for the center, red around the blue, and 1 row of turquoise around the red. Now the bird, the main feature of your yarn painting, is complete!

Step 13: Now for the border design: If you are using Watercolours or a similar weight thread, each thread will fill in 1 section of the pattern design. All you have to do is lay down the thread and trim them to fit into the lines of the pattern. (Figure 6) You can place the colors anyway you like. To achieve a multicolored look, as we've done, alternate the colors in sequence like this: red, yellow, blue, white, green, purple, turquoise and then back to red etc. You can also add more colors if you have them to make it even more colorful. If you don't have a print out of the pattern, you can create your own design by making squiggles or zig-zagging the threads, alternating colors. When laying down the threads for the border, it's ok to overlap the threads over the edges a little bit, because these can be covered with a layer of threads at the end to create an edging that will cover any unevenness. (Figure 8)

Step 14: After you finish doing the border pattern, lay in the background to surround the bird up to the border. We have used one color, yellow, for this. You can use any color or colors you want as long as it will not compete too much with the bird and border colors. A bright color will set off the border and bird. Starting at the bottom, above the border pattern, (Figure 7) lay the thread down in 1 row in a straight line from side to side. Instead of cutting it at each end you can loop it around and then continue with the next row. When you have filled in the area below the bird, start to fill in the background along the right side, between the bird and side border, using the same procedure of either looping the threads or cutting them as you move from one row to the next. Then fill in the background in the same way on the left side of the bird. When you have filled both sides in up to the top of the bird's head, you can once again use one unbroken thread to fill in the top as you did the bottom. (Figure 7)

Step 15: Now, for the finishing touches: Lay a thin bead of glue around the outside edge of the border pattern, overlapping 1/8" to 1/4" of the threads that make up the outside edge of the border. Then lay down 1 or 2 rows of the dark gray thread to cover any uneven edges. (Figure 9)

Step 16: You can do the same thing as in step 15 to overlap the edges of the threads on the inside of the border to cover any uneven edges between the border pattern and the background of the bird. (Figure 8)

Step 17: If you are going to frame your yarn painting, get a 5" x 7" redi-made frame. Have a parent or other adult trim your fomecore or cardboard backing to fit the frame. Bravo! You now have a handmade piece of folk art and unless you know someone who is a Huichol Indian, you're probably the first to make one! Congratulations on your very unique masterpiece!

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: No part of these instructions/project nor the included diagrams/illustrations can be reproduced or distributed in any form (including electronic) or used as a teaching tool without the prior written permission of the CARON Collection Ltd. One time reproduction privileges provided to our web site visitors for and limited to personal use only.




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