Working and Playing with Wool

By Judy Moore Pullen

Working and playing with wool is wonderful, whether it is wool for applique, a wool background, or Persian Wool Yarn for stitching. It is also such a joy to stitch with friends like the Blanco Quilters on the Square. We met together to learn, stitch, and enjoy the company of like-minded friends for the day in the charming hill country town of Blanco, Texas where there is more creativity and generosity than one can shake the proverbial stick at.

Guild members and several guests, including a teenage granddaughter, Nora, gathered around several tables to conduct the necessary business of being a quilt guild, promoting education, and serving the community. Then things heated up when we turned on several crock pots and dyed wool using onion skins, transfer of color from pieces of red and green wool, and dip-dyed with Kool Aid. While the wool cooked, we discussed how and why to felt wool for applique, the benefit of felting wool, and sources for obtaining this wonderful fiber.    

Kits contained everything needed to stitch an 11” square block that could be the beginning of a table topper, book cover, or center of a table runner. Pattern pieces were traced on freezer paper, cut out, and pressed to felted wool. Wool shapes were then cut out and positioned on a white wool background. Students were encouraged to use the accompanying photo for placement or to arrange pieces of wool however they and their hearts desired. What a joy to see and hear students interacting with each other, complimenting and encouraging friends.

Happy stitching hearts!

In preparation for playing with threads, students were instructed to position Colonial Needle Grip-Its on forefinger and thumb on their dominant stitching hand. The repetitive motion of gripping and pulling a needle can result in hand and finger stress, but the Grip-Its are so helpful in pulling a needle through fabric. Then, Presencia Perle Cotton in several sizes, Presencia Floss, and Colonial Persian 100% Wool Yarn and their uses were demonstrated and samples were passed around. Students practiced threading John James Chenille and Tapestry Needles with Colonial Needle Threaders. Stripping floss for appliqueing with embroidery stitches was demonstrated. Students were encouraged to consider combining several strands of floss with a contrasting color of perle cotton just for fun, creating their own original variegated thread effect. We began appliqueing with a simple running stitch and chenille needle. Then, a tapestry needle was threaded with a contrasting color of thread to slide under the running stitches and weave back and forth, creating a one-of-a-kind serpentine effect.

Wool applique is often done using a whip stitch with matching thread color. However, playing with Colonial Persian Wool Yarn for applique was great fun. We talked about how and where to begin a blanket stitch, wrapping a perle cotton running stitch with wool yarn, appliqueing down the center of a leaf or around a heart shape with a daisy chain and wool yarn, then wrapping the outside edge of the stitch with a contrasting color of perle or floss.   

We spent the remainder of the afternoon playing with wool and threads, snacking on treats from the dessert table, and doing the Great Reveal: showing the results of our crock pot dyeing. Each dyed piece was a surprise, and several guild members went home with samples. Quilters love door prizes!!

And I loved spending the day with friends who were so eager to learn, to share, and to stitch. Students were encouraged to return to next month’s guild meeting with a completed wool applique piece from the class. I am always learning from my students. My students inspired me to stitch and dye more with wool, and to vacuum less…

Happy Stitching,
Judy Moore Pullen

STITCHING WITH FRIENDS – IT’S THERAPEUTIC

Stitching With Friends – It’s Therapeutic!

By Judy Moore Pullen

What a joy to host a group of friends for an afternoon of hand sewing. We named our stitch group JABS, which stands for Just Ask Berta Society, and there is a back story about why. Naturally, we are the JABBERS, and you can look at that in more than one way. We belong to the Highland Lakes Quilt Guild in Marble Falls, Texas, and meet once a month at a JABS members’ house. We have very few rules, and the laughter that occurs seems to be good medicine.

During one of our meetings a couple years ago, the idea came up to give our group a name. Names were tossed around. Whenever we had a question about something, we deferred to Berta, one of our members, to make the decision for us. Hence, the name, Just Ask Berta Society, JABS for short. Our dear friend Berta has since moved away but we keep the name in honor of her.

