“She is so cute and fluffy!” is one of many elated comments I hear from children when Sable Ann enters Central Library in San Angelo, Texas. Sable Ann visits at the amazing Children’s Library weekly as one of their Tail-waggin’ Tutors. Children as well as adults ask so kindly, “May I pet her?” From the time we exit the car, to the time we get back in at the end of the day, so much kindness is shown to her and I by library visitors.
The Children’s Library is like walking through Alice’s looking glass of wonders, with books and toys galore, abundant activities, comfy child and adult-size furniture, and cuddlies for snuggling and reading within alcoves in the library walls. Giggles and laughter are encouraged, rather than the usual: “shh shh”. Sable Ann is well-known to the children, and they ever so politely ask to take turns walking her around the child-size kitchens and food trucks where pretend food is prepared, and building blocks, computers, and shelves of books are readily available.
Sable Ann sat up-right in my lap as her TV debut began with local TV personality, Sonora Scott, and Fr. Richard Summers. They read to the children and engaged them with questions and discussion. Prior to reading the funny Dr. Suess book, The Cat in the Hat, we played with rhyming words in preparation for the children’s help in reading the book together.
Then we moved over to the craft tables and this is where the real fun began! An abundance and variety of beautiful Presencia Perle Cotton and Floss, Persian Wool threads, plus Colonial Needle Chenille and Tapestry Needles size 18 were generously provided by this fine family company. Eager little hands of creative children were helped by loving parents, plus Miss Connie, Miss Becky, and Miss Jeanette, while Miss Trudy played the keyboard to the tune of the “Sable Song,” also known as the BINGO song.
Brown felt dog bone shapes were then turned into one-of-a-kind bookmarks with help from loving adult hands. Tips were shared with children and adults during the sittin’, singin’, and stitchin’ time.
Anything can be turned into a pattern! The pattern for the felt dog bone shape is a small sign that I hang on my doorbell that reads: “Ring the bell, win a dog.”
Place a pillow on your lap to rest your arms and to bring the work up to a comfortable position as you’re stitching
More tips, tricks, and techniques were offered and practiced as the children and adults happily stitched and sang. Including, how to thread a needle.
How to thread a needle:
Stand it in a pin cushion, which will allow you to use both hands and better see the eye of the needle
Cut the thread straight across to help avoid fraying the thread
Moisten and pinch flat the cut end of the thread.
Now use a needle threader or a loop of Presencia 50 weight thread as a needle threader if one is not available.
How do you spell joy?
Read daily to and with a child in your lap or nearby. Sing, stitch, savor the company of like-minded friends. One more tip to parents: read aloud to your child from the day you bring your baby home for the first time. Prop up a book, use a sweet voice and eye contact as you read.
In addition to research that indicates reading aloud daily to a child from infancy helps promote success later on in school as well as social situations, you will be creating memories that last a lifetime for you as well as your child.
One more tip:
Have a sweet, loving, fluffy 4-legger nearby. Sable is a local celebrity, so after her home-cooked meal when we arrived home after her TV debut, she promptly curled up, closed her eyes, and probably dreamed about her wonderful day reading and loving children who happily loved her back.
Are you searching for activities to keep your youngsters as well as yourself active, creative, and off the cell phone and computer for a while this summer? Try making crayon blocks with your favorite people for fun or to preserve a summertime memory. Yes, it is ok, even encouraged that you color on fabric with crayons for this one.
My Favorite Crayon Block Quilt
My second-grade students surprised me with an entire quilt of crayon blocks that they SECRETLY made for me in 2001, the last day of school before retiring from my 37-year teaching career. At the time, my children had been studying famous artists and their art work. Each child selected his and her favorite piece of art to turn into a crayon block. Our art teacher’s daughter was one of my many wonderful children that year. For our end-of-year party, my students and their parents surprised me with a quilt made from each child’s favorite piece of art. Not one child peeped the secret of their surprise for me!! What a joy to have such a treasure of my children’s art work and the quilt made by their parents, in addition to the gift of their parents sharing their wonderful children with me that year. Such a precious memory!
So, have some fun this summer, reading, connecting, and creating not only crayon blocks, but memories as well. Memories of a trip, a shared experience of fishing with a grandparent, shopping, a pet or pets, building a birdhouse and watching a pair of birds work together to make a new home. The process of creating crayon blocks is just as much fun as having the finished product for a memory of some summertime fun! Here are some tips, tricks, and techniques for what worked well for me in my classroom, as well as recently, at our wonderful library for over 30 children and their parents.
