Yay! I am NOT the only quilter in the world who does not use the Bernina knee lift! Thank you for letting me know that… I am not alone. If and when I need a new machine, a hover mode feature will definitely be on my wish list.

Awhile back, Jan Louise wrote,

I watched a quilting program in which the guest said she always uses silk threads to do her appliqué. I use DMC threads because I can always find a matching color. What do other stitchers use, what do you recommend, and why?

Hi Jan Louise! There’s a long answer and a short answer, Being the over-achiever that I am, I’ll start with the long answer :) .

I’m also a DMC user. We’re talking about DMC 50-weight cotton machine-embroidery thread. I got started with it because it’s available at my LQS and like you say, comes in lots of beautiful colors. I have a whole library of it, and I use it for both hand and machine appliqué. I’ve stayed with it because 1) I like it, and 2) I don’t want to start a whole new collection.

dmc-thread

The entire line is available online at Sharla Hicks’ Soft Expressions.

Everything else I know about thread comes under the category of hearsay. Being an avid quilter and appliquér for about 20 years now, I’ve kept my eyes and ears open. I’m happy to pass along what I’ve learned, with the caveat that what I say from here on is not through direct experience.

OTHER BRANDS OF COTTON

I tried out Superior’s MasterPiece Thread in an earlier post. MasterPiece is a fine cotton thread favored by the Piece o’ Cake gals and Alex Anderson.

Mettler’s Silk Finish is widely available at quilting and sewing stores and can be used for appliqué. It’s not silk, it’s cotton, but has a smooth finish, which is why they liken it to silk. It’s also a 50-weight thread, but it’s 3-ply, which effectively makes it a little thicker. You’ll notice I have a few spools of it on the bottom row of my thread rack, and there are a few more in the drawer. I use it sometimes for machine appliqué when I want a little bit heavier edge finish.

Mettler also makes a cotton 60-weight 2-ply that my pal Pam uses. It’s also the thread of choice for Karen Kay Buckley, who offers collections of it on her website.

Pat Sloan likes Aurifil 50-weight thread. You’ll see her on the web page. Pat does machine appliqué, but according to the website this thread is thin and a good choice for hand appliqué as well.

SILK

Lots of appliquérs swear by silk thread. It’s extremely fine, like 100 weight, and sinks beautifully into the fabric edge, effectively disappearing. I’ve heard it said that you don’t need as many colors, because it blends very well and you can get away with just a few basics. YLI and Superior are two brands that I know of.

I’ve also heard that silk thread is so fine and slippery that you tend to lose it out of the needle, and there’s some sort of way of tying a knot on the end to keep it from doing so.

There’s also some urban legend in the appliqué world that silk is stronger than cotton, and over the years will outlast the cotton and chew through it. Bob Purcell addresses this issue in the Silk Thread FAQs on the Superior Threads website.

POLY

Libby Lehman’s The Bottom Line is the thread of choice for many appliquérs. It’s very fine and comes in lots of colors. Again with the urban legend about matching the fiber content of the thread to the fiber content of the fabric. Check out Bob’s Poly Thread FAQ.

OTHER BRANDS

There are many more thread companies and probably types of thread suitable for hand appliqué that I have no knowledge of. If you do, please chime in! If you use Robison-Anton, Presencia, Madera, or another kind, please let us know!

Now for the Short Answer, a quote from my book Inspired by Tradition:

I use 50-weight 2-ply cotton machine-embroidery thread. Others use 50-weight 3-ply or 60-weight thread, and still others swear by very fine silk thread. All of these are good choices for hand appliqué. Use what you can find conveniently.

That’s what it comes down to for me.

Jan Louise, I hope this has helped. Thanks for reading the blog!!

I’m off to Phoenix tomorrow. See you in a week!

Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

P.S. Since I showed you my thread library, I thought I’d show you a small portion of my fabric stash, filmed by the DH.

I’m delighted today to turn the blog over to appliqué author, designer, and teacher Cheryl Almgren Taylor.

Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Cheryl Almgren Taylor


Cheryl: I am excited to be a guest on Kay’s site today and want to thank her for the invitation to be a part of her blog.

I have loved quilts since I was a small child but never ventured into quilting until 2000. I had been sewing since I was 13 so I had some basic skills down. But I discovered, like many of us, that quilting is a whole new world.