The name JABS could also be perceived as what we do – jab with needles, sittin’ and stitchin’ away while talking and laughing, trying not to create any world issues or problems. The group was begun as a hand applique group, and sometimes we veer from that focus to hand stitching bindings, hand quilting, or just peruse quilting magazines, books, and patterns within easy reach at our hostess’s home. We share ideas, do informal show and tell, and often peruse the internet via iPhone, searching for the next project, address of a quilt shop, or date and place of a quilt show. We are focused!

Sittin’ Stitchin’

As stitching friends arrived to my home this week, my one new rule was: stop in the dining room first and find two puzzle pieces that fit before you sit down to stitch. What an easy crowd! No need to insist, as all were eager to join in at the puzzle of 1,000 pieces on the dining room table. And what fun to listen to the various ways to work a puzzle: find all the straight edges first; work a small, specific section then place it inside the border; when finished, turn the pieces over, mix them up, and work from the back. Needless to say, our stitching was somewhat delayed, but we had fun and lots of pieces on the puzzle were put together.

Enforcing the Puzzle Rule!

One of our very few JABS rules is no cooking when you are hostess. When I was hostess for my first time a couple years ago, I was gently reprimanded for baking brownies. I have since learned to just shop, place snacks on serving dishes, and provide plates and napkins. This not only eliminates competition for coming up with an over-the-top dessert, it allows more time to stitch – makes good sense to me. I did have so much fun pulling containers out of my eclectic collection of odds and ends. I scattered old handmade crocheted potholders on my 1940-something enamel breakfast table instead of a tablecloth, omitting the need to iron. I also added a “Tip” jar, aka Mason jar with sticky note, but there were no donations. Why tip someone if you serve yourself?

Snacks and the empty Tip jar

I have read research that indicates that sewing and laughter are therapeutic, help reduce blood pressure, and provide a sense of calm. I can attest to both. Yes, sewing can sometimes be frustrating, but the rewards of working with one’s hands and creating something can be most fulfilling. The process is worth more than the product to my way of thinking. I can derive hours, days, weeks, even months of pleasure just pulling needle and thread through fabric. Of course, there was also the pleasure of shopping for the fabric, pattern, and notions prior to beginning. And then what joy to say, “All done. What’s next?” And that is just what we do at JABS. We hand stitch, relax, laugh, snack, share, learn, teach, build relationships. All are healthy and good for us.

I heartily recommend joining or starting a stitch group with friends. What a great way it has been for me to make new friends, since I was the old new kid in the neighborhood, and to spend time just flat out having fun!

Sew…What’s New?

Sew…What’s New?

By Judy Moore Pullen

The beginning of a new year reminds me of a brand new Big Chief writing tablet when I was in elementary school, oh soooo many years ago. Sometimes it seems as if it was shortly after the wheel was invented. A new writing tablet offered the opportunity to do more and better, whether it was improving my handwriting or the content of what I was writing. A brand-new year now inspires me to complete projects, and also nudges me to begin new ones. I get so excited about a new sewing project – and, at ¾ of a century old, I can if I want to.

When stitching with friends in our monthly hand applique group, I saw just the thing that I want to begin. My friend Sammye had a wonderful, scrappy, work-in-progress quilt hanging on her design wall. It is a Kim Diehl design from one of her books. The patchwork is completed and Sammye was working on the hand appliqued border at our stitching group, otherwise known as JABS, Just Ask Berta Society. The name of our group is another story. I have convinced myself that making this wonderful scrap quilt will help reduce my collection of scraps and stash.

Sammye’s work in progress made totally from scraps!

A little back story: I was blessed with a wonderful Home Ec. teacher in high school, Mrs. Crawford. She took many young girls under her wings. I learned to make garments to near perfection under Mrs. Crawford’s eagle eye, lining wool dresses and suits for which I won a Make It With Wool Award. Years later, when I decided to make a baby quilt for a friend, I gave no thought to the fact that quilt making is somewhat different than garment making. That first machine pieced log cabin baby quilt I made had ruffles, which were not part of the pattern. The borders did not fit. It was a mess and I was both bewildered and embarrassed. What did I do wrong? I used garment sewing techniques, easing and stretching and Brand X thread.