How to Make a Crayon Block Quilt:
Materials You Will need:
Rotary cutting supplies
Colorful fabric for borders (scraps work well for a fun scrappy look)
Crayons! (Fabric crayons not necessary)
Dry iron and press mat
Plain white paper towels
Children’s book with great illustrations for inspiration
Cookies…optional but highly encouraged.
Step 1: Prepare the Fabric
Rinse well or gently pre-wash muslin to remove sizing. Dry gently in dryer. Press.
Step 2: Cut
Cut muslin into blocks – I suggest 12 1/2” square for 12” finished block.
Cut freezer paper into squares smaller than muslin.
With hot dry iron, center shiny side of freezer paper square to wrong side of muslin to stabilize fabric for drawing with crayons.
Step 3: Color!
Use your crayons to make a beautiful piece of art. Try to encourage children to keep their drawings within the size of the freezer paper in order to have room to stitch 1/4” seams for borders.
Step 4: Set Crayon Drawing
When your artists are finished creating, remove freezer paper.
Place muslin on press mat, crayon side up, then place sheet of plain white paper towel on top of crayon drawing.
*Make sure you remove freezer paper before pressing paper towel.
Press paper towel with hot dry iron to heat-set crayon. Let cool. Remove paper towel.
**With direct supervision (and your own good judgment regarding using a hot iron) show each child where to hold the handle of the iron. Place the other hand behind one’s back to keep it safe.
Step 5: Finish Block for Quilting
Pre-cut 4 border strips to width of your choice. I cut 2 ½” wide strips. Stitch one strip on each side of heat-set block.
Stitch bordersto each side if desired.
*Consider letting youngsters stitch borders as a great beginning sewing machine project with your direct supervision.
Carefully press seams, keeping hot iron away from crayon.
Proudly show and share your sample!
**This crayon block will probably not withstand washing, so treat as you would a fabric wall hanging or treasured pillow.
Show children a sample of your own crayon block prior to starting. Discuss, ask, and answer questions. Model the steps and procedure when you prepared your sample.
Don’t forget to add a name and date for future reference to front of block.
Encourage children to show and share with others.
Read a book together if you are working with children to help give ideas for crayon drawings. Predict what will happen next, discuss illustrations, characters, events, problems and solutions, ideas for children’s crayon blocks. Side note: As an educator of little ones, I cannot stress the importance of early literacy enough! Share the joy of books by reading daily to your newborn baby and other youngsters, modeling your own enjoyment of reading, visiting the library together, and even getting your child their very own library card to experience the delight of checking out books on their own. You will not regret it!
Enjoy! Individual blocks can framed, placed on refrigerator, sent to a special person, turned into a quilted block with others, made into a pillow, wall hanging, etc.
To applique is to apply a piece of fabric on top of another piece of fabric background or on top of a pieced background. This can be done by hand and/or machine, using a variety of methods and techniques. An applique (n.) is the fabric stitched on top of a background, either by hand stitching or using a sewing machine.
What I love about applique:
I love applique for so many reasons! My passion for it is in both the process and the product. I find it awesome, while some find it awful to do. At one time, I belonged to a group of like-minded hand applique stitchers. We could multi-task: sit and stitch and enjoy each other’s company at the same time. I hope to sway some readers to try applique, so this subject probably will probably require more blog posts.
The Economics of applique:
There is actually a little economics history related to applique. Years ago, those who made quilts for function only were probably the first scrap quilt makers. If you had to raise the cotton or sheep, harvest the product, spin the fiber, weave the cloth, make the garment, all while struggling to put food on the table and survive, the most efficient and economical way to make quilts for your family was to join scraps of fabric side by side of whatever was left over from worn out clothing. Over time, when funds were more available, and a quiltmaker desired to make a quilt pretty, she could arrange bits and pieces of fabric together to perhaps design flowers for embellishment and applique them on top of the scrappy pieces. Quiltmakers with even more money and time on their hands added hand applique to their quilt tops. Think crazy quilts, broderie perse.
My journey with applique:
As I enjoy the process – the doing of something (except for dusting and vacuuming), hand applique is a joy for me to do! There are so many ways to hand applique, and my favorite way is needle turn. I remember the moment I saw someone demonstrating it at a local quilt show years ago. She looked so relaxed, so confident, and her work was beautiful. I picked her brain and observed for a while, then decided to try my hand at needle turn applique at home.