I got into designing because of my grandson Michael and my love of storybooks. I spent 14 years teaching in the elementary grades and loved “read aloud” time with the kids. Several years ago I wanted to make Michael a quilt that would go with his favorite story Going On a Bear Hunt, and this led to the creation of a whole series of quilts that coordinate with childrens’ books. I was surprised and delighted when Martingale & Company (That Patchwork Place) chose to publish my designs in a pattern series entitled Storybook Snugglers.

There were six patterns in this original pattern series from 2007, with two quilt designs in each pattern–one easier version and one more detailed. There are still some patterns available from Martingale.

Monkey Business by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Monkey Business by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

deck-halls

Last summer my first book Deck the Halls was published featuring a collection of Christmas quilts.

Editor’s note: If you haven’t seen it, check out the post from last November, when Deck the Halls was our featured appliqué book.



Cheryl:
Although I love pieced quilts, I am especially drawn to appliqué. Applique enables us to make shapes that are just not possible with piecing, and you don’t have to worry about your quarter inch or matching points! I especially love using batiks and fussy cutting shapes so that the design has shading provided by the fabric. I also like to use a variety of fabrics in the same tonal range when repeating a shape, rather than making everything match. I think it gives more interest to the design. When I’m designing I am almost always telling a story (at least in my head) and my favorite technique is fusible-web appliqué finished with machine blanket stitching.

Wrapped Up in Love from Deck the HallsWrapped Up in Love from Deck the Halls

I know that in certain quilting circles, admitting to a love of fusible web can be the equivalent of admitting you only shower once a week or you let your children eat cereal out of the box while watching Saturday morning cartoons so that you can sleep in late. But I really do love the technique. And although the jury is out on how long my quilts will last into eternity, I know that I can finish more quilts in my lifetime.

An event early in my quilting career also solidified my feeling that there is a time and place for fast techniques. When my first grandchild Taylor was born, of course I wanted to make him a quilt. I envisioned this as an heirloom quilt that would be lovingly treasured, perhaps hung at the foot of the crib as part of the décor and eventually stored away for future generations. I spent nearly a year completing the quilt (it had two ruffles and piping, as well) and I was extremely proud that Taylor received it before starting Kindergarten.

A few short months later, I called my daughter and discovered that Taylor had been sick and thrown up on the quilt. I was horrified and wondered why he was anywhere near the quilt at the time. My daughter, who doesn’t quilt or sew, explained that she believed children should play with their quilts and enjoy them, not save them as heirlooms. Well, there’s certainly something to be said for that philosophy, but as a quilt maker it made me realize that recipients are not always aware of how much time goes into making a quilt and that fusible web fills a need in those circumstances. It’s quick(er), it’s user friendly, and it gives beautiful results.

Christmas Kisses from Deck the Halls

Christmas Kisses from Deck the Halls

For those of you who have never ventured into the world of fusing, here is some advice I think you might find helpful.

First off, purchasing fusible web can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you are looking for. There is everything out there in fusible land, from fusible interfacing to fusible batting. If you have never ventured into this department before, you can become overwhelmed and confused. And depending upon where you are shopping, the store clerk may not know a piece of fusible web from a French fry. The item you want to purchase is paper-backed fusible web. Brands that may be familiar are Heat ‘n Bond, Wonder Under, and Steam a Seam (as well as many others) and I highly recommend a lightweight product.

When using fusible, remember that if your design is asymmetrical you must trace the pattern in reverse on the paper backing of the fusible product. Also remember to trace each piece separately. If you have a large pattern piece, cutting the center portion out of the fusible will create less stiffness in the finished design. My books and patterns all have a section that gives detailed information on this process.

Another important thing you should know about lightweight fusible web is, that it’s a temporary bond. It must be stitched down around the edges or it will eventually float away. This is not true for all fusible webs—only the lightweight type. However, using a heavier fusible makes a stiffer quilt and I don’t recommend using them.

And now we get to the fun part of fusing—finishing the edges! There is such a choice of fabulous threads out there in different weights, colors, and fibers. It’s awesome! So the first thing you have to decide is what element you want the threads to play in the finished product. Do you want them to recede into the background or pop out as a design element? Do you want them to add some pizzazz or blend in? This is an important design element in your quilt and you will be happier with the finished quilt if you decide how this element should look just the same as you select your color choices.