I decided to either quit making quilts or figure out how to make pieces fit flat. I worked on more accurate cutting and stitching, and I discovered Presencia Thread on my first visit to Houston Quilt Market. Previously, I thought thread was thread. However, Presencia begins with the very best 100% long staple Egyptian cotton. Their 40, 50, and 60 weight threads are all 3-ply, which means that the finest of the three, the 60 weight, is both very strong and helps promote accuracy by not taking up an extra thread when machine stitching. I love using ecru or medium gray for machine piecing. Presencia is also virtually lint-free, which both my machines and I like. The 60 weight is both so fine and strong, and comes in so many colors, that my hand applique stitches are invisible.

The Presencia 60 weight is so fine it makes hand stitches virtually invisible!

I am so looking forward to beginning my new scrap-and-stash quilt. Sammye said that she did not have to purchase any fabrics for her quilt by using her scraps. We’ll see how that works for me. It will be a win/win situation regardless. If I use up all of my scraps, whether or not I dig into my stash, I still may need some quilt shop shopping therapy and a new Big Chief Tablet.

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen

UFO’s Anyone??

UFO’s Anyone??

By Judy Moore Pullen

In preparation for having a friend come to my studio to work on a baby quilt, I realized that there was very little room for one more sewing machine or person to work. My organizing system is that of “stacking.” Floor space is limited in my back-of-the-garage sewing studio. Partitioned off from the garage, it is warmed in the winter and cooled in the heat of our Texas summers, light filters in from French door windows, but square footage is limited. I have petitioned my dear husband to build a barndominium that would provide living space for us, as well as a place for our toys, a workshop for him to paint barn quilt blocks, and more floor space to better organize my work. So far, his answer is “No.” He also added that we are too old…

So, I decided to try to engage a few creative brain cells and work with what is. I need to better organize the space I have. While digging through my stashes of books, patterns, fabrics, and projects begun but not completed, a light bulb came on: collect all unfinished projects into one or more containers and whittle them down, beginning with the New Year. Sarah, a very dear friend and former president of our Highland Lakes Quilt Guild, made a list of her UFO’s. She focuses on completing one project, and proudly shares it, deservedly so, at our guild meetings. She started this practice as our guild president a couple years ago, and has successfully and joyfully been able to pass along the fruits of her efforts.

I have heard that in order to “get out of the box,” you need a box in the first place. I have stacks of plastic bins with lids from moving experiences several years ago. They will be put to better use to hold my unfinished projects rather than sitting on top of the freezer in the garage. While digging through my stashes like a dog digging for a place to bury a bone, I discovered projects that made me wonder what I was thinking of in the first place when I began. Somewhat like what was I thinking when I bought that dress several years ago, knowing that I probably was not going to lose the 5 or more pounds that would make it fit well.  So, I tossed all UFO’s into bins, making a list, influenced by the season of the year and Santa, to prioritize them when the rest of organizing my studio was finished. That was the plan anyway.

But, if one project is good, perhaps a couple or three would be better. So, keeping in mind that: “We are successful because we are flexible,” a sign posted in one of the wonderful elementary schools where I have been privileged to teach, I modified my original plan. I do like to have several things to work on at one time. That way, when I find/make time to sew, I can work on whatever my little heart desires at the time. I work on what I am in the mood for: hand needleturn applique, machine piecing, wool applique, rug hooking, embroidery….

Since this project is a UFO, I now have the opportunity to use Colonial Needle’s new Colonial Persian yarn, made in the USA, along with Presencia Perle cotton sizes 8 and 12, and Presencia floss. If a little is good, a variety of excellent quality and pretty threads is much better!

Now you can see one of the sources of my organization/excessive UFO problems: I simply enjoy doing too many things! I do not want to miss anything, except vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms. I remember a sign that said, “Housework makes you ugly.” For me, “Sewing makes you happy and pretty.” That is my story and I am sticking to it.