In the beginning, I was somewhat self-taught, ironing a freezer paper template on the right side of my applique fabric, tracing around the cut edge with a pencil, then cutting the fabric with a scant 1/4” seam allowance. I left the freezer paper in place as I hand stitched, using thread color that matched the background and tried to conceal my stitches. I quickly learned that matching the color of the thread to the color of the applique fabric was much better. While working and playing in a quilt shop at the time, I offered to teach a hand applique class. When a student asked what kind of needle I used, I promptly replied: “Whatever I can see to thread.” Let’s fast forward from that time, since I have learned so much more about tools and techniques, often times by trial and several errors.
There are a few things that make my needle turn applique look so much better, and much more relaxing and enjoyable to do:
Choice of Needle
Needle Grip-Its from Colonial Needle Co.
The invisible stitch
A lighted magnifier
A pillow on my lap
Cookies and coffee…
Let’s break those down:
Presencia 60 weight thread is my thread of choice for needle turn applique. It is made from the finest quality long staple Egyptian cotton, is 3-ply for strength, and virtually lint free. The bigger the number, the finer the thread, which helps make my stitches virtually invisible. I want my hand stitching to last, so 3-ply (three strands of fiber wrapped together) makes this very fine thread so strong. Whenever possible, I unwind a strand of thread and lay it across my applique fabric to check for the best color. Sometimes I audition several colors. My first glance is my best clue to the color that will become one with my applique.
2. Choosing your needle
John James’ Signature Collection Needles are my needles of choice. They are made of the very finest precision engineered steel, making them so strong. With their proprietary finish, these needles glide easily through fabric rather than prodding it out of place. They are available in 4 different kinds: Embroidery – sizes 7, 8, 9; Milliners – sizes 9, 10, 11; Quilting – sizes 7, 8, 9, 10, 11; and Sharps – sizes 7, 8, 9, 10. As with thread sizes, the bigger the number, the finer the hand sewing needle. Machine sewing needles are the opposite.
My needle of choice with my knobby fingers, is a Milliners size 10. It is longer and allows me to sweep the seam allowance under as I go, concealing the drawn line of my applique. I now remove the freezer paper prior to stitching.
*TIP: in tight places like an acute “innie” point, I have a Quilting needle size 7 already threaded. I park my Milliners needle in the background, and make tiny stab stitches with my threaded Quilting needle to invisibly secure those tricky little “innie” points.
You may prefer to begin with a different John James Signature Collection needle or one of the many others offered by Colonial Needle Company. Just as some shoes are comfier than others, see what is the best fit for you and your hands.
3. Needle Grip-Its
Prior to stitching, I secure two little adhesive clear circles of Needle Grip-Its to my needle-holding hand on my forefinger and thumb where I will be gripping the needle. Faithfully using these little magic circles, I have no pain in my hands, and can stitch to my heart’s delight! These tiny adhesive circles stay securely in place during the repetitive motion of gripping and pulling a needle.
4. Roxanne Thimbles
I was happily gifted with a Roxanne Thimble several years ago, and it is the gift that keeps on giving, helping me to painlessly push the needle through fabric, regardless of what kind of hand stitching I am doing. The sideways motion of using Roxanne’s Thimble is better for one’s hands. Getting a correct fit is also important, and quilt shops who carry them are so helpful. Colonial Needle also has a handy info sheet on their website which can be found here.
*TIP: add a Roxanne's Thimble to your gift list, as well as matching Roxanne's Thimble earrings! They are so cute and readily identify you as a hand stitcher.
5. Lighted Magnifier
The lighted magnifier allows me to place light right over my work and more easily see where I am stitching, especially the tip of my needle as I insert it into the background fabric then upward through the underside of the fold.
6. Lap Pillow
The pillow on my lap helps bring my work to a more comfortable position so I can rest my arms and be at ease.
7. And last but not least…
The cookies and coffee, inspire me to take breaks to get up and stretch, walk into the kitchen, and let my little dogs out for a break for them, too.
Each of these tools will help your hand applique stitch become nearly invisible, strong, and secure. I think of the fold of the seam allowance of an applique as a cliff, and I am standing on the edge of the cliff. I bring my needle up from the inside of the applique to the back side of the fold, then “jump off the cliff” straight down with my needle into the background. Then travel with the point of my needle under the background a very few threads and come up with the needle just under the fold, the edge of the cliff. If you jump off the cliff/fold to the left or the right with your needle, your thread will show.
