Using Thread to Add Detail to Your Quilt

November 8th, 2011

I’m nearly done with the free motion embroidery and trapunto on this quilt top, so now I’m adding in some detail work into the “blank spaces.”  My first move is to throw in a few grapevine curlycues emanating from the vine structures.  To do this, I first find a “blank zone” adjacent to a vine that’s large enough to support a grapevine curly cue, like what you see below:

Once you’ve identified the space and ironed it, you flip the top over and apply a temporary stabilizer onto the backside.  Here, I’ve attached some Sulky Iron-on Tear Away stabilizer:

(You need that stabilizer to prevent puckering and gathering from forming around your stitches.) Now, I really want this grapevine curlycue to have some dimension, so I’m going to use a super heavy thread. I’m using a size 12 pearl cotton embroidery thread by The Caron Collection (it has been hand-wound onto an old empty cone):

I want you to notice a couple things in the above photo. The first is a tiny bottle of Sewer’s Aid, which is liquid silicone. This lubricant can be used to help “finicky threads” flow easily through your machine. You do not need to use this product, but I use it for any thread I feel might be problematic. (Metallic thread would be at the top of my list.) It’s very easy to use. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see a line that goes from the top of the spool to the bottom. That is a line of Sewer’s Aid that I have drizzled along the cone, and I typically drizzle 4-5 lines like that across a given spool or cone. I use a size 90 Microtex Sharp or Topstitch Needle for this thread and I choose a mid-weight cotton in the bobbin. To start a curleycue, begin by placing your needle right at the edge of the vine as below:

You can pre-draw a curlycue and do follow-the-line stitching or just stitch one out freehand as below:

Notice how the stitches lay flat, without any puckering around them-that is because we placed that stabilzer on the backside. Here’s what the back looks like at this point:

Just pull those long thread tails to the backside, tie them in a knot, and snip them off. Once that’s done, tear away that stabilizer and you’re done!