Better organizing my sewing space has also made me happy. In the process, I unearthed an antique apron that went missing several months ago. Found it, now I am happy. I also located several more projects that I am eager to begin. Therefore, I retrieved more bins from the top of the freezer and labeled them “NEW PROJECTS TO BEGIN ASAP.” My thinking is that if, like hot tea on a cold winter day, one new project is good, several are better. Still not giving up on that barndominium request. And, there are fewer plastic storage bins on top of the freezer in the garage.

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen

Slow Down and Relax by Going a Little Crazy!

Slow Down and Relax by Going a Little Crazy!

By Judy Moore Pullen

Do you sometimes get in a fizz with too much to do and too little time, especially during the holidays?  Have you heard the expression, “The faster I go, the behinder I get”? Do you have lists of lists and check them more than twice? During this season of anticipation, do you sometimes lose focus and get caught up with things, stuff? Create a time, place, and space just for yourself.

Write yourself “in” on your calendar: ME, MYSELF, AND I. Sometimes just the act of writing things down seems to make it more official, more important just like you are. Schedule yourself on a day or days and time that is just for you. I discovered that I was elbow deep in dishes until 8 o’clock most evenings. By the time I hung up my dishtowel and turned off the kitchen light, I was too wilted to treat myself to anything other than ice cream, which is still a good idea…But I did not have the energy or desire to do something creative like hand stitching. So, I located some research that said something about your largest meal of the day should be lunch, and that eating light in the evening was better for you. This is not a direct quote, mind you, but it fits into my schedule, opened up time in the evenings to relax and sew, and I am sticking to it. So, I wrote myself in on my calendar each evening. Granted, there are occasions when something special pre-empts my evenings to sew, but those are rare. Writing myself in my calendar was giving me permission to treat myself. After all, I have 12 hours in the day for other things.

Then I staked out a place for myself: my pink wing-back chair, pre-loved and purchased from a resale shop some years ago. I prefer to call it my pink nest. It is feathered with pillows. I have a “just my size” footstool for propping up my feet that brings my work on top of my lap pillow up to the right level for hand stitching. My comfort zone enables me to relax, breathe deeply, and get into a creative mode where ideas can begin to take shape. It is my happy place.

The space around my nest is somewhat cluttered, try as I might to be neater. I begin each evening with hot tea or ice water on the table within easy reach. There is a pretty little ceramic container once used for sprigs of flowers that now holds scraps and trimmings of threads. If one pincushion is good, several are better. Each one serves as a lovely reminder of someone who gave it to me. Containers hold projects. Some containers are plastic and I can easily see which project is inside. Others are re-purposed baskets or boxes that are just fun to have around and serve as décor during the day. I love to collect old containers, sometimes creating a piece of wool applique and/or embroidery and gluing it to the lids. A flexible arm lighted magnifier is positioned so that I can more readily thread needles and see my work. A vintage lamp on my right is just so pretty to have nearby.

crazy quilt

Sometimes going crazy with stitches and playing with needle and threads is a great way to relax.

I have several projects going at once…not uncommon among those of us who have a passion for needle and thread. Sometimes I just enjoy adding more hand stitching to a crazy quilt block that has been a WIP (Work in Progress) for some time. It is a mish-mash of fabrics, threads, stitches, and embellishments. I am still waiting for it to speak to me to tell me when it is completed. Zig-zag machine stitches around the outside edges help to stabilize the block, but there is still plenty of space to play. Some evenings, it is just the warm-up for getting my creativity in gear. I keep notepad and pencil handy for jotting down ideas, making sketches, and writing notes to myself. I prefer my time, place, and space to be quiet, but that is not always the case.

I so look forward to my time and nesting place and space each day. It helps me to pace myself during the day while doing more mundane things. It is a reward that I deserve, and so do you. I am thinking about setting up an alternate nest, in the den. Sometimes, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday football can be just too much of a good thing, and I need my own time out.

GREAT GIFTS FOR A GOOD FRIEND

GREAT GIFTS FOR A GOOD FRIEND

By Judy Moore Pullen

Sometimes we just want to do something nice for a good friend who is a quilter or stitcher, and it is not even her birthday. One of my suggestions is a gift basket full of notions and sewing-related items.