I have developed some personal choices that work for me, but please bear in mind that I don’t work for these companies, receive compensation from them, or guarantee their products. I’m just sharing my personal experiences with you. My “go-to” thread for finishing appliqué edges is Mettler 50 wt. Silk Finish cotton thread in a matching or coordinating color. The thread is thick enough to make it viewable, but it doesn’t distract from the design. If you want your thread to recede a little more, consider using a 60 wt. Mettler or a 50 wt. Aurifil, again in a matching color. Using YLI silk threads in a 50 wt. can give a beautiful, subtle sheen to edges but since the thread is a finer consistency, you may want to be selective in its usage. If you want your thread to pop out and become a design feature, try a slightly darker hue or be bold with a darker thread choice. Using a thicker 40 wt. thread will also make the stitching a dominant part of the design and some people even use a 25 wt. thread, which will be very thick. It will give you a primitive, country feel. Finally, when you want a little glitz, consider a Sulky rayon/polyester or metallic thread. These threads can bring glamour and pizzazz to your work.

I hope this advice is helpful and has inspired you to launch into a new appliqué project. I can only say that if you’ve been afraid to try fusible web before, give it a try. It’s a very user-friendly technique.

Happy quilting!
Cheryl

Kay: Thank you Cheryl! It was a treat learning more about you, and your appliqué wisdom is much appreciated. We’re “like this” in so many ways. Can’t wait to see what you do next!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Melinda Bula, author of Candy Cane Lane (our featured appliqué book from last August) is a master of fusing realism into her fabulous floral art quilts.

cutting-garden

In this visually rich book, the author shares her process for creating colorful, shaded, detailed, realistic flowers in fabric and thread, and encourages us to start with our own photos of the flowers we’d like to render. “I want you to experience the same thrill I get when I create,” she says. “Everything you need to know about making Cutting-Garden quilts is in this book, and even if you don’t feel like you have an ounce of creativity in you, I assure you that anyone can make these quilts with amazing results.”

For those who’d rather start with some training wheels, Melinda includes five patterns to get you going, with easy-to-follow steps and a fabric key to help with color selection.

The book starts out with a gorgeous gallery for your inspiration. The gallery also serves to show the author’s progression through the development of her techniques and understanding of color and depth.

afternoon-glory

Then Melinda writes about the creative process (stop stomping on your own creativity!) and emphasizes the need for a place to work. Then, on to fabulous fusible appliqué, going through supplies, subject matter, making an outline drawing, enlarging it, creating a color palette, finding just the right fabrics, using the fusible web, making the appliqués, and putting it all together!

shasta-daisies

Look at all those different subtle colors that went into making white flowers!

Another thing that Melinda is fantastic at is threadwork as part of developing the fabric art. She tells you everything about it, from batting to presser feet (foots?) to thread choices to tension. There’s information on tacking down the edges of the appliqués, then moving on to adding shadows, highlights, and other thread details. (I can testify that this is a gorgeous part of the process, as I was lucky enough to be a quilt holder when Melinda came to speak at my guild, and oooh.)

social-climber

Visit the author’s blog, Melinda’s Cutting Garden.

I have a copy of Cutting Garden Quilts to give away, courtesy of That Patchwork Place. Leave a comment by 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 6, to enter the drawing. U.S. and Canada only please (unless you’d be willing to pay the shipping).

To those of you who are subscribed by email, click over to the blog itself and scroll to the bottom of the post to leave your comment there.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

I’ve been wanting to get back to the topic of thread content and quilter’s jail.

When I wrote about the Superior windfall back in January, Marcella asked, “Not sure what to think about mixing poly thread with cotton, won’t that put you in quilters jail?”

And Lois asked, “Where is the quilter’s jail?”

I wrote to Bob Purcell of Superior Threads and received the following reply:

“Thank you for mentioning us. Lots of great follow up comments! Regarding the “poly will tear the fabric” myth, here is an article we wrote and posting in the Education section of our website: Will Polyester Really Tear the Fabric — Truth, Tradition, or Myth?

Go read the article and be informed in your thinking. Bob points out that it’s not the thread content that matters, it’s the strength of the thread in relation to what it’s sewing. I love Bob’s analogy of the family tradition and the roast beef.

Now for Lois’ question, where is quilter’s jail?

I know where quilter’s jail is.

It’s in your mind, and only you can put yourself there.

For every “truth” that is told in the quilting world (or any other world) you can find a direct dispute to it. I remember when the self-adhesive sticky stamps came out, I thought, hey great, best thing since sliced bread! And then immediately there were urban legends of how they came off in the mail. I don’t think so. One time at a quilt show there was a vendor who claimed that grocery store freezer paper was full of acid and that every time I pinned through it I was pushing little dots of acid into my fabric. I chose not to swallow that on the spot, and I’ve never seen hide nor hair of the outfit since.

I think it’s better to file away bits of information in your brain, gather as much info as you can, think about it, and decide for yourself. Bob’s article is good information and food for thought. There are lots of other great topics posted in the Superior Threads Education section as well.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

P.S. I’m going to be at the Seven Sisters Quilt Show in San Luis Obispo, California, April 24-25. If you’re in the central California area, I hope to see you there!

The ever-zany daily blogger Pat Sloan has started a new, free BOM. Check it out at Pat Sloan’s Corner. A very cute block and great closeup photography of her fusible appliqué and thread choice.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Yesterday I had the chance to try out the Superior windfall.

This is an old block originally called Wandering Foot. That name was thought to bring on the wandering foot to youths who slept under it, so a new name was given to it… Turkey Tracks. Much more attractive, don’t you think? :) It’s also called Iris Leaf when it’s green on white.

Fused and unstitched.

Fused and unstitched.

After some investigation on the Superior website, I discovered that the Holy SuperBobs are Bottom Line, a line of thread developed by Libby Lehman. It’s 60-weight polyester. I perused the rainbow and picked out the color that matched the best.

iris-thread

Wow, you can hardly make it out! It really is whisper-fine.

I fired up my Bernina and adjusted the blanket stitch down a few ticks, reasoning that a very fine thread should be given a pretty small stitch. A few minutes later, and voila! The block was stitched, and looked great! My machine liked the thread, which I used in both the top and the bottom, and Mother Superior says it’s not linty like cotton.

stitched-iris

How’s that for blending in? From a short distance you can’t see the stitching at all. This thread might be a nice choice when you really want to mimic hand appliqué while still using your machine, or when using the turned-edge blind-hem stitch method of machine appliqué (which BTW I am not adept at).

stitched-detail

One thing I did note is that the edges of the appliqués feel a little “crispy” compared to when I use cotton thread.

On to MasterPiece. MasterPiece thread is 2-ply 50-weight cotton, favored by the Piece o’ Cake gals and by Alex Anderson.

A simple forget-me-not.

Fused and unstitched.

Fused and unstitched.

My choices from the rainbow.

forget-thread

I adjusted the blanket stitch to my usual setting, just a couple ticks down in width and length. Away I went!

forget-stitched

I like it, my machine likes it. I wound a bobbin for the green, but for the dabs of yellow and blue I used bobbins I already had wound with DMC. Worked great! They really are equivalent in weight so that’s a plus for me that I can mix and match at this stage of evolution in my thread stash.

forget-detail

Now on to hand appliqué. I just happened to have a block in the queue that I needed to stitch up twice, to use as an example in the new book I’m working on for Martingale.

Here are the threads I chose.

Poly on the left and cotton on the right.

Poly on the left and cotton on the right.

I started with the polyester first. I was really excited about trying out this thread for hand appliqué. In the past, when I’ve tried other brands of poly thread, it went around in circles, kinked up, and raveled at the end. I’m delighted to report that Bottom Line stays straight. It sinks right into the turned edge of the appliqué and hides itself really well, and I was not plagued with knots or kinks. Yay! The one thing I did notice is that since it’s more slippery than cotton thread, my thread tail kept shortening up on me and I lost the thread out of the needle a couple times. I guess this just takes getting used to coming from the fabric of our lives.

poly-dogwood

I was on a roll watching the chocolate challenges on Food Network, so I plunged on ahead to the second version, using MasterPiece cotton. Excellent on all counts.

cotton-dogwood

Can you tell the difference in the completed piece? Neither can I, so I’ve been keeping sticky notes on them :) .

These pink dogwood blocks may seem kinda pale, and that’s on purpose. I’m going to embroider around the edges of one of them to illustrate how you can better define the edges of your appliqués when you want to use low-contrast fabrics.

