Some Summertime Fun!

By Judy Moore Pullen

Are you searching for activities to keep your youngsters as well as yourself active, creative, and off the cell phone and computer for a while this summer? Try making crayon blocks with your favorite people for fun or to preserve a summertime memory. Yes, it is ok, even encouraged that you color on fabric with crayons for this one.

My Favorite Crayon Block Quilt

My second-grade students surprised me with an entire quilt of crayon blocks that they SECRETLY made for me in 2001, the last day of school before retiring from my 37-year teaching career. At the time, my children had been studying famous artists and their art work. Each child selected his and her favorite piece of art to turn into a crayon block. Our art teacher’s daughter was one of my many wonderful children that year. For our end-of-year party, my students and their parents surprised me with a quilt made from each child’s favorite piece of art. Not one child peeped the secret of their surprise for me!! What a joy to have such a treasure of my children’s art work and the quilt made by their parents, in addition to the gift of their parents sharing their wonderful children with me that year. Such a precious memory!

So, have some fun this summer, reading, connecting, and creating not only crayon blocks, but memories as well. Memories of a trip, a shared experience of fishing with a grandparent, shopping, a pet or pets, building a birdhouse and watching a pair of birds work together to make a new home. The process of creating crayon blocks is just as much fun as having the finished product for a memory of some summertime fun! Here are some tips, tricks, and techniques for what worked well for me in my classroom, as well as recently, at our wonderful library for over 30 children and their parents.

How to Make a Crayon Block Quilt:

Materials You Will need:

  • Muslin Cloth
  • Freezer paper
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutting supplies
  • Colorful fabric for borders (scraps work well for a fun scrappy look)
  • Crayons! (Fabric crayons not necessary)
  • Dry iron and press mat
  • Plain white paper towels
  • Sewing machine
  • Children’s book with great illustrations for inspiration
  • Cookies…optional but highly encouraged.

Step 1: Prepare the Fabric

Rinse well or gently pre-wash muslin to remove sizing. Dry gently in dryer. Press.

Step 2: Cut

Cut muslin into blocks – I suggest 12 1/2” square for 12” finished block.

Cut freezer paper into squares smaller than muslin.

With hot dry iron, center shiny side of freezer paper square to wrong side of muslin to stabilize fabric for drawing with crayons.

Step 3: Color!

Use your crayons to make a beautiful piece of art. Try to encourage children to keep their drawings within the size of the freezer paper in order to have room to stitch 1/4” seams for borders.

Step 4: Set Crayon Drawing

When your artists are finished creating, remove freezer paper.

Place muslin on press mat, crayon side up, then place sheet of plain white paper towel on top of crayon drawing.

*Make sure you remove freezer paper before pressing paper towel.

Press paper towel with hot dry iron to heat-set crayon. Let cool. Remove paper towel.

**With direct supervision (and your own good judgment regarding using a hot iron) show each child where to hold the handle of the iron. Place the other hand behind one’s back to keep it safe.

Step 5: Finish Block for Quilting

Pre-cut 4 border strips to width of your choice. I cut 2 ½” wide strips. Stitch one strip on each side of heat-set block.

Stitch bordersto each side if desired.

*Consider letting youngsters stitch borders as a great beginning sewing machine project with your direct supervision.

Carefully press seams, keeping hot iron away from crayon.

Proudly show and share your sample!

**This crayon block will probably not withstand washing, so treat as you would a fabric wall hanging or treasured pillow.

Additional tips:

  • Show children a sample of your own crayon block prior to starting. Discuss, ask, and answer questions. Model the steps and procedure when you prepared your sample.
  • Don’t forget to add a name and date for future reference to front of block.
  • Encourage children to show and share with others.
  • Read a book together if you are working with children to help give ideas for crayon drawings. Predict what will happen next, discuss illustrations, characters, events, problems and solutions, ideas for children’s crayon blocks. Side note: As an educator of little ones, I cannot stress the importance of early literacy enough! Share the joy of books by reading daily to your newborn baby and other youngsters, modeling your own enjoyment of reading, visiting the library together, and even getting your child their very own library card to experience the delight of checking out books on their own. You will not regret it!
  • Enjoy! Individual blocks can framed, placed on refrigerator, sent to a special person, turned into a quilted block with others, made into a pillow, wall hanging, etc.

Happy Creating!