I love to collect old baskets to use as containers for gifts. Finding just the right size and shape container is part of the fun of gift giving. Anyone can wrap a package with paper, but a basket makes it more personal. What quilter doesn’t need an extra basket for holding supplies and a project? And what’s more, a basket is part of the gift!

I try to pay close attention to the interests and likes of my friends. I observe colors, designs, and kinds of fabrics that friends use when working on projects. Are they brights, 1800’s civil war, batiks, or whimsical fabric shoppers? Do they prefer solids, stripes, florals, large or small prints? When we gather for our monthly JABS applique group (JUST ASK BERTA SOCIETY) I listen to other JABBERS as they discuss fabric purchases, works in progress, future and even completed projects. As we show what we are working on, I take mental notes about each JABBER’S preferences. At quilt guild and club meetings, members show and share projects that inspire and encourage. Mary, one of my dear friends, loves blues. Sue, another quilting friend, has a passion for owls and orange fabrics. Jo loves batiks. Janis and I are fans of all things wonky. I look forward to learning more about Kathy Jo, a new friend, and her choices.

The word “stash” is both a noun and a verb. I enjoy going through my stash (noun) of fabrics that I have stashed (past tense verb), and selecting a set of coordinating fabrics that my friends will enjoy. Purchasing yardage rather than fat quarters allows me to cut lengthwise and/or crosswise as well as bias strips for sashing and binding. I can cut my own fat quarters from yardage of fabric to place as a liner for a gift basket.

I enjoy filling gift baskets for friends with Presencia perle cotton and floss. They come in beautiful solid colors as well as variegated. The range of sizes, 3, 5, 8, 12, and 16, allows so many choices for friends who hand applique and enjoy stitchery. I include both perle cotton and floss for cotton and wool applique. It is also great fun and a surprise to combine a strand of perle cotton with a few strands of floss of a contrasting color. Perle cotton and floss encourage my friends to play with threads.

Roxanne’s Quilter’s Choice marking pencils in white and gray also make a nice addition to a friend’s gift basket. I love needle turn hand applique and using freezer paper on top of applique pieces. Trace the applique design on the dull side of freezer paper. Cut out freezer paper on the drawn line, and press the shiny side to the right side of the fabric with a hot, dry iron. Position the wrong side of the fabric on top of sandpaper to hold fabric in place.

Tracing Applique with Roxanne Marking Pencils

Using Roxanne’s Quilter’s Choice marking pencil, trace around the cut edge of the freezer paper. Cut away fabric a scant ¼ inch from the freezer paper for your seam allowance. You can always trim away more. Peel away the freezer paper from the applique fabric and position the applique fabric on the background. Secure in place with Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It, straight pins, or thread baste. Using a John James or Mary Arden Applique size 10 needle threaded with 50 or 60 weight thread, tuck under the seam allowance so that the mark from the marking pencil does not show.

I love giving gifts. Part of the fun of gift giving is collecting containers to hold the gift, and selecting items that are personal and of high quality. Gift giving is kind of like taking a trip – part of the fun is the preparation, and the other part is the participation. Gifts for a quilter or hand stitcher do not have to be pricey, but of good quality and genuine thoughtfulness.

Finished Gift Basket!

Awesome Appliquers

Awesome Appliquers

By Judy Moore Pullen

Turn hand applique into awesome instead of awful. Many quilters are very good at machine piecing and applique, but tend to shy away from hand applique. I had the pleasure of spending a day with five quilters who wanted to learn to hand applique at Uptown Blanco Textile Studio in Blanco, Texas.

The Textile Studio is located directly across the street from the historic Old Blanco Courthouse, where monthly Market Days was being held in this charming hill country town. The interior of the building is a step or two back in time, featuring floor to high ceiling shelves, finely restored and packed with fabulous name-brand fabrics, and antique and new quilts suspended from poles and heavy ropes. Plentiful samples inspire one to try something new in an old-timey setting.