*TIP: Instead of scrunching the excess background fabric in my left hand while stitching with my right hand, I roll the excess fabric so that it fits neatly into the palm of my left hand. This keeps my fabric smoother, reduces stress on my hand, and helps prevent me from stitching my background to the wrong places as in my pillow or my clothing. I have learned a lot from my many mistakes.
Oh, the joy of needle turn applique! I feel like an artist, a sculptor, and I can “make the applique my own” by changing a shape as I go. Hand applique helps slow me down, listen to music or a recorded book, watch TV, talk with friends, or just sit quietly, breathe, and put a little love into every stitch. I can take a project with me on a walk along the river, sit down on a bench and stitch whenever and wherever I choose. I enjoy sitting outside in the cool mornings with my little girls, being serenaded by the birds’ songs and stitching by hand.
There are several ways to applique, and I look forward to sharing them with you as well. There is beauty in hand work, a human quality that is beneficial for the hand stitcher as well as for the person who admires or receives the work of one’s hands and heart. Be kind to yourself and savor every stitch. Just as my dad had a box full of hand tools that helped him with his work and play, there are tools that are helpful to those who enjoy hand applique and think of it as Awesome. There is joy and grace in simple things.
There are so many ways to applique, both by hand and by machine. For many stitchers, the word “applique” is not pleasant. I avoided it when I first began making quilt tops, even though I do love to work with my hands. And…I am somewhat less annoying when I am hand stitching. I well remember the first time I saw a young woman doing needle turn applique at a quilt show several years ago. I was amazed at how easily she shaped the heart applique and made nearly invisible stitches. The appliqued heart appeared to float on the background fabric. I knew that was something I wanted to learn to do. Now, however, there are several things that I especially enjoy about needle turn applique.
Thing 1: For needle turn applique, I spend very little time on preparation for stitching, as opposed to prepared applique techniques. I can more leisurely spend time stitching, and less time turning the seam allowance and securing it with glue, starch and a hot iron or basting thread, etc. Not to be negative about prepared applique, however, there certainly are advantages, about which I will write in blogs to come.
Thing 2: I love using these Milliners Needles from John James in a size 10 for hand applique. The Signature Collection needles are manufactured of the finest steel, polished so they smoothly glide through fabric. The points of these needles are so sharp that they pierce rather than push the fabric, which is so helpful for accuracy, and allows me to continue stitching for a longer period of time. The longer length of Milliners needles allows me to smoothly sweep under the seam allowance. To be more specific, I sweep the seam allowance under the extended thumbnail of my fabric-holding left hand. That thumbnail is a great tool, and I suggest it on my workshop supply lists. A claw-length thumbnail is not necessary, but long enough to secure the seam allowance in place as you use your Milliners needle and 60 weight thread.
Thing 3: There are several things about thread that also help to make your hand applique stitches nearly, if not completely, invisible. Remember: The bigger the number, the finer the thread, and hand sewing needles. Just like us: the more candles on our birthday cakes, the finer we are!! (Machine sewing needles are just the opposite.) My thread of choice for hand applique is Presencia Finca 50-weight or 60-weight, preferably 60-weight if I can get a good color match with the applique fabric. Another memory: when I began hand applique, I used a thread color that matched the background, and no matter how hard I tried, my stitches showed. Then my internal light bulb came on and I tried a thread color to match the applique fabric. BINGO! What a winner of an idea!!
Now here’s another tip about thread color: unwind a length of thread, about 10 inches from the spool and puddle it on the applique fabric, rather than just laying the spool of thread on top of the applique, like we learned in high school Home Economics when making garments. If your applique fabric is multi-colored, make sure that the puddle of thread touches all of the colors. When in doubt, audition/puddle another color of thread, step back, look away, then look again. Make your choice.
One more thing! If your applique fabric has many strong colors, try auditioning Presencia 60-weight thread, color #352. It is a great gray neutral, and just might work well. It is also my thread color of choice for more most of my machine piecing, and 60-weight thread is so fine that it helps with machine piecing accuracy.