Awesome Applique

By Judy Moore Pullen

What is applique?

Let’s start by answering this simple question:

To applique is to apply a piece of fabric on top of another piece of fabric background or on top of a pieced background. This can be done by hand and/or machine, using a variety of methods and techniques. An applique (n.) is the fabric stitched on top of a background, either by hand stitching or using a sewing machine. 

What I love about applique:

I love applique for so many reasons! My passion for it is in both the process and the product. I find it awesome, while some find it awful to do. At one time, I belonged to a group of like-minded hand applique stitchers. We could multi-task: sit and stitch and enjoy each other’s company at the same time. I hope to sway some readers to try applique, so this subject probably will probably require more blog posts.

The Economics of applique:

There is actually a little economics history related to applique. Years ago, those who made quilts for function only were probably the first scrap quilt makers. If you had to raise the cotton or sheep, harvest the product, spin the fiber, weave the cloth, make the garment, all while struggling to put food on the table and survive, the most efficient and economical way to make quilts for your family was to join scraps of fabric side by side of whatever was left over from worn out clothing. Over time, when funds were more available, and a quiltmaker desired to make a quilt pretty, she could arrange bits and pieces of fabric together to perhaps design flowers for embellishment and applique them on top of the scrappy pieces. Quiltmakers with even more money and time on their hands added hand applique to their quilt tops. Think crazy quilts, broderie perse.

My journey with applique:

As I enjoy the process – the doing of something (except for dusting and vacuuming), hand applique is a joy for me to do! There are so many ways to hand applique, and my favorite way is needle turn. I remember the moment I saw someone demonstrating it at a local quilt show years ago. She looked so relaxed, so confident, and her work was beautiful. I picked her brain and observed for a while, then decided to try my hand at needle turn applique at home.

In the beginning, I was somewhat self-taught, ironing a freezer paper template on the right side of my applique fabric, tracing around the cut edge with a pencil, then cutting the fabric with a scant 1/4” seam allowance. I left the freezer paper in place as I hand stitched, using thread color that matched the background and tried to conceal my stitches. I quickly learned that matching the color of the thread to the color of the applique fabric was much better. While working and playing in a quilt shop at the time, I offered to teach a hand applique class. When a student asked what kind of needle I used, I promptly replied: “Whatever I can see to thread.” Let’s fast forward from that time, since I have learned so much more about tools and techniques, often times by trial and several errors.

There are a few things that make my needle turn applique look so much better, and much more relaxing and enjoyable to do:

  • Thread size
  • Thread kind
  • Thread Color
  • Choice of Needle
  • Needle Grip-Its from Colonial Needle Co.
  • Roxanne thimbles
  • The invisible stitch
  • A lighted magnifier
  • A pillow on my lap
  • Cookies and coffee…

Let’s break those down:

1. Thread

Presencia 60 weight thread is my thread of choice for needle turn applique. It is made from the finest quality long staple Egyptian cotton, is 3-ply for strength, and virtually lint free. The bigger the number, the finer the thread, which helps make my stitches virtually invisible. I want my hand stitching to last, so 3-ply (three strands of fiber wrapped together) makes this very fine thread so strong. Whenever possible, I unwind a strand of thread and lay it across my applique fabric to check for the best color. Sometimes I audition several colors. My first glance is my best clue to the color that will become one with my applique.

2. Choosing your needle

John James’ Signature Collection Needles are my needles of choice. They are made of the very finest precision engineered steel, making them so strong. With their proprietary finish, these needles glide easily through fabric rather than prodding it out of place. They are available in 4 different kinds: Embroidery – sizes 7, 8, 9; Milliners – sizes 9, 10, 11; Quilting – sizes 7, 8, 9, 10, 11; and Sharps – sizes 7, 8, 9, 10. As with thread sizes, the bigger the number, the finer the hand sewing needle. Machine sewing needles are the opposite.

My needle of choice with my knobby fingers, is a Milliners size 10. It is longer and allows me to sweep the seam allowance under as I go, concealing the drawn line of my applique. I now remove the freezer paper prior to stitching.

*TIP: in tight places like an acute “innie” point, I have a Quilting needle size 7 already threaded. I park my Milliners needle in the background, and make tiny stab stitches with my threaded Quilting needle to invisibly secure those tricky little “innie” points.