A very happy Judy, sharing her trunk show at Uptown Blanco Textile Studio

The five ladies who I had the joy of spending the day with wanted to learn needle turn applique. I did not have to coerce them. They were ready to try any and all techniques. Pam was a true beginner, Jan wanted to expand and learn wool applique, Kathy works and plays at the shop, and Carol brought her friend Christine. “Tips, Tricks, and Techniques” was the title of the class, and we also worked and played with tools. Using one of my original designs for a table runner, we jumped right in learning about using freezer paper for things other than wrapping for food preservation.

I also conducted a demo that I call “Needle Threading 101” using white fabric on top of a pillow, standing the needle straight up and down, and thereby having both hands free to thread a needle. White fabric allows you to see the eye of the needle more clearly. Using Presencia 50 weight 100% cotton, cut the thread straight across, moisten, pinch flat, and insert the thread into the needle. If the needle does not thread the first time, rotate the pillow, as a needle eye is punched and there is a right and wrong side to the eye of the needle. Repeat: cut, moisten, pinch, and thread the needle. Pull about 4” of thread through the eye of the needle. Hold the eye between your fingertips and pull the spool of thread to up to your muscle, about 18”, and cut. Make a quilter’s knot in the cut end.

We began by threading a John James Applique Needle size 10. Just as some people prefer Fords and others prefer Chevrolets, I wanted my students to test drive a milliners needle and quilters betweens needle. I occasionally switch off to different needles just for a change. It gives my fingers and hands a rest. For hand applique, you want a needle that is so smooth and slender that it readily punctures the fabric rather than pushes. If your eyesight is better than mine, perhaps you might try a size 11. The bigger the number, the finer the thread and hand sewing needles- just like us, as we “mature” we get finer. Using Needle Grip-Its also helps with hand stress that is the result of the repetitive motion of gripping and pulling a needle. I also shared information about the ergonomic benefits of a Roxanne thimble and using the side motion of one’s finger for pushing a needle through fabric.

We discussed placement of applique pieces, using a light box and/or clear plastic with the design traced on the plastic with a permanent fine tip marker. The design offered opportunities to practice placement of a curved bias-cut vine, leaves, and three petals of a flower. For portability and ease of applique, students could use Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It with or without the addition of straight pins and basting. I love to applique thin stems, so students were shown how to overcut stem fabric on the bias and trim it down to make a slender stem, or one that was smaller at the end that tucked under the flower. If you want the tip of a leaf to just touch the stem, there is a trick for that as well.

The flower consisted of three heart shapes, two of which were tucked under the center heart. A heart shape offers the opportunity to stitch straight sides, curves, innie and outie points. Having three heart shapes in the flower gave the gals plenty of practice, and I must say they all did so very well.

Two smiling “Awesome Appliquers”

The day was not only spent discussing the finer points of needle turn applique. We talked about children, grandchildren, recipes, gardening, and many other things so dear to our hearts. One of the best parts of spending the day with friends and stitching is building rapport or womanship. Customers peeked in, curious to see what we were doing. Many thanks to Ruth, shop manager, and Monica, her helper for the day. They provided encouragement and cut fabric before we left. One must not leave without taking fabric home, or patterns, or supplies, or some memory of this wonderfully welcoming quilt shop and Textile Studio. This is an unspoken rule of and for all quilters.

Rule #1: Never Leave Empty Handed

I am so happy to have been a part of converting machine piecers and quilters into hand appliquers, and these new appliquers are truly awesome. There was no whining, nary a word of complaint, just fun and learning a new skill. I also feel as if I made some new friends, which is such a joy. And, I learned things from my students as well. They shared tips, tricks, and techniques with me that I can use and that will improve the quality of my work and play.

