Self Portrait: The Avatar Version

No, it isn’t “Avatar” the movie that I refer to, it’s my online avatar. Or as I think of it, my ravatar, because I created it initially for use on It started out as a hand drawn cartoon of me, which I scanned into Photoshop Elements. There I coloured it, and then managed to clip around it to allow me to insert different backgrounds behind the cartoon (a feat that I have not been able to reproduce since, so please don’t ask me how I did it). The end result was this:

ravatar with Earth in background

I use this avatar (and it’s many variations) for most of my online activity, so it seemed like a good candidate to use for a quilted self-portrait.

To reproduce the cartoon, I used the basic technique that quilt artist Pam RuBert demonstrated in an episode in the first season of Quilting Arts TV. This is the technique that she uses to make her wonderful “PamDora” quilts.

To begin, I printed the image at 8 in. by 8 in., because that was my intended finished size. I used the print to choose some fabric. I decided to go a little wild with the fabric for the sky, inspired by some of the images of deep space taken by the Hubble Telescope.

selecting fabric

On to constructing the quilt top. First, the backgrounds were stitched together.


Next, I removed the first paper backing from some Steam-a-Seam 2 fusible web, and traced the elements onto the web side of the fusible using a permanent marker. Doing it this way meant that I wouldn’t end up with a mirror image of my picture. Then I fused the web onto rough-cut pieces of fabric. In this photo, the hair and the planet already have been cut out. Remembering that I needed some of the black to show through between the separate elements, I trimmed them all a tiny bit smaller than the marker line.

hair and planet cut out

This series of pictures shows the fabric for the face element being prepared. Here is the face fabric, fusible side up, with the paper removed. You can easily see the marker line that was drawn on the web.

face element, fusible side up

And here the elements are cut out, still fusible side up.

face elements cut out

Next, the larger elements were fused onto a piece of solid black fabric that has already had fusible web fused to the back. The spaces between the elements create the black outlines of the cartoon image.


The next step was to trim around the entire image leaving just enough black showing to provide the outline around the cartoon.


The glasses, eyes and other features were cut and fused on in a similar manner. By the time the face was finished, the circle for the eye was the top layer of 5 layers (in retrospect, I would have handled this differently, as I mention below). I also fused the planet onto some black fabric and cut it out leaving an outline.

Finally, the cartoon and planet were fused onto the background.

cartoon added to background

At this point, the top was finished. I am now working on the quilting, but that will come in a future post.

This was my first time using this technique. I have learned several things in the process.

  • I think I should have left a little bit more black outline showing around all of the elements. In some spots the line is so thin that I’m having difficulty stitching over it without crossing over to the coloured fabric.
  • The Steam-a-Seam 2, while being great for placing elements without having to fuse them right away, is a little thick and stiff for this technique. I need to try some other fusible webs for comparison.
  • I would plan a little more carefully for elements like the glasses and eyes. I made the face one solid element and then added black for the glasses, topped with peach for skin, topped with black circles for the eyes. Those were too many layers. It would have worked better to have had the top of the face, bottom of the face, and skin inside the glasses as separate elements fused onto the single layer of black.
  • I would make the background bigger and then trim to size later, to allow for a little more playing around room when placing the elements.
  • The finished size of 8 in. by 8 in. is pretty small. This particular project was fine at this size, but I don’t think I’d want to have many more small pieces for a quilt this size. It would be fun to try this technique on a larger scale.

Stay tuned for a future post about the quilting of this little quilt.

Feb. 21/11: Edited to add a link to the post: Quilting the Avatar Self Portrait.


One thought on “Self Portrait: The Avatar Version

  1. Pingback: Quilting the Avatar Self Portrait « Completely Blocked

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