You may prefer to begin with a different John James Signature Collection needle or one of the many others offered by Colonial Needle Company. Just as some shoes are comfier than others, see what is the best fit for you and your hands.

3. Needle Grip-Its

Prior to stitching, I secure two little adhesive clear circles of Needle Grip-Its to my needle-holding hand on my forefinger and thumb where I will be gripping the needle. Faithfully using these little magic circles, I have no pain in my hands, and can stitch to my heart’s delight! These tiny adhesive circles stay securely in place during the repetitive motion of gripping and pulling a needle.

4. Roxanne Thimbles

I was happily gifted with a Roxanne Thimble several years ago, and it is the gift that keeps on giving, helping me to painlessly push the needle through fabric, regardless of what kind of hand stitching I am doing. The sideways motion of using Roxanne’s Thimble is better for one’s hands. Getting a correct fit is also important, and quilt shops who carry them are so helpful. Colonial Needle also has a handy info sheet on their website which can be found here.

*TIP: add a Roxanne's Thimble to your gift list, as well as matching Roxanne's Thimble earrings! They are so cute and readily identify you as a hand stitcher.

5. Lighted Magnifier

The lighted magnifier allows me to place light right over my work and more easily see where I am stitching, especially the tip of my needle as I insert it into the background fabric then upward through the underside of the fold.

6. Lap Pillow

The pillow on my lap helps bring my work to a more comfortable position so I can rest my arms and be at ease.

7. And last but not least…

The cookies and coffee, inspire me to take breaks to get up and stretch, walk into the kitchen, and let my little dogs out for a break for them, too.

In Conclusion:

Each of these tools will help your hand applique stitch become nearly invisible, strong, and secure. I think of the fold of the seam allowance of an applique as a cliff, and I am standing on the edge of the cliff. I bring my needle up from the inside of the applique to the back side of the fold, then “jump off the cliff” straight down with my needle into the background. Then travel with the point of my needle under the background a very few threads and come up with the needle just under the fold, the edge of the cliff. If you jump off the cliff/fold to the left or the right with your needle, your thread will show.

*TIP: Instead of scrunching the excess background fabric in my left hand while stitching with my right hand, I roll the excess fabric so that it fits neatly into the palm of my left hand. This keeps my fabric smoother, reduces stress on my hand, and helps prevent me from stitching my background to the wrong places as in my pillow or my clothing. I have learned a lot from my many mistakes.

Oh, the joy of needle turn applique! I feel like an artist, a sculptor, and I can “make the applique my own” by changing a shape as I go. Hand applique helps slow me down, listen to music or a recorded book, watch TV, talk with friends, or just sit quietly, breathe, and put a little love into every stitch. I can take a project with me on a walk along the river, sit down on a bench and stitch whenever and wherever I choose. I enjoy sitting outside in the cool mornings with my little girls, being serenaded by the birds’ songs and stitching by hand.

Applique Flowers on Quilt

There are several ways to applique, and I look forward to sharing them with you as well. There is beauty in hand work, a human quality that is beneficial for the hand stitcher as well as for the person who admires or receives the work of one’s hands and heart. Be kind to yourself and savor every stitch. Just as my dad had a box full of hand tools that helped him with his work and play, there are tools that are helpful to those who enjoy hand applique and think of it as Awesome. There is joy and grace in simple things.

Happy stitching,

Judy

Needle Turn Applique “Seams” Fun to Me

by Judy Moore Pullen

There are so many ways to applique, both by hand and by machine. For many stitchers, the word “applique” is not pleasant. I avoided it when I first began making quilt tops, even though I do love to work with my hands. And…I am somewhat less annoying when I am hand stitching. I well remember the first time I saw a young woman doing needle turn applique at a quilt show several years ago. I was amazed at how easily she shaped the heart applique and made nearly invisible stitches. The appliqued heart appeared to float on the background fabric. I knew that was something I wanted to learn to do. Now, however, there are several things that I especially enjoy about needle turn applique.

Thing 1: For needle turn applique, I spend very little time on preparation for stitching, as opposed to prepared applique techniques. I can more leisurely spend time stitching, and less time turning the seam allowance and securing it with glue, starch and a hot iron or basting thread, etc. Not to be negative about prepared applique, however, there certainly are advantages, about which I will write in blogs to come.