Well, thanks guys! I got a lot done yesterday!

Chime in! I’d like to hear from others who use Bottom Line or MasterPiece. How do you use it, why do you like it?

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

At the Road to California show earlier this month, I was directly across the aisle from the Superior Threads booth. What a fantastic location!

I was on the lookout for The Thread Guy and Mother Superior, aka Bob and Heather Purcell. I was sure I would recognize them from their appearances on The Quilt Show.

When the opportunity presented itself, I approached Bob and said, “Mr. Bob Purcell?”

He looked at me with a little bit of that “deer in the headlights” look (like is this someone I’ve met and I can’t remember her?) but I quickly explained how his fame as The Thread Guy had preceded him. I told him about what an appliqué enthusiast I am (gesturing toward my booth as evidence) and that I had been using DMC 50-weight 2-ply cotton for years. I asked him whether Superior’s MasterPiece would be like an equivalent.

The answer was yes, and it’s long-staple Egyptian-grown cotton, which makes it, well, superior! I told him of my appliqué blog and how I liked to supply information to other appliqué enthusiasts, and he generously presented me with a fantastic goody! A rainbow of MasterPiece threads in a collection of prewound bobbins! Yippee! A little bit of 36 colors!

Later in the show, Heather came over and said, “I know you like Bob better.”

“Well,” I replied, “he gave me thread.”

“But I want you to try this,” she said, and handed me a rainbow of polyester threads in a collection of prewound bobbins. Wow!

“Now I know that you’ve only used cotton,” she went on. “But just try this poly thread and you will never go back. And then, you will like me better.”

superior-bobbinsCotton on the left and poly on the right. The “Frosted” part of the cotton name came about because Superior did a collection of threads for the Piece o’ Cake gals, and donut, kinda self-explanatory. I can only conjecture about how they came up with Holy SuperBobs.

What a thread windfall for an appliquér. All those luscious colors at my fingertips… I can’t wait to try out each kind, for hand and machine appliqué, and file a report!

thread-compThe cotton MasterPiece thread feels and looks very comparable to the DMC. The poly thread is even finer than the two cottons.

thread-comp-2

The Purcells are super-nice, down-to-earth people. I like ‘em both. They care passionately about their product and they are very tuned-in to the needs and wants of the quilter. Just check the Education tab of the Superior website for gobs of information about the world of thread.

I also met quilter, designer, author, and sweetheart Cindy Needham, who was hanging out in the Superior booth helping shoppers with their questions about thread. I think I persuaded her to go a guest post for us about appliqué and her fabulous work with wholecloth linen quilts. Stay tuned!

More later,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Sometimes I do a little hand embroidery on my appliqué blocks when some really fine details are needed, like whiskers or tendrils. It’s not truly a part of my skill set, and I just kinda sorta go for it.

birdbath.jpgI was so grateful when Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill put up Embroidery 101 Part One and Part Two on her Bunny Tales blog. I had had a block stuck up on my wall for awhile, waiting for some embroidery that I was putting off. Anne’s post inspired me to get to work on it… my stem stitch is now so much improved!

Appliqué patterns can often be used as embroidery patterns as well, so go read Anne’s fantastic primer and then you’ll have a whole new use for them!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

There’s a new photo tutorial on the Cottons n’ Wool blog about how the author, Anne, works with wool for appliqué. She takes you through it step-by-step, with lots of great photos. Thanks Anne!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Being the fourteenth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Click on the category ‘A journey to a book’ in the left sidebar to bring up all of the posts in the series.

My tech editor Robin had suggested a few photos to go with the introductory material about fabrics, tools, and notions. Great! She asked me what I would include and I send her my preferred list. They didn’t have everything in-house so I promised to send some spools of my favorite thread and a pair of my favorite scissors.

Hmmm… my scissors have puppy teeth marks in them and the only unstarted spools of thread I had were in dull uninteresting colors. I ordered a few pretty colors of thread on-line and had them sent directly to Robin to organize for the photographer. And, whilst at the E.E. Schenck warehouse party during Spring Market in Portland, I had thrown a new pair of scissors into my cart ‘just in case,’ so I dispatched those to Robin as well.

Stay tuned!
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

P.S. My favorite tools and notions for hand and machine appliqué aren’t mentioned in the book, so I’ve created an information sheet.

toolsnotions.gif

Click to download a pdf copy.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

How about a method of appliqué that gives super-accurate results, yet uses no glue, no starch, no freezer paper, no fusible web, no fusible interfacing, no vinyl or tracing paper. Just fabric, needle and thread, scissors, and a marking implement. Pretty cool, huh?

I promised awhile ago that I would write more about the back-basting, aka no-template preparation for hand appliqué. It’s really quite ingenious and is now my favorite way to work by hand. As I was stitching a Heart in Hand block today I took some pictures along the way to show how it works.

Use a reversed pattern for this method. Start by marking the reversed pattern on the back of the background fabric. I use the blue water-erasable pen. You can also use a marking pencil.
bb1.gif

Rough-cut a hunk of the appliqué fabric that’s bigger than what you’ll need. Lay it in place on the front.
bb2.gif

Pin the fabrics together. On the back, baste the two fabrics together with a small running stitch, exactly on the drawn line. Use a thick or fuzzy thread for this and a big honking needle. I use a size 7 cotton darner.
bb3.gif

Baste all the way around the shape. This is what it looks like on the front.
bb4.gif

Now trim the fabric to the shape of the motif, leaving your preferred turn-under margin outside the basting.
bb5.gif

Clip and remove a section of basting stitches. In this freed-up area, start turning and stitching. Keep clipping and removing the basting a few stitches ahead of your appliqué. The thick needle and heavy basting thread leave behind temporary perforations that help the fabric turn along the stitching line. I use a size 10 milliner needle and DMC 50-weight cotton machine embroidery thread for appliqué,
bb6.gif

Continue all the way around. Don’t press the block yet.
bb7.gif

Hmm, not bad. A benefit of this method is that you can flip the block over to see how you’re doing. The marking serves as a built-in stitching guide!
bb8.gif

Repeat the same process for the heart.
bb9.gif
bb10.gif
bb14.gif

Once the block is completed, remove the markings from the back. I dip a Q-tip in water and stroke it along the lines. Let the block air-dry and check to make sure none of the blue has reappeared. (If so, just wet it again.)
bb11.gif
bb12.gif

After all the marks are gone and the block has air-dried, give it a quick press. All done!
bb13.gif

I have really come to love this method, since it gets me on the sofa stitching a lot quicker instead of fiddling around with freezer paper templates at the ironing board. I hope you enjoy it too. Like anything new, it takes practice, so give it a whirl and then another. If you’re stalling because you don’t have the right needle or the perfect thread, well then there’s a kit available over at Quilt Puppy that has pattern, instructions, fabrics, both needles, and both threads all in it, to give you a jump start on becoming introduced to the method.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

I discovered a very colorful, joyful blog by a young woman named Joanna. She has put up a couple of outstanding tutorials on needleturn appliqué, the first on prep and the second on the stitching.

Joanna marks differently than I do, handles points and notches just a touch differently, and uses glue to stick things down, whereas I’m a baster. Vive la différence! There’s no one right way. Appliquérs find the methods that work for them.

Thanks, Joanna, for your effervescent Appliqué Today.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Syliva Landman Rassmussen has been working a lot with all those gorgeous, unusual fabrics and trims that we love, but our pocketbooks cannot always afford. If these luxuriant, spendy fabrics are calling to you, Sylvia has devised a solution with her SheerFabric Elegance kits. Here’s what she has to say about them:

“Do you enjoy the current fashion in embellishing clothing, quilts, and appliqué? My theory is that too much is…well, just wonderful! SheerFabric Elegance Kits make it easy and economical for you to create gorgeous, elaborately embellished designs on wearables, quilts, and needle work.

Hard-to-find sheer fabrics such as silk organza, tulle, lamé, laces, brocades, re-embroidered sheers studded with sequins, flower petals, leaves, shiny rayon floss, fords, threads, and woven trims are color-coordinated and packaged in small amounts. Avoid having to buy whole or half yards of these precious fibers in the few colors available in shops!

SheerFabric Elegance kits are being offered at $25 or 2/$45, including postage, at a special introductory price, until March 1, when they will sell for $30 or 2/$55. See Sylvia’s Web site Order Form for details and to place your order at www.Sylvias-Studio.com.”