Thing 4: The needle threading and weight are the next important things that help your applique appear to float on top of the background. I thread my Milliners Needle from the spool of Presencia 60-weight thread and leave about a 4” thread tail at the eye end of the needle. Pinching the thread at the eye of the needle, I unwind the spool to about the middle of my upper arm (former muscle) and cut the thread straight across with sharp scissors. This end is where I make a tiny quilter’s knot that becomes buried beneath the background or between the background and applique. The eye of these Signature Collection needles is so smooth that your thread will not shred. And, Presencia thread is 100% long staple Egyptian cotton, which is smooth and so strong because it is 3-ply, another huge advantage of using these needles and threads. Especially important as you are also using your time, energy and creative efforts to make something beautiful and lasting.
One more thing before your stitch: adhere an adhesive Needle Grip-It circle to your forefinger and one to the thumb of your needle stitchin’ and pullin’ hand. This is so helpful in relieving stress from the repetitive motion of hand sewing, allowing you to sit and stitch with ease. You won’t even notice the Grip-Its are there!
Thing 5: Now for the nearly invisible stitch. Prepare to stitch by making a “puppet” of your background by folding the outer edge, opposite of where you will be stitching, then gently roll the fold until your thumbnail is on top of the seam allowance of the applique. The neat roll of fabric will be nestled in the palm of your hand rather than all scrunched up. This helps prevent unnecessary wrinkles in your fabrics and helps to make your stitches more precise. It also helps relieve stress on your hand. If possible, begin where there is a straight or nearly straight side on your applique, and with your needle, sweep the seam allowance under your less dominant hand thumbnail, making sure that the marking of the seam allowance is just folded under. About 1/4” away from the folded edge of the applique, beneath the background fabric, or between applique fabric and background, come up just on the tiny edge of the fold of the applique, actually more to the back of the fold if possible, and pierce a couple threads of the applique fold with your needle. Slowly, to avoid knotting your thread, pull the thread through the edge of the folded seam allowance, keeping your thumbnail on top of the fold. Give a little tug on the thread near the end, then insert your needle into the background just beneath the fold where your thread came through the applique. Note: if you insert your needle to the left or the right or away from the fold, it WILL show, I promise.
Thing 6: Now, begin the next stitch by gently moving your thumbnail slightly away from the first stitch, and sweep the seam allowance under your thumbnail with the side of your needle. This is where the length of a Milliners Needle is so helpful. Depending on the weave of your fabric, you may need to use the point of the needle to position the seam allowance so that the mark of the seamline does not show. Then, sliding your needle about 1/16” or less beneath the background, come up on the back edge of the folded seam allowance, pierce the back edge of the fold, catching a couple of threads of the applique and slowly pull the thread upward. Tip: if your thread color so closely matches the applique, to find where to piece the background, gently pull the thread away from the applique, extending over the background, making a right angle with the thread to the edge of the fold. Now, tuck the point of your needle just under the fold, slide beneath and come up slightly away from your last stitch. Be patient with yourself if you are a beginning beginner or even an advanced beginner. This is the work of your hands, not computer-generated, which in my opinion, is of great value. Learning, doing, and practicing are so valuable.
Thing 7: Keep going, but take some breaks. I also highly recommend using a lighted magnifier directly over your work and your hands as you stitch. Using a lighted magnifier right over my sewing hands allows me to continue what I love to do, sculpting fabric and making pretty things. My eyes are rested, my hands are not sore, and I am relaxed with the process of hand applique, especially if I rest my work and my hands on a pillow on my lap as I stitch. A pillow for your lap is also on my workshop supply lists. It can be used for a nap as needed…
I have read that we can learn from our mistakes, therefore I have certainly learned a lot. Be kind to yourself, and others. Take someone under your wings and share what you have learned and what works well for you. Thank you for taking your time to read and try these tips, tricks, and techniques. I hope they are helpful.
Applique is an awesome, not awful, word to me. I feel like a sculptor as I swoop and turn under that scant 1/4” seam allowance; traveling down straight folded edges of applique fabric, then creating curves, dipping into innie points and playing with my newest trick for pointy outie points. There are several things I suggest doing in preparation for my joy of sculpting fabric, AKA: hand applique.
Thing 1: Gather your tools. Tools as in fabric cutting scissors: sharp to the point and rather short for better control of where you clip and how far you clip into the seam allowance. And use just those sharp points of your scissors to clip and trim. I learned that the hard way several years ago while hand quilting on a frame on my mother’s quilt. I opened large scissors all the way and clipped the thread as well as the quilt top. That was a good, life-long lesson I learned that day. Sometimes I also use pinking shears to carefully trim the cut edges of the applique, taking tiny bites out of the fabric for ease in turning under the seam allowance and reducing bulk beneath the applique. Practice first with those pinking shears. You can always trim away more, but it is most frustrating to try to turn under a seam allowance that is too narrow and ultimately frays.
