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

April Tricks and Tips

By Judy Moore Pullen

It seems that the origin of April Fools’ Day is somewhat a mystery, although many of us especially enjoy celebrating and having fun with others on that day. I would like to share some tricks and tips with you today that might help take some of the mystery out of sewing as well as make it more enjoyable…except for mending and hemming blue jeans…that is another story.

Trick one:

I love hand sewing, and have a passion for needleturn applique! Before I begin any hand sewing, I prepare by adhering Needle Grip-Its to the tips of my forefinger on my needle-holding hand. The repetitive motion of gripping and pulling a needle causes pain in my hands, and these non-intrusive little dots grip the needle without leaving sticky reside on the needle throughout an entire movie on TV, including commercials!

Tip two:

As I settle in my favorite comfy chair for an evening of hand sewing, I place a pillow behind my back, and plop a smaller pillow on my lap. On the small pillow, I have safety-pinned a rectangle of white wool, although any white fabric will help me see the eye of the needle as I stand it needle upright in the white fabric and into the pillow. Once the needle is threaded, I turn the pillow over and use it as a support for my hands while sewing.  This pillow is one of the “tools” that helps steady my hands and place the tip of the needle exactly where I want it while making needleturn stitches nearly invisible. I can also position my project on the pillow, place applique pieces, and insert straight pins vertically. Then, I can lift edges of the applique and apply Roxanne’s Glue Stick down the center of the wrong side of the applique fabric. The pillow on my lap also provides a place where I can rest my hands and arms.

Trick three:

Colonial Needle Dual Threader is also so helpful in threading that needle standing upright in my pillow on a piece of white fabric. This single needle threader offers one end for standard needle threading, and on the other extra-large end, a threader for threading Presencia Perle Cotton sizes 12 and 16, or several strands of solid or variegated long staple 100% cotton Presencia Embroidery Floss. If you are adventurous, try threading one strand of floss and a strand of perle cotton, of a different color, together. This long handle needle threader also aids in threading sewing machine needles.

Tip four:

One tip for making hand sewing stitches as invisible as possible, is to stitch with Presencia 60 weight thread. If you are hand stitching on items that will receive lots of wear, use 40 weight. For medium wear, try 50 weight. Remember: the bigger the number, the finer the thread and hand sewing needles. Consider sewing buttons on garments with Presencia Perle Cotton, size 12 or 16.  

Trick five:

Another trick for making those stitches nearly invisible is to audition the thread color. Unwind about 12 inches of thread and lay it on top of the fabric. Thread color should match the color of the applique fabric, not the background for those invisible stitches. If hand stitching a hem, dribble the thread from the spool on the right side of the garment. Thread color looks different on the spool than when one strand is placed on top of fabric.

Trick six:

I highly recommend John James new Signature Collection needles for hand sewing. These ultra-sharp, strong, fine needles are available in Betweens, Sharps, Embroidery, and Milliners, and are packaged 25 to a tube. As with thread sizes, the bigger the number, the finer the needle. So, if you prefer to relax and enjoy doing hand embroidery with several strands of lovely solid or variegated Presencia floss, select a size 7 needle. The fewer strands of floss that you use, the larger the size number of the needle. If needleturn hand applique is a favorite way to relax and stitch for you, try a size 11 Milliners or Sharps and Presencia 60 weight thread. The points of these needles is so sharp that they easily pierce the fabric rather than push it out of place.

Colonial Needle Company has so many excellent products and tools to assist in helping those of us who need a daily dose of working and playing with fabric, needles and threads. Select products and use tips and tricks that make working on your projects fun, easy, and result in the best finished product you can do.

Happy sewing,

Judy Pullen  

Peace ~ Piece by Piece

By Judy Moore Pullen

I love the peace and serenity of our back yard; serenaded by birds and the rustle of leaves in the trees, early in the morning before lawn mowers get cranked up. Even on gray rainy days, the sound of raindrops on the roof provides a sense of peace and tranquility while I sip morning coffee and stay snug and dry under the extended roof over the back porch. I look up from my hand stitching when Sable and Sadie race and chase after squirrels that they will never catch, as those annoying little fluffy- tailed critters leap from tree to tree, taunting our furry little girls.

Making quilts for children also provides a wonderful sense of peace and fulfillment for me. A dear friend and I love to make charity children’s quilts. There are children in need, and we want to help provide the comfort of a quilt for as many children as we can. Debbie has a very large sewing room at her house, so she cuts the tops and backings, layers with batting, pin-bastes the layers together, and marks a diagonal grid with Roxanne’s marking pencils for machine quilting. She passes the quilts to me and I machine quilt and stitch the binding to the top. Debbie and I hand stitch the folded edge of the French fold bindings while binge-watching streamed TV in the evenings.

I love the process of doing something (except for the process of vacuuming and dusting.) I need a bumper sticker that tells the person behind me that “I would rather be sewing,” or “I would rather be shopping for fabric.” What would you rather be doing? What would your bumper sticker say about you?

Back to enjoying process…

I find that machine quilting the grid on these children’s quilts is so peaceful. Most of the tops are whole cloth, 36” x width of fabric, although some are lap size larger. Debbie creatively and artistically extends panels and darling children’s prints for tops by piecing, adding borders, turning plain-Jane fabrics into something fun for a child. Debbie is also a master at piecing scraps and strips together to make the bindings. Piece by piece, we hope to provide comfort and peace for children. This process provides a sense of peace for us as well. As I machine quilt the layers, I sometimes listen to audio books borrowed from our local library. At other times, I listen to music on my laptop. And sometimes, I simply savor the peace and quiet of the hum of my machine.

The peace acquired by hand stitching bindings is enhanced by the newest John James Signature Collection Needles from Colonial Needle Company. I had an opportunity to try the John James Signature Collection Milliners, size 10, for needle turn applique, one of my passions. What a joy! This needle is so sharp and glides so smoothly—easily piercing the turned edge of fabric rather than pushing or distorting it, which provides more accuracy and much greater ease of stitching. These needles are so user friendly that some of my “I don’t do hand applique” friends may even take up the art, joy, and passion of hand applique.

Threading the new John James Signature Collection Milliners, size 10, with Presencia 60-weight thread was also easy. Presencia 60 weight thread is 3-ply, long staple, so very strong while also very fine, perfect for hand applique and hiding those stitches. The length of this John James Signature Collection Milliners also made it perfect for swooping under and turning the seam allowance. One more thing I highly recommend is using two Needle Grip-Its to more easily grip the needle. Adhere one to your forefinger and one to your thumb tip on the hand with which you grip the needle. The repeated motion of gripping and pulling a needle can result in pain in hands and fingers over time. These great grips enable me to stitch for hours pain-free, also adding to my peace of mind whether I am doing hand applique or hand stitching a binding on a quilt.

One more thing…

I also tried stitching bindings with the newest John James Signature Collection Sharps, size 10. What a joy to easily pierce the backing, glide through the batting, and pierce upward to catch the fold of the binding. These needles are also strong, sharp, glide easily, and enhance my time of peace and quiet while listening to the sounds of chirping birds or a best seller book, peaceful music or the sound of silence. I’m eager to try these new John James Signature Collection Needles on hand piecing, too.

The process of sewing and creating is both peaceful and exciting for me. I enjoy the doing part of a project, not just the finished product. Using the best tools enhances both the process and the product. I highly recommend these new John James Signature Collection Needles. Just when you thought needles could not get any better ~ they did, they do, and they are!!

Peace be, piece by piece.

Happy Stitching!

Judy Moore Pullen