Hurry to Sylvia’s website to take advantage of the introductory special!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Here’s a fabulous guest post by Diane Dixon of Metro Quiltworks about how your choice of thread can work a little magic on the look of your machine appliqué. Thank you, Diane, for this wonderful article!

Let’s Have Some Fun with Thread Color!

Thoughts about thread choices by Diane Dixon of Metro Quiltworks

The color of thread can be a very important feature for you to consider with your next appliqué project. The way the thread color interacts with the fabric can make the stitching either stand out in a bold contrast, or it can create subtle outlining of the appliqué piece without much contrast at all.

Some basic points to consider:

Matching thread color to fabric color:
Do you want the thread color to match the color of the fabric? This will create a subtle look that blends well with the appliqué pieces and may emphasize the overall look of the project since the thread color blends much more into the background.

Here’s an example of a lily flower having the thread in the same color family as the fabric. By using the blue thread in the center, the flower is more formal and contained. Notice the use of yellow thread on the yellow petals. Although both fabric and thread are in the same color family, there is still a subtle contrast because the fabric is lighter in some places than in others. Subtle, but not dull! Also, the lily pads are sewn with green or brown stitches to keep the pieces from getting too “busy” since the batiks used here are quite wild.

lilypad.jpg

Contrasting thread color to fabric color:
Do you want the thread color to contrast with color of the fabric? Using contrast can create a wonderful visual look that can define edges and give excitement to individual appliqué pieces.

Here is an example of two pears on a plate. The purple stitching in different shades really defines the green pear from the green plate. Notice the yellow stitching on the green leaf, the outside plate stitching, and the effective purple on the stem as well.

pears.jpg

In the close-up of the red floral appliqué example, there’s a combination of techniques to make this flower sing! Notice the center has a bright red center that uses the same thread color on both the center, and on the interior petals. By using the same thread color on different fabrics, another subtlety comes out. The bright blue stitching on the outside petals, and the red on the green leaf brings all of the colors to another level!

redfloral.jpg

I sometimes enjoy using this technique specifically with smaller projects such as miniature wall hangings, pillows, or table runners because the thread choices really stand out in a more intimate piece – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try this out with larger pieces as well!

Thread colors play important roles and can change the look of any project. Don’t be afraid to go for it and have lots of fun!

Diane Dixon

Kay here again — be sure to visit Diane’s website to check out her colorful contemporary patterns for quilts, table runners, and wall hangings at Metro Quiltworks – A fresh look at quilt design. Thanks again Diane! I’ve been a “matcher” so far but now I’m inspired to try mixing it up!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

You won’t believe what a fantastic post I’ve got for you to start out the new year, courtesy of appliqué designer Kaye Moore!

I’ve met Kaye a couple of times at her booth at Pacific International Quilt Festival. (I joked with her that she’s one of the reasons quilters want to put an “e” on my name.) This last October, I was drawn into her booth once more by the beautiful appliqué samples hung everywhere.

Kaye works exclusively with wool now, and I asked her if she would be willing to talk about some of the wonders of wool for appliqué. Wow! Kaye, who admits to being “a little bit passionate about wool,” sent me a fabulous, info-packed article! Here it is, in her words. Take it away, Kaye!

“The discovery of wool is simply one of the most wonderful stitching discoveries I’ve ever made. Without a clue to the new path I was about to travel, I purchased a wool kit for a pennyrug at a quilt show several years ago. I completed it quickly and purchased another and another and so on.

I had been in the quilt business, vending at quilt shows around the country, but had not found my “niche”. Thankfully my niche found me. Very quickly my booth became an all-wool booth.

What’s so wonderful about wool, you ask? For starters, you can appliqué without turning the edges under as you must do in traditional appliqué using cottons. Since the wool has been felted during the dyeing process, the edges will not ravel.

What is felting? Felting is the process of washing the wool in hot water, shocking it in cold and drying it in a hot dryer. Wool from old garments or cut from a bolt at a fabric store can be felted using this method. Felting compresses the fibers, making them very tight, thus no raveling.

While many designers recommend fusing the appliqué pieces to the background, I do not recommend that. To me, that defeats the purpose of wool, which is supposed to be soft and easy to sew through. I simply cut out the images to be appliquéd, pin them to the background, and buttonhole stitch them in place. Details such as veins in leaves and flowers, French knots, etc., can be added using simple embroidery stitches.