Thing 2: One of my favorite tools for hand applique that I gather is a thimble. I especially love using Roxanne Thimbles. A correct fitting is required (Colonial Needle has put some tips together here). When I owned a quilt shop several years ago, I suggested to my customers who were interested in a Roxanne Thimble that they bring some handwork, and spend a little time trying out several sizes by sittin’ and stitchin’ for a little while — somewhat like walking around in a new pair of shoes to make sure they fit prior to purchase. In addition to being very comfortable with a proper fit, Roxanne’s Thimble is ergonomically better for your hands. The side-push of the needle with your finger is better for your hands than pushing the needle with the tip of your finger. Using this thimble allows me the joy of continuing to hand stitch for many years to come. Roxanne’s Thimble also makes a lovely gift for that special friend or family member with a choice of gold plated, silver plated, or sterling. Every time I use mine, I am reminded of a dear friend who gifted me with one- a gift that keeps giving.
Thing 3: Another very small but also very helpful tool are Needle Grip-Its. Press your thumb and fore- finger together where you grip a needle. Then peel a little circle from a sheet in the package and apply the sticky side to the tip of your thumb on your dominant hand. Repeat for your forefinger on your dominant hand. The repetitive motion of gripping, pushing, and pulling a needle can cause pain and swelling in one’s hands. These little unobtrusive circles stick well to your finger and thumb, and help to more easily grip and direct the needle exactly where you desire into the fabric. This also helps with that invisible applique stitch. Needle Grip-Its come packaged in sheets of 70 adhesive dots to easily carry in your sewing basket. They can also be cut into pairs to include in customers’ kits for classes, offering a great opportunity to try before you buy.
Thing 4: The quality of Presencia Thread for my hand applique assures me that the time and effort I spend making my stitches as invisible as possible is well worth it. Presencia begins with the finest 100% Egyptian Cotton, virtually lint-free, strong, and durable. As I acquire more candles on my birthday cake and my number becomes bigger, I am reminded that the bigger the number, the finer the thread (and hand sewing needles – sewing machine needles are the opposite.) For those nearly invisible hand applique stitches, there are four things that are especially helpful: applique thread size, applique thread color, the needle, and the stitch. I recommend sewing with sizes 50 weight or 60 weight for hand applique. Both sizes 50 and 60 are 3-ply (three fibers plied, twisted into one fine thread) therefore also very strong. For thread color, if possible, unwind a few inches of Presencia Thread from the spool and lay it across your applique fabric. We used to just lay a spool of thread across the fabric to audition thread color, but another lesson learned, thread color on the spool is different from a strand of thread. My personal favorite thread size is 60 weight since it is smaller in diameter than 50 weight.
Thing 5: I love so many needles that Colonial Needle Company has to offer. Over the years, I have also learned that fitting the needle to the thread and the project is most important. I used to sew with whatever needle I could see to thread, with whatever thread was available. With time comes wisdom! I really enjoy using the John James Signature Collection Needles, especially their Milliners and Quilting Needles for needleturn applique. The Milliners are long, very fine, strong, and help to easily pierce the folded edge of my applique as well as the background fabric. Because the needle is so sharp and made in England of the finest quality steel, I can easily pierce the fabric rather than push and distort where I want the applique. The length of the Milliners Needle helps me to turn under the seam allowance then hold the fold with the thumbnail of my other hand. With needleturn applique, I can spend my time and effort stitching, rather than preparing the appliques, although I must admit that friends who do prepared hand applique do beautiful work. The process of needleturn is what I love so much! Sometimes I enjoy a change, and use the John James Signature Collection Quilting Needle. It gives my hands a break, kind of like changing from tennis shoes to slip-on shoes mid-day. John James Signature Collection Needles also are available in Embroidery and Sharps Needles. They are packaged in the USA in crystal clear tubes of 25 needles, enough to keep you supplied for quite a while and to share with friends.
Thing 6: Just to mention a few other things I keep handy in preparation for hand applique: I highly recommend a good light source directly over your work. My light source is also magnified, helpful due to all those birthday candles…I also stitch with a pillow on my lap which helps to bring my sewing up to a level that is comfortable for me, and helps me rest my hands as well as more accurately position my needle and scissors. A pincushion for fine straight pins is a better option than the arm of my “nest” chair where I sit and stitch. A needle threader is helpful, and I will have a suggestion on tips for threading a needle in blogs to come. I enjoy hand sewing so much that I neglect getting up and moving around, so setting a timer is a good reminder for me if I am listening to an audio book or the serene sound of silence while I sew. If watching TV, I challenge myself to stand and stretch during commercials.