Thing 2: I love using these Milliners Needles from John James in a size 10 for hand applique. The Signature Collection needles are manufactured of the finest steel, polished so they smoothly glide through fabric. The points of these needles are so sharp that they pierce rather than push the fabric, which is so helpful for accuracy, and allows me to continue stitching for a longer period of time. The longer length of Milliners needles allows me to smoothly sweep under the seam allowance. To be more specific, I sweep the seam allowance under the extended thumbnail of my fabric-holding left hand. That thumbnail is a great tool, and I suggest it on my workshop supply lists. A claw-length thumbnail is not necessary, but long enough to secure the seam allowance in place as you use your Milliners needle and 60 weight thread.

Thing 3: There are several things about thread that also help to make your hand applique stitches nearly, if not completely, invisible. Remember: The bigger the number, the finer the thread, and hand sewing needles. Just like us: the more candles on our birthday cakes, the finer we are!! (Machine sewing needles are just the opposite.) My thread of choice for hand applique is Presencia Finca 50-weight or 60-weight, preferably 60-weight if I can get a good color match with the applique fabric. Another memory: when I began hand applique, I used a thread color that matched the background, and no matter how hard I tried, my stitches showed. Then my internal light bulb came on and I tried a thread color to match the applique fabric. BINGO! What a winner of an idea!!

Now here’s another tip about thread color: unwind a length of thread, about 10 inches from the spool and puddle it on the applique fabric, rather than just laying the spool of thread on top of the applique, like we learned in high school Home Economics when making garments. If your applique fabric is multi-colored, make sure that the puddle of thread touches all of the colors. When in doubt, audition/puddle another color of thread, step back, look away, then look again. Make your choice.

One more thing! If your applique fabric has many strong colors, try auditioning Presencia 60-weight thread, color #352. It is a great gray neutral, and just might work well. It is also my thread color of choice for more most of my machine piecing, and 60-weight thread is so fine that it helps with machine piecing accuracy.

Thing 4: The needle threading and weight are the next important things that help your applique appear to float on top of the background. I thread my Milliners Needle from the spool of Presencia 60-weight thread and leave about a 4” thread tail at the eye end of the needle. Pinching the thread at the eye of the needle, I unwind the spool to about the middle of my upper arm (former muscle) and cut the thread straight across with sharp scissors. This end is where I make a tiny quilter’s knot that becomes buried beneath the background or between the background and applique. The eye of these Signature Collection needles is so smooth that your thread will not shred. And, Presencia thread is 100% long staple Egyptian cotton, which is smooth and so strong because it is 3-ply, another huge advantage of using these needles and threads. Especially important as you are also using your time, energy and creative efforts to make something beautiful and lasting.

One more thing before your stitch: adhere an adhesive Needle Grip-It circle to your forefinger and one to the thumb of your needle stitchin’ and pullin’ hand. This is so helpful in relieving stress from the repetitive motion of hand sewing, allowing you to sit and stitch with ease. You won’t even notice the Grip-Its are there!

Thing 5: Now for the nearly invisible stitch. Prepare to stitch by making a “puppet” of your background by folding the outer edge, opposite of where you will be stitching, then gently roll the fold until your thumbnail is on top of the seam allowance of the applique. The neat roll of fabric will be nestled in the palm of your hand rather than all scrunched up. This helps prevent unnecessary wrinkles in your fabrics and helps to make your stitches more precise. It also helps relieve stress on your hand. If possible, begin where there is a straight or nearly straight side on your applique, and with your needle, sweep the seam allowance under your less dominant hand thumbnail, making sure that the marking of the seam allowance is just folded under. About 1/4” away from the folded edge of the applique, beneath the background fabric, or between applique fabric and background, come up just on the tiny edge of the fold of the applique, actually more to the back of the fold if possible, and pierce a couple threads of the applique fold with your needle. Slowly, to avoid knotting your thread, pull the thread through the edge of the folded seam allowance, keeping your thumbnail on top of the fold. Give a little tug on the thread near the end, then insert your needle into the background just beneath the fold where your thread came through the applique. Note: if you insert your needle to the left or the right or away from the fold, it WILL show, I promise.

Thing 6: Now, begin the next stitch by gently moving your thumbnail slightly away from the first stitch, and sweep the seam allowance under your thumbnail with the side of your needle. This is where the length of a Milliners Needle is so helpful. Depending on the weave of your fabric, you may need to use the point of the needle to position the seam allowance so that the mark of the seamline does not show. Then, sliding your needle about 1/16” or less beneath the background, come up on the back edge of the folded seam allowance, pierce the back edge of the fold, catching a couple of threads of the applique and slowly pull the thread upward. Tip: if your thread color so closely matches the applique, to find where to piece the background, gently pull the thread away from the applique, extending over the background, making a right angle with the thread to the edge of the fold. Now, tuck the point of your needle just under the fold, slide beneath and come up slightly away from your last stitch. Be patient with yourself if you are a beginning beginner or even an advanced beginner. This is the work of your hands, not computer-generated, which in my opinion, is of great value. Learning, doing, and practicing are so valuable.

Thing 7: Keep going, but take some breaks. I also highly recommend using a lighted magnifier directly over your work and your hands as you stitch. Using a lighted magnifier right over my sewing hands allows me to continue what I love to do, sculpting fabric and making pretty things. My eyes are rested, my hands are not sore, and I am relaxed with the process of hand applique, especially if I rest my work and my hands on a pillow on my lap as I stitch. A pillow for your lap is also on my workshop supply lists. It can be used for a nap as needed…

I have read that we can learn from our mistakes, therefore I have certainly learned a lot. Be kind to yourself, and others. Take someone under your wings and share what you have learned and what works well for you. Thank you for taking your time to read and try these tips, tricks, and techniques. I hope they are helpful.

Happy sewing,

Judy Moore Pullen

Tips and Tools for Continuing to Do What You Love To Do…Stitch!

By Judy Moore Pullen

I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with special needs children and adults for 37 years during my teaching career. I was challenged to find adaptive devices and techniques for those who had difficulty using everyday tools such as pencils, scissors, paper, crayons and other things that many of us take for granted. But I loved the challenge of helping others. I also learned so many things from my students that I use today as my fingers and hands are not as flexible and my vision is not as sharp. I would like to share some tips and tools that allow me to continue my passion of hand sewing every day.

Thimble-It is a flat, self-stick oval that adheres to your finger and allows better control of your needle as you are stitching. This non-invasive little oval, applied to each “working finger,” is especially helpful if you are a new hand stitcher and are reluctant to use a thimble. The repetitive motion of pushing a needle through fabric will result in sore fingers and less time spent sewing. Thimble-It helps you sew on and sew on and on. 

Thimble-Pad hugs your finger with its secure adhesive, yet you hardly know it is there. It is tough and helps secure the position and direction of your needle. Try stacking two pads, for maximum protection of your “needle-pushing” finger. This great little pad is especially helpful for so many hand crafts, such as embroidery, hand applique, wool applique, and hand quilting. And the best part…you can remove the pad and reuse it several more times! I stick mine to the hard surface of my lighted magnifying lamp beside my hand sewing nest. I also apply a Thimble-Pad when machine sewing on a project that may require good control of a stiletto for more accurate stitching. When finished, I remove the pad and stick it to my sewing machine. 

Thimble Dimple is a great transition for learning to use a thimble. Packaged with reusable adhesive dots, this small stainless-steel tool prevents sore fingers, callouses, even stained fabric due to painful finger punctures. Also, with greater needle control, you can stitch faster, perhaps moving on to completion of a project and beginning a new one!

Thimble Crown, similar to Thimble Dimple, allows greater needle control since the tiny dimples within the crown help grip the needle, allowing you to push the needle at any angle. The raised edge surrounding the dimples helps prevent the needle from slipping, also protecting your fingers and hands. Packaged with extra adhesive dots, Thimble Crown can be reused several times. 

Under Thimble helps provide protection for your under hand. Especially helpful for hand quilters in making those tiny, even stitches, you can sense the point of the needle on your under hand, then rock the needle back up to the top. Sewing is smoother, stitches are more even and faster. In addition to being painless, there will be no spots on your fabric due to pricked fingers. Additional adhesive dots are enclosed for reuse.  

Ultra Thimble is Ultra for several, reasons: you can use this handy, protective little adhesive tool on your upper and/or under hand! Ultra Thimble is comfortable, reusable, and the precision cut dimples help with stitch accuracy and speed of hand sewing.  And…if you are still reluctant to using a thimble, this is an excellent tool to allow you to continue doing what you love to do, pain free. However, it is also a good transition if/when you desire to learn to use a thimble.

Adhesive Replacements are included with each of these small in size but large in function tools. Not to worry, however, Colonial Needle Company offers packages of 8 Adhesive Replacements. Detailed instructions are on the back of the package, with an additional tip:  Allow a few minutes for the adhesive to bond to both the thimble and your finger.

Additional Tips

1.  Provide a gift bag of these thimble products to a beginning hand stitcher

2. Begin with Thimble-It, and progress to Thimble-Pad, and so on.

3. Take someone under your wings if you are an experienced hand stitcher.

I hope these tips and tools are helpful as you begin or continue on your hand stitching journey. What works for one person might not work as well for another. To continue doing what you enjoy doing, protect your fingers and hands, and share the joy of what you love to do with others.

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen

Stitching Memories

By Judy Moore Pullen

Do you remember when you took your first hand-sewing stitches? Was there someone who had taken you under her wings to help you learn the ins and outs of hand stitching? Do you have a story to share about learning to sew that might inspire someone else?

I have several stories to share about the wonderful people who took me under their wings and taught me to sew. And, even though I am not clear about what I wore yesterday, I well remember my very first attempt at hand sewing. I was about three years old and my parents, my best furry 4-legged friend Doodie (an English shepherd), and I lived on a farm in Ohio. After putting me down for a nap, my mother slipped out of the house to work in the garden. At the age of three, I would rather have been outside playing fetch with Doodie than stuck inside napping. Today, a nap is a welcome break and has become a daily habit 😊

Back to my story…upon waking from my nap, I discovered a tiny hole in my brown corduroy bibbed overalls. (Check out the photo to see why I still “remember” the color of those pants.) And just what does a little girl do with a hole in her pants when she is ready to get out and go play but Mama is not there? This little girl fiddled with the hole until it became bigger, and bigger, and bigger. I had watched my mother make those pants. So when I realized that I just might be in trouble, I climbed out of bed, found my mother’s sewing box, and started stitching up that hole with my stubby, chubby little fingers.

When Mama returned from the garden to check on me, was she upset that I had begun demolition on my overalls and tried to fix them? Not at all! She laughed and could hardly wait to show my daddy when he got home from work. I still have that pair of pants, with the textured corduroy worn smooth at the knees, and the hems a darker color since Mama let out the hems as I grew taller.

How I treasure that story, for many reasons. Reflecting on that first attempt at sewing, I think it is one of the many things that helped give me direction over the years. A year later, when we moved to a small town, a dear sweet granny took me under her wings and taught me the ins and outs of needle and thread hand embroidery on a dishtowel. I can still picture Grandma Morehead sitting next to me on her sofa (she was a very proper lady) arms wrapped around me, helping me hold an embroidery hoop and guiding my hands to make stitches in one of her dishtowels.

Years later, dear Mrs. Crawford, Home Economics teacher in my high school in a little town in Ohio that still does not have a stop light, patiently taught me to hem a lined red wool suit with nearly invisible stitches. I still have the pinking shears that I won with that red wool suit!

There are many more stories that I treasure remembering now that I spend more time reflecting on wonderful people who have guided me, taken me under their wings and taught me skills that have enabled me to do what I love and love what I do. Good people continue to help me.

And then there are the wonderful folks at Colonial Needle Company who have become like family to me, allowing me to teach techniques, test some of their products, and share my tips for stitching and my thoughts. One of their newest products is John James Signature Collection Needles, that are, as the old saying goes, better than sliced bread and twice as sharp as the knife that sliced that bread!

John James newest Signature Collection Needles come in 4 types: Betweens, Sharps, Milliners, and Embroidery. Manufactured in England and packaged by Colonial Needle Company in the USA, these excellent needles are precision engineered of premium steel, with a proprietary finish so that they smoothly and easily glide through fabric. Hand stitching is strain free. The points on these needles are so sharp that they easily pierce the fabric rather than push it, resulting in greater accuracy, especially important in hand applique, and make hand stitching even more enjoyable.

John James Signature Collection

Betweens, also known as Quilting Needles, come in sizes 7-11. Keep in mind that the bigger the number the finer the hand sewing needle. The opposite is true for machine needles. (I like to think that the bigger my number/age, the finer I am getting, too. Therefore, I remember age 3 but not what I wore yesterday…) John James Signature Collections Sharps Needles come in sizes 7-10; Milliners sizes 10, 11; Embroidery Needles sizes 7,8,9. They are packaged in crystal clear tubes of 25 needles, so that you do not quickly run out, and have plenty to share with your like-minded friends.

More about these wonderful needles and samples, tips, and techniques in blogs to come.

So, as you sew, think about your first hand-sewing experience. When? Where? How? What? Who helped? Perhaps if Mama had gotten upset with me and my attempts to repair the pants in which I enlarged the small hole, I might not have continued on my journey with needles and threads, and what a joyous journey it has been and continues to be. I encourage you to think about and share your sewing memories.

Happy sewing and happy thoughts,
Judy Moore Pullen

Judy, do you have a spool of white thread?

Do I have thread? Yes, but not just any old thread. This request by a dear quilting friend, Sue, reminds me of my mother and neighbors borrowing and loaning a cup of sugar, flour, or stick of butter. It’s just something neighbors do, especially when you live in the country as Sue and I do. 

Sue had ever so generously offered to machine quilt a huggable quilt for a child that another dear quilting friend, Debbie, had lovingly hand appliqued. Debbie created colorful, one-of-a-kind lollipop flowers atop variegated jumbo rick rack stems. She is as amazingly creative with small scraps of fabric as Sue is when she performs machine magic stipple quilting. 

Hand applique quilt with Presencia

Stipple quilting looks somewhat like connected jigsaw puzzle pieces. The feed dogs of the sewing machine are disengaged, allowing the quilter to freely move about the quilt sandwich and stitch curvy lines. This quilting technique is perfect for quilting the background of each block, while making the appliqued flowers “pop”. Sue has generously offered to teach me to machine stipple quilt, and I look forward to practicing by making lots of pot holders. Sue’s stipple quilting was the perfect finishing touch to make those happy flowers come alive on that cheerful child’s quilt. And…the Presencia 40-weight thread that Sue borrowed was the perfect thread for quilting. 

A few days later, I received a call from Sue, and she was so excited. She had completed the machine quilting and was raving about what a difference the thread made in the process as well as the appearance of the completed quilt. To paraphrase Sue: “The thread did not break! It is so strong! The stipple quilting was more consistent, and there was virtually no lint in the bobbin area when finished. Tell me more about this spool of white thread!” I simply could not contain myself. I happily told Sue about the thread she “borrowed,” and I am happy to share with you as well.

Presencia is the name of that wonderful thread, and yes, not all thread is alike. There is a definite difference. Presencia begins with the very best 100% long staple Egyptian cotton, mercerized for strength, and is both colorfast and shrinkfast. The long staple fiber and superior quality of Egyptian cotton results in the very best quality thread. Somewhat like making a from-scratch lemon meringue pie, when you begin with fresh eggs, a real lemon, and the best ingredients, you simply cannot eat just one piece of that pie.

Also keep in mind, that the bigger the number on the spool, the finer the sewing thread (and hand sewing needles). I “loaned” Sue a spool of 40-weight Presencia thread for machine quilting. Presencia sewing thread comes in 40, 50 and 60-weights.  All three weights are 3-ply, which means that 3 strong strands are twisted together for extra strength, even the finest 60-weight. The strength and consistency of Egyptian fibers also make Presencia excellent for even bobbin stitches. Just fill your bobbin with the same weight as the top thread.

Presencia also comes in a variety of spool sizes, from 100, 500 and 600 meters, as well as cones. Check out Colonial Needle Company’s website for detailed information, as well as an assortment of color packs. Many beautiful colors are available.

Sue is sold on the ease of stitching with Presencia as well as the beauty of the finished quilting. The child who receives this happy quilt will also be able to love and drag it around and snuggle and snooze beneath its comfort for a long time.

Quilting with Presencia thread

Since my quilting neighbors and I live in the country, stocking up on Presencia thread is always a good idea when field trips to town and quilt shops are our destination. However, we are happy to share with dear quilting friends in need. Sometimes the best-learned lessons are hands on. Take someone under your wings and “loan” a spool of Presencia. Both you and your friends will be happy you did. It’s as good as, maybe even better than, loaning a cup of sugar. Now, to begin that from-scratch lemon meringue pie for Sue and Mike…

Happy stitching,

Judy Moore Pullen