Category: Applique

Quilters, Step Out of Your Box

By Judy Moore Pullen

Let’s play a word association game. What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear or see the word “quilt”? Perhaps you think: bed covering, something old and pretty, shopping at a special fabric store, a treasure made by one’s mother or grandmother. A non-quilter would say blanket.

The next word in this game is “yarn”: knit and crochet, needlepoint, handmade scarf, hat, or sweater. I think of quilt making using yarn, especially Colonial Needle Persian Wool Yarn. 

As quilters we are artists. We create something of beauty that is also functional. Some of us follow directions to the letter. Others find ways to make a traditional design unique and different. Still others enjoy using materials that are unique and different. And then some just flat out like to play and see what happens. 

When Colonial Needle Company first offered Persian Wool Yarn, I immediately thought of wool applique. I have a passion for hand work, anything applique, and I love to play. A heart shape is a good design on which to begin playing. It has straight lines, curves, innie and outie points. I also like “wonky” as a design element so I cut out a symmetrical heart shape from freezer paper (as I learned to do in first grade…in the last century.) Then I trim one side to make it wonky, as in one-of-a-kind. With a dry iron, I lightly press the shiny side of my wonky freezer paper heart to felted wool, and cut out the shape next to the cut edge of the freezer paper. Then I cut a piece of green wool on the bias, about 3/8” wide to make a stem that I could shape and bend.  

Green felted wool stem is appliquéd with Colonial Persian Wool Yarn using a stem/outline stitch. The stem on the left is couched with Presencia Perle Cotton size 8, then tacked in place with wool yarn. Green stem on the right is appliquéd with a lazy daisy chain stitch using wool yarn.

Colonial Persian Wool Yarn now comes in 8-yard cards. It is 3-ply and easy to separate into individual strands. I arrange my wonky wool heart and stem on a background, and glue in place with Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It. Using one strand of wool yarn, I thread a John James needle, size 20, and begin stitching diagonal lines from the bottom of the stem to the top. Then I turn the stem around and repeat stitching on the diagonal down the stem so that the yarn crosses somewhat in the middle. I tack the center of the x-stitches with yarn, Presencia Perle Cotton, or floss or a bead. 

All of that worked well, so I began to blanket stitch around the heart with wool yarn. I also like to applique wool by making  running stitches with Perle Cotton size 8. Then, I thread a John James Tapestry needle, size 20, with Persian Wool Yarn in a contrasting color. Next, I slide the threaded needle under the running stitches left to right and continue around the wool applique. One can also thread under the running stitches by going back the other direction with yet another contrasting color of Persian Wool Yarn. Or I can weave the yarn in and out from left to right/right to left.

Playing with Persian Wool Yarn also allows me to make French knots, colonial knots, and all sorts of other embroidery stitches. If you are a little on the side of caution, practice first on scraps of fabric…real quilters do have scraps. If you are a new quilter, just ask an “old” quilter who is probably more than willing to share. I am beginning to think that scraps breed in my scrap basket overnight. 

Wool applique and embroidery using wool yarn. Leaves on the left were originally wool fabric rather than embroidery.

I love words, playing with them and stitching them, both using hand embroidery stitches and hand applique. Write your name on a piece of lined paper, using at least 4 lines for capital letters and 2 lines for lower case. Tape the paper to a light box or a window. Place background fabric on top, right side up and secure with tape. Trace your name with a fine point mechanical pencil. Remove background. Thread needle with wool yarn and embroider on the lines with a backstitch, stem/outline stitch, or running stitch. You may want to use a hoop to stabilize the fabric or baste a layer of muslin to the wrong side before stitching. 

There is so much more you can do with Colonial Needle Persian Wool Yarn as a quilter. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Get out of your quilt box and try using wool yarn for embellishing, sewing on buttons, couching, and braiding in addition to applique and embroidery. Considering that each package contains 8 yards of 3-ply excellent quality wool yarn, and comes in many wonderful colors, you can also become a quilt artist.

Happy Stitching!

Sadie Sue and Sable Ann mooching peanuts

Judy Moore Pullen

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

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.

 

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