There may be an occasion when you get a wool that is very loosely woven and no matter how many times you felt it, because of the way it has been woven, it will never felt to the point where it will not ravel. In that instance, I do apply a bonding agent to the back of the piece to be appliquéd, but then I do not bond it to the background fabric, but simply stitch it to the background.

I do tell my customers, however, that if they have used a bonding agent in the past and are pleased with the results, then by all means do so again. Purchase the bonding agent of your choice and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

The traditional stitch for working with wool is the buttonhole stitch, but a primitive overcast stitch can also be used. Wool appliqué can be done by hand or machine.There are a lot of threads available and it’s best to try several to see which one works best for you. I like to use a variety of threads, often mixing them on the same project. Perle Cotton No. 12 and DMC floss are my two favorite threads. Perle Cotton No. 8 works well if the piece you are making has a primitive theme. I think No. 8 is too thick for most projects that are a little more sophisticated. There are also some wonderful hand-dyed wool threads available, many that have been dyed to match the wool. You can also add beading and ribbon embroidery to your wool projects.

Using hand-dyed wools for the appliqués is a delight for those of us to are enchanted with wonderful colors, which vary in depth and hue on a single piece of wool fabric.

All the quilts I have designed using wool appliqué have backgrounds from flannel. My favorite two flannels are Marcus Brothers flannel and Moda’s Marbled flannel. I do not pre-wash the flannel as it often has a sizing agent in it which gives it good body and makes it wonderful to stitch on.

I use flannel for the background of my quilts for three reasons:

1. It is much easier on my customer’s pocketbooks than wool.

2. When you sew the blocks together, you have a traditional seam. With an all-wool quilt, you either have lumpy seams or you must butt the edges of the blocks together and zigzag them. Then you must find a way to cover up where they have been joined.

3. If this is a quilt you are going to hang, you do not have to worry about it sagging. An all-wool quilt can be very heavy and possibly sag with time if it is a wallhanging.

While it would seem logical that quilts made from hand-dyed wool can be washed, I do not recommend washing your wool quilts. Depending on how the wool was woven and how it was felted, there is a possibility it can continue to shrink. I simply don’t think it’s worth taking the chance of ruining your quilt by washing it.

So, how to you care for a wool quilt? About once a year or so I put my quilts in the dryer on “Air” to remove the dust and refresh them. Should your quilt become soiled, you can have it professionally dry-cleaned or use a dry-cleaner packet you purchase at the grocery store. Pennyrugs and table toppers can be spot cleaned. Wool naturally repels water, so a spill can often be blotted up before any harm is done.

Wool projects are great “take along” projects. If you are waiting at the dentist’s office or for a child at an after-school activity, working on a wool project is a great way to pass the time and when completed you have a beautiful gift or treasure for yourself.

If you have not tried working with wool, I suggest you purchase a small project that can be completed quickly – one that has simple details. Once finished, I think you will be anxious to get that second project. I often tell my customers wool projects should carry a warning label because working with wool is addictive. It has certainly proven to be true for me!”

Thank you so much, Kaye! This is great information and all of us appliqué fans appreciate it. Please visit Kaye’s website to see her wonderful wool designs plus some fabulous patterns by other designers.

Here on the blog, hover your mouse over the designers and pattern companies in the sidebars to see others who specialize in wool.

Until next time,
Happy New Year,
Kay

Mistress of machines Janet showed me a border she’d made for a round robin. I couldn’t believe it. Yet another edge treatment for fusible appliqué!

At first I thought Janet had used the machine embroidery technique that I’d seen on her pieces in the past. I asked her to describe how she’d done this beautiful stitching. Here’s what she told me.

Usually, when machine embroidering, Janet hoops the fabric. This time, since the oak leaves and acorns were fused onto the background fabric, there was enough stability so that she could skip the hoop. Instead of stitching back and forth a little at a time to simulate three strands of embroidery floss, Janet did a free-motion stitch traveling in one direction all the time, and went around each motif two or three times close to the edges. The veins on the leaves were done the same way. She used variegated Star cotton thread from Coats & Clark, which is one of her favorite threads for her machine work.


Here’s the project so far, with just the center and Janet’s fabulous appliquéd border. Janet told me I could put this picture up, but shh! don’t tell the person whose center that is, or we’ll get busted. :)

Until next time,
Kay

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