I try to keep several containers, baskets and boxes prepared with a collection of tools and WIPS (Works in Progress) for grabbing and going out the door, or putting in my car the evening prior to an appointment or meeting. One never knows when one will need to savor just sittin’ and stitchin’. Most of us can multi-task anyway- listen and stitch. Needleturn applique helps me to be somewhat less annoying while listening to a speaker, while waiting for a delayed appointment, or for taking to the park when I have some time to spare between appointments. It also offers me the opportunity to meet new people, share interests, and perhaps even acquire converts to hand sewing. It’s all good, and gets better with the best and right tools and tips.
I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with special needs children and adults for 37 years during my teaching career. I was challenged to find adaptive devices and techniques for those who had difficulty using everyday tools such as pencils, scissors, paper, crayons and other things that many of us take for granted. But I loved the challenge of helping others. I also learned so many things from my students that I use today as my fingers and hands are not as flexible and my vision is not as sharp. I would like to share some tips and tools that allow me to continue my passion of hand sewing every day.
Thimble-Itis a flat, self-stick oval that adheres to your finger and allows better control of your needle as you are stitching. This non-invasive little oval, applied to each “working finger,” is especially helpful if you are a new hand stitcher and are reluctant to use a thimble. The repetitive motion of pushing a needle through fabric will result in sore fingers and less time spent sewing. Thimble-It helps you sew on and sew on and on.
Thimble-Pad hugs your finger with its secure adhesive, yet you hardly know it is there. It is tough and helps secure the position and direction of your needle. Try stacking two pads, for maximum protection of your “needle-pushing” finger. This great little pad is especially helpful for so many hand crafts, such as embroidery, hand applique, wool applique, and hand quilting. And the best part…you can remove the pad and reuse it several more times! I stick mine to the hard surface of my lighted magnifying lamp beside my hand sewing nest. I also apply a Thimble-Pad when machine sewing on a project that may require good control of a stiletto for more accurate stitching. When finished, I remove the pad and stick it to my sewing machine.
Thimble Dimple is a great transition for learning to use a thimble. Packaged with reusable adhesive dots, this small stainless-steel tool prevents sore fingers, callouses, even stained fabric due to painful finger punctures. Also, with greater needle control, you can stitch faster, perhaps moving on to completion of a project and beginning a new one!
Thimble Crown, similar to Thimble Dimple, allows greater needle control since the tiny dimples within the crown help grip the needle, allowing you to push the needle at any angle. The raised edge surrounding the dimples helps prevent the needle from slipping, also protecting your fingers and hands. Packaged with extra adhesive dots, Thimble Crown can be reused several times.
Under Thimble helps provide protection for your under hand. Especially helpful for hand quilters in making those tiny, even stitches, you can sense the point of the needle on your under hand, then rock the needle back up to the top. Sewing is smoother, stitches are more even and faster. In addition to being painless, there will be no spots on your fabric due to pricked fingers. Additional adhesive dots are enclosed for reuse.
Ultra Thimble is Ultra for several, reasons: you can use this handy, protective little adhesive tool on your upper and/or under hand! Ultra Thimble is comfortable, reusable, and the precision cut dimples help with stitch accuracy and speed of hand sewing. And…if you are still reluctant to using a thimble, this is an excellent tool to allow you to continue doing what you love to do, pain free. However, it is also a good transition if/when you desire to learn to use a thimble.
Adhesive Replacements are included with each of these small in size but large in function tools. Not to worry, however, Colonial Needle Company offers packages of 8 Adhesive Replacements. Detailed instructions are on the back of the package, with an additional tip: Allow a few minutes for the adhesive to bond to both the thimble and your finger.
1. Provide a gift bag of these thimble products to a beginning hand stitcher
2. Begin with Thimble-It, and progress to Thimble-Pad, and so on.
3. Take someone under your wings if you are an experienced hand stitcher.
I hope these tips and tools are helpful as you begin or continue on your hand stitching journey. What works for one person might not work as well for another. To continue doing what you enjoy doing, protect your fingers and hands, and share the joy of what you love to do with others.