Even though we’ve been looking at dyers and painters, we’ve been exploring color combinations. We’ve learned that the most exciting combinations offer us contrasts either in hue, tone, temperature or cast. Those contrasts help define our figure and separate it from the background. That separation gives the mind and the eye a way into a composition, a way to make immediate visual sense of what is going on.
All that falls to the ground when we start mixing colors.
I’ve always let the dye houses mix my colors for me. They do a much better job, and I’m constitutionally the right person to do it. It would assume I could measure something. That hasn’t happened since 1969.
But once you put one dye color on top of another color, you’ve mixed them, planned or not. And that same excitement that happens with contrasts in color combinations is instantly blended into a brown of some sort.
I know a lot of unhappy dyers. Unless you really like brown, this is a downer.
Mixing from Primaries
Willow is an example of a great deal of purposeful mud. I love the browns in her, and dyed them largely from complements.
Thread Color is about picking rather than mixing. So the color choice rules apply. Brown is enriched in this bunny with greens,burgundies, teals, oranges, purples and olive greens, all complements but separate because each is a separate thread. The eye blends them in your mind, but their separation holds the colors true and bright.
If you want more information about color mixing you’ll find it in my book
Dye Day Workbook, available in print on Amazon.com or on my web site.
On our Refrigerator today, we have Joan Davis, an amazing Hawaiian quilter who’s work reflects the beauty of the island. You’ll find more of her amazing work on her facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/joan.davis
This is our last day of Thread Magic Summer School. Tomorrow there will be a test. It is only a test.
I do think it’s fun at least to measure what you’ve gotten out of it all.
Sunday I hope to have a little gift for you for coming to summer school and making it fun.
We all live and die for thread. But sometimes thread simply isn’t enough! Thicker yarns and cords are the natural extension for a more dramatic line in quilting and surface design. We can use them in a number of ways to accent and accentuate our work.
Perhaps you’d like to decorate or cover a seam. These yarns are perfect for that.
Light Japanese Lunch
Or you might want to create a line that helps complete a visual path through your piece. The small bit of yarn carries your eye right across the surface.
Or it can function as an element within your design. Here I’m using two thick twisted yarns as branches hanging down from a tree off the edge of the quilt.
Thick threads and yarns are easy to include in your designs! But it isn’t as simple as simply sewing them through the machine. They’re too thick or uneven to put through either the top or bottom of your sewing machine. But they can be couched. The options and possibilities are too wide for simply one foot to handle all of them, but there are all kinds of feet that accommodate different yarns, ribbons and threads so you can use them all.
All yarns can be couched by hand. But some of us don’t hand sew well. These are methods I find work well with machine couching. In general, couching is usually done with feed dogs up. You can use either a zigzag stitch,a broken zigzag stitch, a straight stitch if it’s aimed carefully, or a joining stitch that catches the middle and both sides. Monofilament nylon will make the stitching invisible. But you can always use a bright colored polyester to add an extra color and texture.
Your Regular Pressure Foot
Thin and bumpy threads: Many thick and thin threads can be couched on with your regular pressure foot Your regular pressure foot for most sewing has a groove down the center that you can run light yarns through.
Couching Feet Much thicker yarns take a thread escape.
A foot with a large channel underneath lets the yarn pass through. Again any zigzag or joining stitch can be used to attach it. This couching foot with a wide thread escape that let’s you couch on all kinds of thicker threads.This foot also has a small hole through the top to guide medium yarns. Medium yarns pass through both holes easily for excellent control.For much thicker yarns, you can just run them through the bottom of the foot.
All these yarns run easily through your machine because of the large thread escape in the foot. They were stitched with a joining stitch.
The Braiding Foot
This braiding foot arranges 3 smaller cords or threads into a braid. The yummy pearl cottons I showed you last week are perfect for this. There’s another foot set to braid 5. The Braiding foot with 3 thread channels loads from the top and has a bar that closes to hold the threads in place. You can use either a zigzag or broken zigzag to stitch down the cords. The effect is a flat braid made of your threads.
Sashay yarn is a new fiber we’re seeing in the yarn shops. Its loose open weave can be stretched and shaped in all kinds of ways. Because it catches on the foot, it helps to have a cut away foot that clears the yarn as we sew it. This foot originally set up for cutaway applique with its single toe makes it easier to stitch down.