 

My Pink Nesting Place

My Nesting Place

By Judy Moore Pullen

We all need a place to relax, create, and play. My place is a pink wing-back chair, surrounded by things that make me comfortable and cozy. My pink chair is like a “learning set” which I encouraged parents to provide for their children during my years as a public-school educator. It is the place that my body and soul go to and get ready to hand sew.

nesting place

My Pink Nesting Place

I discovered my pink chair in a resale shop in San Angelo, Texas, years ago. My pink chair has accompanied me on several moving ventures and adventures. It has suffered some dings, which I cover with an old piece of lace across the wings. Try as I might to connect with my pincushion on the table next to my pink chair, it continues to endure punctures of needles and pins in the upholstered arm on the right. A handmade rolled pillow, a gift from friends years ago, fits across the back to better conform to my back.

On the right side of my nest is a once discarded small end table that my dear husband, Don, picked up at a garage sale before we met. I have adopted it, placed a lovely vintage lamp on top, and scatter balls and spools of thread, pretty little bowls for scraps, a funny coaster for refreshment, and an array of pencils, scissors, note pads, and flat out stuff.

Adjacent to my table, I have extended my nest to include the arm of a big leather sofa. I admit to having more than one hand stitching project going at a time…I have a problem. The arm of the sofa is large enough to hold an old jewelry box encrusted with black beads, also a great find from a resale shop. On the inside of the box, my jewels of choice are needles, straight pins, needle threaders, small scissors, a Roxanne Thimble, Needle Grip-its, and bits and pieces of needful things. There is still room on the arm of the sofa to hold a stack of on-going projects.

Box for all my "jewels"!

Box for all my “jewels”!

Since I am AARP age, I have bonded to a lighted magnifier with a flexible arm that sits on the floor on the left of my pink chair. Early in the evening, if the stitching I am doing is not too small, I bend the flexible arm and place the light right over my work. As the evening progresses and my eyes tire, or if my work is small and detailed, I lower my light and peer through the magnified glass.

There is another small table to the left of my pink chair that belongs to Don as he joins me in the evening, paws up in his recliner. I have been reminded, a few times, that I have my own table…but he is still willing to share if I need to spread out.

Sometimes during the day, I place things on my pink chair: mending, a new quilt magazine to share with Don for ideas for the barn quilt blocks he paints, a bag of chocolates for munching in the evening.

My nest is a pink chair, a place where I am comfortable and my mind and spirit get set to sew.  I jot down ideas as they bubble up in my mind during the evening. My nest gets messy, but so do I when I am in the throes of making something by hand. It is my place. I have ownership. I was once offered a brand-new recliner, which I promptly turned down. Only now is my pink chair perfectly broken in.

I believe we all need a place where we can go, do those things we enjoy, and just be. I hope that my pink chair lasts as long as I do. It is a gift that I gave myself years ago that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. A thought just bubbled up into my mind:  I need to put my old pink princess phone on the table next to my pink chair!

Wishing you a nest place of your own.

Happy Stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen

Designing & Playing with Wool

Designing & Playing with Wool

By Judy Moore Pullen

If one plays around with fabric and threads, one can discover her own inner creative child, which is what gracious members of the Wimberley Quilt Guild in Wimberley, Texas, did last week. I had been invited to do a lecture and trunk show featuring wool applique, followed by an afternoon workshop. I passed around samples of hand applique using felted wool from the bolt and re-cycled wool. We also cooked/over-dyed wool in crock pots using onion skins, Kool-Aid, and a color transfer technique.

In the afternoon, after a discussion of becoming aware of designs all around us, guild members began thinking and talking about how they could transform several pieces of wool and a bag full of wool scraps into their own personal designs. I just love the process part of a project, and the easy-going interaction of the ladies was an important part of that process. They were encouraged to do “walk-abouts”, and see what others were doing, offer suggestions and comments. Some wanted their design ideas complete before beginning to stitch, while others jumped right in and took needle and thread to fabric.

wool applique prep

Prepping!

Wool applique prep

We also discussed tools: John James and Mary Arden Chenille Needles for wool applique and Tapestry Needles for wrap stitching. Chenille needles work so well with wool. They are strong, have a sharp point, and the shaft opens the fibers of wool so that the thread glides easily through. The elongated eye makes threading easy with Presencia’s Perle Cotton and Embroidery Floss. Tapestry needles are blunt, therefore make sliding the needle under stitches and not penetrating the fabric much easier. Wrapping stitches with contrasting colors of thread with a tapestry needle is part of the fun.

