Category: General Stitching

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!

Playing with Yarn

By Judy Moore Pullen

Playtime is important for children as well as for those of us who have fond memories of being a child. Playtime offers opportunities to learn, relax, share time with others, or just enjoy the silence of our own company. One of the ways I love to play is with threads, and Colonial Needle Persian 100% Virgin Wool Yarn has become one of my favorite playtime threads. 

Colonial Persian Yarn on 8-yard Cards

We generally think of Persian Wool Yarn as being specifically used for needlepoint. And it truly is wonderful to use for just such a purpose. But I decided to separate the three strands of yarn and play with one strand in several different ways.  

While rearranging my playroom/sewing studio to make room for a new sewing cabinet, I unearthed a UFO wool applique project that I had begun in the early 2000’s. I have a passion for wool applique, and was so excited to begin playing. Being a “process person,” the doing part is just as important as the completed project. I began by auditioning the rainbow of colors of yarn, against the burgundy-red wool berries that still needed to be appliqued. Selecting “American Red,” just a shade darker than the berries, I cut about an 18-inch length of Persian Wool Yarn, and stripped one strand from the section. I used a baby dot of Roxanne Glue Baste-It on the wrong side of a berry where I would not be stitching, and pressed the berry in place on the background. In preparation for stitching, I pressed Needle Grip-Its on the forefinger and thumb of my stitching hand. Using a John James Chenille Needle size 18, I began blanket stitching around a smaller-than-a-dime burgundy berry. 

Oh, what fun to stitch and play with Persian wool yarn on wool! The larger shaft of a chenille needle opens the fibers of the wool applique piece, and allows the wool yarn to be more easily pulled through. I loved the process as well as the look of the finished berries.

That went well, so why not try using one strand of “Fawn Brown” for the stems holding the berries? Sometimes when I am unsure how certain threads will work with stitches, I will play on scraps of cloth first. But I was already so excited that I threw caution to the wind and began using a stem hand embroidery stitch for the berry stems. Again, I loved the process and final product.

Long ago, I had traced the design onto a background of osnaburg fabric. Small leaves were to be appliqued on each side of the stems. However, still in a playful mood, I decided to embroider the leaves, using one strand of Persian Wool Yarn “Green Apple.” I began a leaf next to the stem, by stitching one large lazy daisy stitch which served as the leaf outline. Then, I filled in with long and short stitches, somewhat like crewel embroidery. That went well, so I kept playing with needle and thread. The leaves took on dimension, and no two were exactly the same.

Playing with yarn to complete the stitching on this old UFO turned out to be so much fun. Colonial Persian Wool Yarn comes in so many beautiful colors. Selecting colors for my project was somewhat like being in a candy store. I loved the process as well as the finished project…well, almost finished. I am still hand quilting it with Presencia Perle Cotton size 8, while looking forward to working on other UFO’s and playing with needles, threads, and yarn. 

Happy Stitching,

Judy

STITCHING WITH FRIENDS – IT’S THERAPEUTIC

Stitching With Friends – It’s Therapeutic!

By Judy Moore Pullen

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

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

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

Sittin’ Stitchin’

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

Enforcing the Puzzle Rule!

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

Snacks and the empty Tip jar

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

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

Sew…What’s New?

Sew…What’s New?

By Judy Moore Pullen

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

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

Sammye’s work in progress made totally from scraps!

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

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

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

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

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen

UFO’s Anyone??

UFO’s Anyone??

By Judy Moore Pullen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen

Slow Down and Relax by Going a Little Crazy!

Slow Down and Relax by Going a Little Crazy!

By Judy Moore Pullen

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

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

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

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

crazy quilt

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

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

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

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.