It can be sewed straight or in waves, down either one side for a more textural effect or on both sides for a more controlled look. Couching is a way to put extra fiber in your fiber! And its sew much fun!
Thread Magic Summer School is out! But for those of you who missed it all, the blogs are up and you can build your knowledge. As Bing said, “You could be better than you are.” And so can we all.
I’m putting in the quiz with the answers because that’s really what a quiz is about. It’s a learning tool. Multiple guess was the bane of my childhood because I could always see at least two answers that could under odd enough circumstances work. And, of course, this is one woman’s opinion. The final authority on how thread works is how it works for you and your machine. But that being said, here’s the answers.
Question 1. How is embroidery thread different from sewing thread?
It’s of nicer colors
It’s two ply rather than 3 ply
Question 2. How do you use #5-8 thick threads in the machine?
Through the needle
In a regular bobbin case
You can only couch them
Through an adjusted bobbin case.
Question 3.Which weight of thread is thickest?
Question 4. Which kind of thread is most colorfast?
Question 5. What thread would you never use through the needle?
Candelight #8 weight
Poly Neon #40 weight
Sulky 30 weight rayon
FS2/20 Madiera 20 weight
Question 6.Is a cross wound spool better used horizontally or vertically?
It doesn’t matter.
Question 7.How many times does your thread go through your needle before it lands in your fabric?
Question 8. What is mercerized thread?
It’s specially colored.
It’s regular sewing thread.
It’s treated with lye for extra strength.
Question 9.What thread is strongest?
Question 10. Can thread get old?
On another note, anyone who knows of a good free quiz software, please let me know. I haven’t quite worked the kinks out of this and need some help on it.
Our winners are, every one who read this and learned something from it! But I’m sending an ebook to everyone who commented on this. I’m closing the contest today. If you didn’t give me a preference to your book, I’m sending you the binding book because it was the most requested. Three people won printed copies.
Nancy Pieper firstname.lastname@example.org won a copy of The Dye Day Workbook
Vivian Ahern PoopayTwo@aol.com won a copy of Dragonfly Sky
If you’ve won a book, please send me your mailing address so I can get it to you.
I’ll be sending other books through Dropbox.com, so if you get an email from me, that’s your ebook.
A word about Thread Magic Studio Press:
The books we’re giving away are from Thread Magic Studio Press. This is my own publishing company, setup to do small classroom project books and stories. It lets me me put together small books that are perfect class handouts as opposed to the dreaded stapled white sheets. It’s also a service I can offer you as well. Do you want to do a pattern book? A printed portfolio? A family story? A show catalog. Thread Magic Studio Press can set that up for you for one copy or thousands. For public sale, or just for private. Just the way you want it. Email me if you’d like information about that.
Would you like to do something nice for me in return?
(none of these things will cost you anything)
If you ask…….?Here’s several things that really help.
We all know facebook is one of those group happenings everyone uses and no one really understands. But it is a lovely connection with folk, and it builds reputation. Like the Thread Magic Studio page to get more information about where I’m going, what I’m doing, and what is on my blog.
Follow my blog:
At the bottom of the blog page there’s a line that says RSS feed. If you click that you can set up following my blog. Or you can follow it through facebook through networked blogs
Review a book of mine:
Amazon, C&T and Goodreads all have places to review my books. Saying something nice about one of my books really helps sell books.
Ask your guild or local store to have me come teach for them.
I can call, write, send pictures and packages to venues right,left and center. None of that has the impact of you asking your guild or store to have me come teach. If you have a group that is interested have them email me and I’ll get teaching information out to them.
Finally, it always helps when people buy things. I have thread, fabrics, books, and fiber art always for sale on my site.When you can. If you wish. As you can.
I love what I do, but it’s not my hobby. For thirty years, it’s been how I paid my bills. Your support helps me to continue to give to you, quilters, the best I can for the best people I know.
This was too much fun not to do again. I’m taking suggestions if you have an idea what you’d like for the fall session.
Have you ever had a perfect teacher? Who never made a mistake? Who was always right no matter what?
Well, that would not be me. I thought that the quizzes would indeed be postable to the facebook page. When I went to look for them, there were none there. When I went to goodreads.com I found 44 people had indeed taken the quizz but there was no place where I could check for who they were. OOOOOOOOOOOOOPS!
Since this was a disaster from the point of people posting results, we’re going to let everyone win. I’m going to request that everyone who took the test email me with their book choice. I’ll pick three physical book winners at random and send ebooks to everyone else. With my apologies.
So, if you’ve liked summer school and taken your test email me and tell me which book you would like. Your choices are:
Dragonfly Sky ISBN978-0-9822901-2-5 Dragonfly Sky This delightful dragonfly project focuses on bobbin work with thick and thin threads, angelina fiber, on soft edge appliqué. It has an inspirational gallery section, a full set of instructions, patterns, sources and tips.
Lady Bug’s Garden ISBN 97809822901-3-2Ladybug’s Garden A step by step project book that covers free motion zigzag appliqué, soft edge, hard edge, and cut away appliqué. Pattern, tips and sources included.
Dye Day Workbook ISB97809822901-8-7 Ellen Anne Eddy’s Dye Day Workbook: A whirlwind class in color theory, has color charts throughout for both Dharma and Pro Chem, gives Ellen’s particular recipes for her famous light source fabric and step by step instruction for both dyeing fabric and hand-dyed threads.]
ISBN 97809822901-1-8 Ellen Anne Eddy’s Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques Easy and fun binding techniques without a hand stitch in them. Cut continuous bias with a rotary cutter. Use the quick Flip and Fold bias method to whiz through applying bias. Make beautiful corded edges instantly without stitching by hand. Ellen Anne Eddy, Author of Thread Magic, offers you a collection of simple speedy skills for finishing your masterpieces.
If you just want an ebook and you didn’t take the test or read the blog, there’s not much I can do about that. It doesn’t really hurt me but it does cheat you.
If you’re wishing you could kick me around the room for having set up a test situation that did not work, please get in line. You’ll have to wait until I’m finished.
Seriously, I do want to know if you liked this. If you did, we’ll do it again. If you have problems with it, let me know and we’ll see how we can improve it.
Please send your email with your comments and book choice to me at email@example.com
I‘d like to say that if you know about threads, you know how to buy them. That’s not strictly true. It’s sort of like knowing how to cook an eggplant. There’s a separate skill in picking out a good one. On that’, I’m clueless.
True for thread too. I have three concerns when I buy thread. It’s true if I’m buying for myself of for students at class.
Is it Beautiful? If the color, texture and hand of it aren’t beautiful what are we doing. Don’t buy anything that isn’t really lovely.
Is it Strong? If it isn’t a strong thread that works well in your machine, again, what are we doing? Don’t buy thread you know is problematic. We can use weaker thread through the bobbin. Make sure it’s a type that works for your machine. There’s only one way to know that. Test it out. Are there threads that I know are always good? No not really. I know some that are universally troublesome, but the only real authority about your thread is your machine. It will tell you, pretty directly, if this is a thread for you.
Can we afford it? Well, it all comes down to priorities. I find my thread bill is much worse than my fabric bill. I accept that I can afford anything. I just can’t afford everything. But I will say that NO ONE CAN AFFORD CHEAP THREAD. I’m not speaking of inexpensive thread. I mean cheap. Your time and energy (and potential heartbreak) are very expensive. Don’t buy a thread that costs you all of those.
That being said here’s some dos and don’ts
Do buy colors you love. If you love it you’ll use it.
Buy several colors that sing together. No one child plays alone well. Get colors that will work together and again, if you love it, you’ll use it.
When you can, buy thread that’s wrapped in plastic. It does keep thread from getting old. Do consider storing thread in plastic.
Don’t buy huge quantities of something you won’t use up for years. Thread DOES GET OLD.
Pay attention to what your machine likes. It’s the final authority for what thread is best for you.
If you have a local source, for heaven’s sake support it. There’s no pleasure like being able to walk into a store and match your colors. Color charts are always, at best, a translation. And 25 cents less on a spool will not pay for the shipping.
Don’t buy thread you think is old. It probably is. Old thread will do nothing but break.
Remember that more fragile threads can be used in your bobbin case.
For store owners, a rack of thread is a huge expense. Try out threads in your store with a nice selection of the very best colors, and a pretty basket. Your customers will love new options and you won’t have a huge object to fill and dust.
Finally, if you have an older, useless cotton or rayon thread, unspool it and leave it for the birds. You’ll have fabulous bird nests. PLEASE DON’T USE METALLIC, POLY OR NYLON. It can cut their feet.
I always bring thread for students to class because I know their choices are limited. Of course, the threads I bring in depend on their class choices. But here are some of my favorite thread companies
We’ve got two more class days for summer school ad I want to oput in just a bit about needles, because they really affect how our thread works for us.
The hardest working part of your sewing machine is your needle. Think about it. It’s the contact point, the point to the exercise, the.heart of the issue. So it’s worth knowing what needle you’re using and why. Because I want to do machine free motion work with my machine, I want a needle that’s going to help me do that best.
Are needles all the same?
Yes and no.
Yes, they have a shaft and a hole for the thread to go in.
No, there are huge differences in what that shaft and hole look like, that make them act very very differently.
We are, to be clear, talking strictly about home sewing machine needles. These always have a flat side in back, and that’s one way to identify them.
Within that group there are several possibilities.
There are a bunch of specialty needles for certain things. I’m not going to touch on those, because they’re labeled for those purposes.
You can get needles that have every kind of sewing machine branded on the front. Basically Schmetz makes all of those needles. They are identical. Schmetz needles are an industry standard and well worth looking for. The only difference is Singer needles. Singer has it’s own style and I recommend you use Singer needles only with Singer Machines. You can use a Schmetz needle on a Singer. But don’t use a Singer needle on any other kind of machine. It may scar the hook.
Organ needles come in huge boxes and are suggested for free motion. They work quite well and are inexpensive. I don’t think they come in topstitch, so you lose the possibility of the bigger eye.
Sharp Point Needle
These needles have a sharp point. That means they have a clean punching power and create a smooth stitch line.They’re set up for woven fabric. I always use a sharp needle for all free motion embroidery.
Ball Point Needles
These needles have a ball point at the edge. They wiggle through the fabric. They’re set up to sew knitted goods without snagging. Because of how they’re built, they don’t really create a smooth stitch line. Although I don’t use them with my Bernina’s and Pfaffs, they are recommended for Janome/ New Home Machines for freemotion.
The Universal Needle
If you go into a shop and ask for needles and don’t tell them what you want, this is what they’ll give you. It’ s a general multi purpose needle that does nothing really well.This is a combination of sharp and ball point needles. It’s a horse designed by a committee. It kind-of sort-of works all the time, sort-of. It has a sharp needle shape with a gently balled end. Again, it doesn’t leave a clean stitch line. I would avoid it for free motion. Better to use the right tool, than the almost right tool.
Needles are labeled with European and American Sizes. European sizes are 22.214.171.124,100,110. The American sizes are 10.12.14.16.18. Larger numbers mean larger needles.
For most embroidery I like a #90/14. If it’s leaving too large a hole try a size smaller. If it’s breaking constantly, try a size larger.
Topstitching vs. Regular Eye
A topstitching needle has a special big eye. This is so helpful. You can see it to thread it. But it reduces thread breakage massively as well.
We’ve talked about the commercial thick metallic threads. They’re yummy.As your asking yourself, “What more could you need?”, think of this. They don’t come in very good variegations.
Variegated thread is sort of a mixed blessing in almost all the commercial threads. There are two basic types. There are threads variagated through rainbow colors. These make great stippling threads. The color changes carry your eye across the surface and they’re very interesting for that. But they’re miserable to shade with. Who, over the age of three, wants a random rainbow colored anything? It’s a serious limit.
They also come with small variegations, that range around one color. Again, it’s a limited effect. Finally you’ll find pearl cottons that range in value from white to the darkest tone of the color. This works for flowers, but for anything else, it looks like it fades in and out. These threads were never made to shade solid images.
#5 weight pearl cotton
This is why I dye thread. I’ve learned that the best way to color an image is to have a range of colors, light to dark and then to add a shader for weight and a shocker for interest. With thinner threads, you pick your colors one by one. But thicker threads fill up quicker and don’t have enough space to let you do that. So when I dye my own threads, I dye in that range and a shocker or shader( sometimes one color works for both purposes) so that thread will automatically shade as I stitch.
The threads I dye are #5 Pearl cottons. They’re made from mercerized cotton and dye beautifully! And they’re already washed out and needle ready( I wash out all my red threads an extra time, just to insure their color fastness). Slightly larger than the #8 metallics, they are a perfect thread for bobbin weight work.
You could dye smaller or larger threads. It’s a matter of taste. But it helps that #5 comes in a dyers hank( a loop of thread, as apposed to a wound up spool).
It sounds complicated. But the dyeing makes it a simple coloring exercise. And I never stay within the lines, so I don’t see why you should either.
Pearl cotton and metallic mixed
You put these threads in an adjusted or bypassed bobbin and stitch from the back. The results are spectacular. I used to believe that you shouldn’t mix pearl cotton with metallics. Boy was I wrong. It’s trickier for shading but incredibly lovely. I often add either black or iridescent white Candlelight for details and to outline.
If you wish to dye your own pearl cotton, it’s very easy. There’s a whole how to section in my Dye Day Workbook. You can also order pearl cotton from me. Email or call me and we’ll set up a box where you can pick what you want and send back the rest.
We’re almost through our summer school sessions. We have two lessons left and then it’s time for the pop quiz. Bone up, review and get ready.
We’ve talked about all the needle usage threads. Thicker threads (sizes #5-8) can be run through the bobbin of your machine and are instant gratification.
The metallic thick threads are especially yummy. Because they’re thick, they build up an image very quickly. And being metallic, shiny and gorgeous doesn’t hurt either.
What’s the catch? They won’t go through a needle. So this will take a small attitude adjustment.These threads are sewed upside down. Being dyslexic actually helps here.
There are three basic brands. Madeira Glamor, YLI Candlelight and Superior Razzle Dazzle are all identical in form and function, but the differing companies offer different colors. They work in an either adjusted or bypassed bobbing case (ask your mechanic and he’ll help set that up. And you sew upside down. Use a matching polyester #40 thread through the needle. The thicker thread will look like it’s been couched on. It’s a very pretty look.
Is that hard? Of course not. Can you look through a slide backward? I use my drawing on stabilizer in the back and fill it in with simple straight stitch repetitive shapes. Or I’ve drawn on the quilt sandwich from the back and stitched along that.
The damsel fly here is in a number of lovely thick metallics..
Wrapping it up
Thick metallic threads work beautifully in a bypassed or adjusted bobbin case. Stitching with a straight stitch you can make wonderful filled in images or lacy textures, at your choice.
Continue to prepare for your pop quiz on the 20th! More Thread Magic Summer School to come!
Metallic threads are different from all other kinds. Largely because they are hybrids. Rayons, polys and cottons are all of one piece. It makes them stronger. It makes them more integral. It’s rare to even have a rayon (the most fragile of the three) that won’t work easily and well through the needle.
Not so with metallics.Most people report they have trouble sewing with metallic thread. It’s also always harder free motion. Why?
It’s All in How It’s Made
Metallic threads are usually a combination of lurex, viscose(rayon), polyester, and whatever else was in the test tube. They’re usually wound together in the process. Of course, whatever is wound can be unwound. So it makes sense that under the stress of sewing, these threads are much more likely to break.
There are three basic forms of metallic thread
These threads are twisted with the components all together. They have an appearance of flecked sparkles.These tend to be the strongest of the metallic threads. My favorite flecked threads are the Madeira Supertwists.These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.
This thread has a poly or rayon core with lurex or metal wrapped around it.These threads vary a lot, depending on what the core is, and whether the wrapping is glued on or not. My favorite wound thread are Superior Metallic, and Yenmet, which have a poly core and are glued supposedly with rice paste. These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.
These threads look like Christmas tinsel. They’re flat and nothing but lurex. They’re notoriously breakable.
But they are lovely. I use them in the bobbin only.
The Three Best Tricks
Here are the three best tricks for making metallic thread work better.
The Bobbin vs the Needle
Every thread that goes through your needle goes through it 50 times. That’s a lot of wear and tear. If it goes through your bobbin it gets picked up just once. So if your thread is breaking, sew with it in the bobbin with a poly or rayon thread that matches it in color on top. Much less breakage.
The Right Needle
The best needle for all free motion embroidery is usually a #90 topstitching needle. The bigger eye and shart point make a huge difference. See my entry, The Needle Knows.
This silicon thread treatment makes threads infinitely stronger. You can use it on threads that need some help. Just drool it along the spool.
And as always
Garbage in, Garbage out
Nothing fixes either cheap or old thread. If it won’t sew you can always glob with it. I’ll show you that trick another time.
Wrapping it up
Metallic threads are a beautiful addition to your thread pallet. With special care and tricks they add all the glitz a girl can use.
Keep reading for more Thread Magic Summer School. And remember the test an contest are on July 20th. More information
Mono-filament threads are a whole other class. They are an embroidery thread of a sort.They are a war horse thread with specific purposes. But they do not really work for any classic dense embroidery.
Because they are so strong. In general, threads that are made of one particular thing are stronger than threads made of several substances twisted together. Metallic threads are always weaker than single fiber threads, because they’re really not all of one piece. It’s lurex, viscose, poly, and often a partridge and a pear tree. Metallics are not only a test tube baby. They are hybrids.Mono threads are one single substance that is stronger than the cotton threads of your fabric. Which means it can, if misused, cut through your surface fabric. So some caution and information is a real help here.
Early mono-filament nylon:
In the seventies, when we had the beginning of of knitted fabrics and sewing for knits, mono-filament came to the fore for lingerie and stretch knits. It was almost like a cord. It also melted easily with an iron.You could iron your garment and watch the seams separate. It was a heavier weight thread at around #20, which made it way too strong. It was wonderful for hanging sun catchers and that was it’s very best use.Lots of the bad stories about mono-filament thread are in response to those original ones.This was the mono filament nylon they said could hurt your machine. It could. It came in giant cones. If you still have any of this left, use it for hanging pictures or make some mobiles. Please don’t sew with it.
Mono-filament now: We’ve come a long way.Because of the intense strength of these threads, it’s recognized that they should be usually 40-70 weight (remember that larger numbers are thinner threads). They’re perfectly safe for machines, both in the needle and bobbin.They also come in polyester and in nylon. The polyester ones are also available in colors.
If they aren’t in colors, they’ll come in clear and smoke. Clear is for white and pastel work. Smoke is for anything darker. Withing those formats, it really is invisible.
They shine as stippling threads. They work very well in both contemporary work and in traditional machine quilting looks. They are much safer for your surface fiber if they’re done with a straight stitch.
You may be tempted to use the colored ones for zigzag embroidery. Don’t. They’re #70 which means they won’t fill in well. And they will cut through your top fabric.
I do use mono-filament as an appliqué thread and for couching, with a zigzag stitch. But in both cases I never stitch densely. I stitch just enough to attach everything. Dense zigzag stitching with mono-filament will cut through your surface fabric, even now. But I haven’t had one of the newer mono-filaments melt ever. They’ve licked that problem.
I also use them as a major part of bias application. If you check out my book, Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques, you’ll see it used to sew down the top edge of bias tape. I’m not sewing those puppies by hand.
Wrapping it up
Mono-filament threads are brilliant for sewing things down invisibly, for stippling, and for straight stitching. They can be used zigzag, but with caution. And as always, garbage in, garbage out. You can’t afford cheap threads.
Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques is available on my site.
It’s such a good thing people don’t generally look in my washer. They would need medical attention pretty fast, and perhaps that’s just as well. There’s a large quality of the embodied question.”Just what is that?”
This is a cheesecloth lump. As advertised, it’s a lump of cheesecloth, tucked carefully into a nylon stocking so it doesn’t unravel and trap the whole washer in threads. Is this some special fabric we’ve never heard of? No. You probably put it on a turkey breast last Thanksgiving.
Even open it’s a bit of a mystery for folk. But you can see the colors. Cheesecloth is one of the appliquer’s and dyers best kept secret. It’s a cotton sheer that dyes beautifully, can be ironed like cotton ( with a pressing cloth) and is fabulously textured. What it does best is sheer bright color behind stitching.
Here it makes the background behind these great mushrooms
This great flower is cheesecloth in two shades. All the other coloring is the thread work.
These soft leaves are cheesecloth with polyneon thread stitched in different colors on
How do you dye cheesecloth? It dyes just like cotton. The trick is not in dyeing it. It’s in washing it out. Like every other bad boy, you can’t let it play with others. Stick it in a nylon stocking, tie it up and your good to go.
I apply cheesecloth with Steam A Seam 2, iron it down thoroughly and stitch it with abandon.
Sheer, bright, lovely, cotton and completely addictive, add it to your applique stash.
If you can’t find it, or dye it, I do make it available for folk. Email me and we’ll set up mailing you a box of it.
We’ve estabilished that I have a stuff problem. That gets magnified when I start to pack for class. What do I bring? What do I ask them to bring? What will the airport finally freak out on? In a broader safer time once had a box full of bobbins. I can’t imagine what they thought these were but it brought out the big dogs. They had to see it all after that.
When we went to the fifty pound bag it got much worse. I remember the day. I was in Seattle at 5 AM. The lady at the counter grabbed my bag that was perfectly legal when I left Chicago and growled” This bag is overweight!” Like it was a triumph against ugly fat and too much underwear. I looked at her and said that my bag, unlike her, had had enough breakfast to be relatively civilized. It didn’t help. The age of measured baggage had arrived. I paid the extra bounty and knew a new world had come.
It only gets more stringent. And yet, students need you to bring things. They need the right stabilizers, the right threads and the toys you play with to have a good day.
How do you do that as a teacher? I’m still trying to figure that out thirty years later. But I have a theory.
Bring what you want to play with.
I’ll bring what you really need.
So before each class I pack the &**(()*&^&^%^%$%$ box. And ship it ahead. It’s full of hand dyed threads,sewing machine needles, stabilizers, commercial threads and fabrics, kits, books, patterns, toys and my dreams for you. And I always hope for it to come home to me empty.
I don’t ever have a class where someone asks the question, “What happens if I break a needle?” Or the much more useful question, “Why did my needle break?” What is the trick for that?
If you ever saw this scene from Lawrence of Arabia, you know the trick already. The trick is not minding that your needle broke.
What makes your needle break is the fact that it is, by it’s nature, fragile. Metal fatigue is usually the cause. It’s the most fragile part of your machine and it has to work the hardest. That is why your needle broke. So every day, ” New Day, New Needle. New Project, New Needle.” It was never meant to last forever. And a needle about to break is a world of sewing misery. Broken thread, skipped stitches, and in my case, inevitable balding from pulling out my hair in hanks.
But there are some good sewing machine hygiene practices that make the world a better place.
Use the right needle for the right job. There’s a whole other post to talk about needles. I’ll do that soon, promise. What I use for almost all free motion embroidery is a 90 topstitching. That’s a sharp needle with a really big eye.
Make sure your thread is feeding smoothly. A cone holder can help with older machines. Most new machines can feed either vertically or horizontally. In theory you use a vertical pin for straight wound spools and a horizontal pin for cross wound spools. But if one isn’t working try the other.
Make sure nothing is catching the thread. I know it sounds dumb but it will break thread and needles every time. Check to see it isn’t catching on the spool or on something else on your sewing table.
Stop whenever you hear a bad sewing noise. Trust me on this. It won’t get better until you fix it.
Make sure you have your foot up to thread your machine and your foot down to sew. Putting the foot down closes the tension mechanism. If it’s down you can’t thread the machine properly. If it’s up you can’t sew without making a bird’s nest underneath. Once that happens, again, nothing good will happen until you intervene.
If you break a needle, clean your sewing machine. You want to make sure there isn’t a bit of broken needle in there, scratching your hook.
Do I break needles? Bless your heart! I plan on breaking at least 5 needles on a six hour sewing day. I purchase them in that kind of quantity. Do I mind? No. That’s the trick
I just got home from taping a session of Quilt It! with Jodi Davis!
Jodi is a love! She keeps horses and has done a gazillion books on all kinds of needle craft. She’s famous for her rubber duckie books. She helped me keep on track and not babble.
What a wild day! We had three quilters tape that day, including myself. I went first or they would have had to fold me in the end like a quilt and put me in my suitcase to get me home.
Quilt It! is part of QNN, Quilter’s News Network. It’s a great site with numerous available quilt shows you can watch any time on your computer or any other streaming electric gadget. How cool is that? Quilt It! focuses on working with long arm machines.
The other two women couldn’t have been more different from me if they tried. Judy Allen was making incredible digitized and drawn feather patterns and Leslie Main from Country Traditions Quilt Store in Freemont, NE pieced a place mat on a long arm. Who knew? They were both awesome!
I showed off the Zentangle Inspired Flowers I’ve been doing on the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen. I’ve loved doing these quick and flashy pieces. Because the long arm accommodates a 20 needle, I could stitch these with yummy extra thick #12 weight pearl cotton thread through the needle. We’ll be offering this as a class! I also showed off some quilts from my new book, Thread Magic Garden.
We also got a tour of Handi Quilter. I had, of course, known about Handi Quilter’s commitment to quality. It wasn’t until I saw the HQ Sweet Sixteen that I realized there was a way for me with my really bad knees to sit and sew at a long arm. What a neat new open door! But it was when I saw room after room of the company decorated in every kind of quilt that I understood how deep their commitment is to quilters of all kinds. The walls are covered with quilts and statements and sayings of quilters. They are an amazing support to the quilt community, as well as the manufacturer of an amazing machine.
My segment will be featured in August. Make sure to watch it there and then!
I’ve worked for years with home machines but this is a brand new day. Why am I working with a mid arm?
Well, it’s not like it’s easier to stuff a big quilt through a little hole, but I’m wildly excited about working with long arms and bobbin work.
Bobbin work? YES, BOBBIN WORK!
Why? There’s a number of reasons for using a long arm/mid arm machine for bobbin work. The extra big bobbin, the speed and the straight stitch only capabilities are all in your favor.
I’m very excited about the Sweet 16 because of it’s size and its sit down capabilities. I played all yesterday, snow and all at Threadbenders in Michigan City with one and took it home.
Wow said backwards.
The home sewing industry has always made multi-purpose machines. But the sewing industry itself has always considered them silly. For good reason. Most of the time you want the machine that does something excellently. If it does one thing excellently, then that’s better than doing thirty things fairly well.
The mid arm is basically a long arm machine without the large frame. But the thing both of them offer is excellent blazingly fast straight stitching. And room to move. And much bigger needles. Which is the beginning of all kinds of stitched line art. Can you say, Zen Tangling? Bobbin Work? Lily Guilding? I can’t wait.
Thread Magic Garden will be arriving for shipment around January 20th. You can pre-order your copy today!
You never really know what a project will take until you see it done. Perhaps that’s good. A good dream well done should take your whole heart’s effort and give you your heart back in return.
When I started this book, I had no idea it would take 2 years to finish. Part of that is that I had to learn so much to do this book. Part of that is the meticulous process C&T puts into every book. I got my premier copy a week ago.I’m still scraping myself off the ceiling. It’s past my expectations. I’m hoping you’ll feel that way too.
When I started this book, I wanted to continue what I’d accomplished with Thread Magic. I wanted to show folk ways of adding wild free motion to quilts that set things hearts and imaginations on fire. I wanted to set up instructions that would take you through your own process with this. You’ll have to let me know how I’ve done when you read the book.
But for those of you who’ve known me in class or in print, you know I don’t give recipes for cakes that don’t rise. I tell you everything I know. I also don’t do anything really hard. I just do things that are time consuming and compulsive.
So here is what we have.
Fifty eye popping new quilts in the gallery
A patternless approach to design
Intuitive applique that makes creating flowers easy and fun
Color theory for flowers
Corded buttonhole binding
6 Free motion zigzag stitches
I’m hoping I’ve done a good job of opening doors, traveling a new path, leaving good bread crumbs for anyone who wants to follow, and breaking the best rules I could find to break. See you on the trail.
You can pre-order your copy of Thread Magic Garden at
“Roses are red. violets are blue. Angels in heaven know I love you.” Down in the valley
What color is a flower, actually?
In spite of everything your kindergarten teacher told you, it’s not a simple answer. If she made you color all your roses red, give me her name and I’ll go have a little chat with her. Or better still, you might want to tell her that she can’t live in your head anymore without paying rent.
That’s not a white tulip. Nor is it really red or yellow. It’s a wonderful swirl of a number of great colors. Leaving any of that out is a loss. But how do you do it in fiber?
We have two great tools. Well, we probably have hundreds but these help with this.Hand dyed fabric has all those great streaks. It’s a great way to start a flower.
Machine embroidery also speeds us on our way.The wonderful thing about stitching flowers is that thread really is minutia. We can slip in that dash of green, that edge of orange or purple that flowers either do have or should. When Mark Lipinski asked me how important color was on his show this week and why I put so much emphasis on it, I almost fell of my chair. Color IS the media. We see everything through the color and the texture. You can here that conversation on Mark’s Creative Mojo show, December 14th.
Thread Magic Garden has a full chapter on creating colors for flowers. It’s a magical thing. And you can do it too.