The ladies also played and experimented with Colonial Needle Felting Needles and Box Wool Roving. Needle felting and roving opens up the door to so many design possibilities.

wool roving

Coloinal’s Paint Box Wool

One of the secrets of using roving is to separate the roving into little see-through wisps. Place a piece of wool on a 2”-3” thick block of foam rubber. Layer of wisp of roving on top. Hold the felting needle straight up and down and punch the roving gently into the wool. Add more wisps of different colors to create texture. Gently sweep the tip of the needle against the wisps to make shapes. Couch with Presencia Perle Cotton or Embroidery Floss in a variegated or solid color if you desire.

Eleanor, who is going into the second grade this fall, created a one-of-a-kind piece of over-dyed wool by layering 3 colors of 100% wool and brown onion skins.

Eleanor's Dyed Wool

Eleanor showing off her dyed wool

She rolled up the layers and tied the bundle with strips of wool, then cooked the bundle in a crock pot. She also had great fun cutting her own shapes of wool and stitching with Perle Cotton. Eleanor took to needle felting and hand applique like a proverbial duck to water.

wool applique

“Just Play and have fun!”

Just play and have fun! If it is not perfect and you are, call it a one-of-a-kind piece of folk art. You will improve with practice and play. In my opinion, there is great value in work done by the human hand and not “perfect”. I was so inspired by Eleanor and all of the gracious members of the Wimberley Quilt Guild. They are great teachers, eager to learn, and demonstrate great community spirit and creativity.

Playing with Needle and Thread

Playing with Needle and Thread

By Judy Moore Pullen

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting a program on “The Wonderful World of Wool” at the Colorado Valley Quilters’ Guild in La Grange, Texas, home of the Texas Quilt Museum. What an amazing group of ladies whose hearts and hands serve not only their families, but their community as well. Many serve as docents for the museum, provide books and quilts for families, and share their talent and creativity with others.

One of the wonderful things about wool is that I can play with threads. John James Chenille Needles, sizes 18-26 provide the opportunity to use beautiful Presencia Finca Floss and all sizes of Presencia Perle Cotton threads.

I have convinced myself that the older I get, the bigger my number, the “finer” I get. This helps me remember that the bigger the number, the finer the thread and hand sewing needles. Machine sewing needles are just the opposite. Presencia Perle Cotton threads, sizes 3, 5, 8, 12, and 16 are the same: the bigger the number the finer, smaller the diameter of the thread.

John James Chenille Needles have a larger, very smooth shaft that opens the fibers on wool. Those wool fibers of course, close again after the thread is pulled through. Presencia Perle Cotton size 5 can easily be threaded through the elongated eye of a size 18 chenille needle. Try playing with a combination of a strand or 2 or 3 of Presencia Finca Floss with a contrasting color of Presencia Perle Cotton and stitch at the same time. Perhaps you would like to test this thread combination on a scrap of wool before stitching on your project or throw caution to the wind and just begin stitching!

I also like to play with what I call a “wrap” stitch. I sew a running stitch line of Perle Cotton size 8, solid color, on a scrap of wool, making my stitches about ¼” long. With a contrasting color of Perle 8 and a John James Tapestry Needle, size 22, I come up from the back of the wool at the bottom of the line of stitching. Then I slide the needle just under the first thread from right to left, not stitching through the wool.  A tapestry needle is dull, so I can easily slide my needle under the next stitch, right to left, and continue with this pattern.  Try it, and take a look at what you have created. Consider doing the “wrap” down the line of running stitches to where you began with yet another color of contrasting thread.  Think of all the times you can use these great decorative applique stitches and have fun while playing.

quilting, applique

Wool applique wrap stitch example

quilting, applique

Up-close view of wool applique using Presencia threads

I think we have some new wool applique enthusiasts from the Colorado Valley Quilt Guild. They also seemed to enjoy seeing all the options and surprises that can result from playing with needles and threads. The choices are endless, and the process is fun and rewarding.

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen