Category: Quilting

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

The Best Thread for the Job

By Judy Moore Pullen

I have a passion for hand applique, so when I discovered Presencia thread a number of years ago, it was like a banana split on top of a devil’s food cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles!

Something that helps me remember the thread sizes is this: As I am getting older, my number is getting bigger and I consider myself as getting “finer.” The same thing is true of needles and thread; the bigger the number, the finer the thread and hand sewing needles. Machine sewing needle are the opposite. The bigger the number, the bigger the needle.

There are several reasons why I believe that Presencia is simply the best for both hand and machine sewing. 

THING 1: Presencia thread begins with the very finest 100% long staple Egyptian cotton. When you begin with a superior fiber, the result is an outstanding finished product. A long-staple fiber means that the thread is virtually lint-free, a plus for you and your sewing machine. Do your own testing: clean out the bobbin race of your machine. Fill a bobbin and thread the top of the machine with Presencia. Sew to your heart’s content. When your bobbin is empty, judge for yourself how clean the bobbin case and area around the needle are. 

THING 2: All three weights of Presencia hand and machine sewing thread (40, 50, and 60 weight) are 3-ply. Plying, twisting three individual fibers together, makes the thread stronger. As a hand and machine sewing enthusiast, strong thread is important to me for the process of sewing as well as for the construction of the finished product. Not all 50 and 60 weight brand X threads are 3-ply.   

THING 3: Presencia 40 weight thread is strong, comes in many colors, and works well for hand and machine quilting, including long-arm machine quilting. I recommend using a John James size 90 machine quilting needle. For hand quilting, I use John James Gold ‘n Glide Big Eye size 10. These needles easily pierce the three layers of a quilt sandwich. The size of the Big Eye makes threading much easier for my AARP-age eyes.

THING 4: Presencia 50 weight thread, also 3-ply, is  smaller in diameter than 40 weight. It is great for general hand and machine sewing, and is beautiful for machine applique. I generally recommend it for beginning hand applique students, since it is slightly larger than 60 weight and easier to see hand stitches. A Mary Arden Applique size 10 needle is recommended. This needle is sharp, pierces rather than pushes the fabric, and stays strong and straight. I also use 50 weight for top stitching because of its larger diameter and the large number of colors available.

THING 5: I had great difficulty with machine piecing accuracy when I first began quilt making. I had sewn and made garments for years, but quilt making is somewhat different. My first quilt, a baby log cabin, had ruffles…Machine piecing was so stressful, and the completed quilt was not a pretty sight. When I discovered Presencia 60 weight thread, my accuracy improved and my frustration disappeared! Because 60 weight is so fine and 3-ply strong, it does not take up the extra threads when machine piecing. I also prefer it for hand applique. It also comes in so many colors, and virtually disappears when doing hand applique. I use a Mary Arden Appliquers needle, size 10 for hand applique, and John James size 70 or 80 for machine sewing with 60 weight thread.

Stitching with Presencia threads makes hand and machine sewing most satisfying for me. Using the best products results in a satisfying experience as well as a quality product. I highly recommend Presencia threads as well as John James and Mary Arden needles. Now to the refrigerator to make that super-duper banana split, then sit and sew to my heart’s delight.

Hot Fudge Sunday Inspiration!

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

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

The joy of sewing – “Learning with Quilts”

The joy of sewing – “Learning with Quilts”

Judy Moore Pullen

Oh, boy!  Oh, joy!  I spent the better part of today visiting with like-minded friends organizing quilts and books for the new school year.  “Learning with Quilts” is one of the community service projects of our Highland Lakes Quilt Guild here in the heart of the Texas hill country.  We select children’s books that are quilt-related, make the accompanying quilts, and distribute them to seven elementary schools in the area.  Those of us who met today are retired educators who have a passion for quilts, books, and of course helping children.  There are some wonderful quilt-related books available with great themes.  Some of the books are about people of other cultures or other countries.  Some are historical fiction or seasonal.  All have themes of core values like kindness, making do, or problem solving.

the tortilla quilt

‘The Tortilla Quilt’ – One of this year’s “Learning with Quilts” books

Making quilts that accompany the books is sometimes a challenge, as there are rarely patterns or instructions for the quilt.  However, brainstorming, teamwork, and drawing on the specific talents of some of our quilter friends, the process of making the quilts is great fun.  We have quite a list of books but are always looking for new titles.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

Now, to spend the evening hand quilting an orphan block that will become a table topper, while listening to a good book.  Oh, boy!  Oh, joy!

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen

Big Stitch Quilting

Big Stitch Quilting

Thoughts on Big Stitch Quilting from Pepper Cory

Big Stitch Quilting

Pepper Cory with her Big Stitch Quilt

Many times I hand sew because I find the rhythm of handling the needle—in, out, back down, in, out while gathering stitches— very therapeutic. The action requires total focus but my hands know more what to do than my brain. After a short while, the work happens without effort. I find myself stitching and my mind wandering. Call it a ‘mental vacation with a needle.’

This summer I pieced and Big Stitch quilted a small, simple quilt. After five days of work, it was done and I felt a sense of accomplishment and peace. The small quilt is coming with me to the upcoming Houston Quilt Market.  If you’re attending, please stop by and see us—the quilt, me, and all the Colonial Needle family—in booths 1328 and 1329.

Line Marking Techniques

Line marking technique used by Pepper on this quilt.

The quilt was pieced from 44 different colors (plus white) of the Peppered Cottons line of Shot Cottons from StudioE Fabrics cut into 3″ squares. The threads used to Big Stitch were varying colors of Size 8 Perle cotton by Presencia (found here).  For the hand stitching I used the largest needle from the Big Stitch sampler pack by Colonial Needle (found here). I marked the lines to follow with stitches by using a big fat tapestry needle (their tips are not sharp) and scoring the fabric alongside a ruler.

The quilting covers the quilt in a plaid of different colors of stitching—just the thing for those of us who love to quilt but bore easily when the work is too much the same.

Big Stitch Quilt

Pepper’s Finished Big Stitch Quilt