Fabric Book Construction & Illustration

A Virtual Class with María José Durán




Part One: Fabric Book Construction Techniques

This workshop offers an in depth exploration of the art of fabric book making through hands on practice with bookbinding techniques. Together, we will broaden our understanding of the meaning of the fabric book and how its construction transforms the reader’s experience. We will approach the history of textile books along with María’s self-developed techniques. We will compare ancient traditions and contemporary adaptations of book making, opening up our senses of exploration and play. You will leave having developed your creative voice and having found a new mode of expression and communication in fabric. 

Class One – Beginning with a discussion about the connection between childhood and fabric books, students will be introduced to a variety of textile book formats and materials.  We will explore how different formatting decisions influence the nature of the reader’s interaction with the sewn content. We will construct our first book using a running stitch technique developed by the artist.

Class Two –  Students will learn two new formats in this class, based on Japanese fabric book techniques. Students will learn how to format their books and make design choices around their illustration plans, the shape of the pages, number of pages, margins, and selection of binding stitches. 

Class Three – Students will experiment with two more formats that focus on folding techniques without the use of stitching, aligned with popular zine formats. Students will create two books that emphasize multi-directional design opportunities. For example, spiral books and circular storytelling. 

Part Two: Fabric Book Illustration Techniques

Part two will contextualize textile book making within long lasting traditions. Each class will focus on an iconic artistic or cultural approach to fabric illustration. Each class will progress in stitching level, beginning with playful free-form scissor drawing and advancing to precision based composition techniques. 

Class One – Through the lens of Matisse’s Paper-Cutouts, this class will approach textile illustration from a playful and free-form perspective. We will review illustration concepts such as composition, proportions, color contrasts and figure-background distributions.

Class Two – Beginning with a historical lesson on Chilean Arpilleras, students will deepen their use of visual codes and symbolism. Students will be introduced to fabric assemblage techniques using the three iconic embroidery stitches used on Chilean Arpilleras.

Class Three – Drawing inspiration from the Mola tradition of Panamá, students will learn to apply reverse appliqué using three layers of fabric and invisible stitches. This class will highlight the concept of weaving with fabrics. 

No previous experience is necessary. 


Part 1 – Fridays, January 12th, 19th, and 26th 

Part 2 – Fridays, February 9th, 16th, and 23rd


2pm – 4pm ET

Zoom, a link will be sent to participants
the day before class.

Whole Series $275  

 $150 Per Part 


Part One 

  • Extra long pins (at least 2)
  • Embroidery needles (one long, one short)
  • Pearl cotton embroidery thread or floss. Your choice of color.
  • One piece of 60 x 20 inch medium weight plain cotton fabric. You can precut 4 pieces of 7 x 18 inch and 2 pieces of 7 x 20 inch ahead of time.
  • Fabric marking tools (such as a fabric pencil or Frixion marker)
  • Ruler
  • Fabric scissors and exacto knife
  • Cardstock cutout (5.5 x 14.5 in)
  • One piece of 30 x 12 inch medium weight plain cotton fabric
  • One piece of 30 x 14 inch  medium weight plain cotton fabric
  • Fabric scraps (variety of sizes)
  • Two pieces of 16 x 16 inch medium weight plain cotton fabric
  • Two pieces of 16 x 14 inch medium weight plain cotton fabric
  • Iron and ironing mat (optional)

Part Two

  • Iron and ironing mat (optional)
  •  Assortment of embroidery and sewing needles
  • Pins
  • Embroidery floss and sewing threads. Many colors.
  • One piece of 8.5 x 12.25 inch medium weight plain or colored cotton. Your choice of color.
  • Colorful fabric scraps (ideally cotton fabrics)
  • Fabric scissors
  • Iron and ironing mat (optional)
  • One piece of  8.5 x 12.25 inch medium weight plain or colored cotton 
  • Sewing threads. Same color as your fabrics.
  • 3 pieces of 8.5 x 12.25 inch cotton fabric (3 different colors)
  • Image/design of your choice drawn on 6 x 8 inch fabric (Preferably with straight lines/curves and not too many elements)  Example: simple plant or butterfly )
  • Carbon paper



María José Durán is a Chilean Fulbright alumni, visual artist, textile researcher, and art teacher with an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. She explores embroidery and natural dyes on fabrics to create landscapes and fabric books of poetic, playful and painterly sensibility that reflect on the natural world. She has guided community and female collective projects funded by Fondart and the FNDR funds in Chile as well as projects funded by private local and foreign commissions. Her researched-based embroidery workshops aim to rescue women’s memories around local ecosystems, rural living and traditions. Her work has been exhibited at museums and galleries in the US, Colombia, Canada and Chile and it has been published in magazines and film. Her textile work is part of private collections in New York, Miami, Vancouver, Berlin, Beirut, Mexico City and Santiago.


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