Practical Thread Magic

When I come to teach to a group, there's always a frantic rush of questions and concerns. I don't play with the same toys other quilters do. Though I talk about that at length in class, I thought it would be helpful to have that information available in a blog. So here we're going to discuss the nuts and bolts of the kind of thread work I love and teach. We'll discuss products, choices, threads, fabrics, tools, stabilizers and all the things that make my work work for me, and will help your work work for you.

If you have an upcoming class with me, you should know I bring almost all of the things I use for your needs. If you want to try something you've got, absolutely bring it. But if you're having trouble finding it, please don't stress. I'll have it there for you.

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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Would You Like To Have A Class With Ellen?

Ellen would be delighted to have a class with you or your group! You can check out her classes at She also offers independent studio time in her studio in Indiana. Talk to Ellen about classes at 219-921-0885, or contact her scheduler Melida at 405-735-3703 .to set a date
Friday, March 5, 2010

Working with the Weird: Can I Put that on My Quilt?

Fall Fanfair was part of my Dancing Tree series. I had intended to needle punch wool yarn into cotton. Well, you never know until you try. I really never let anyone else tell me something is impossible, unless it's also unappealing.

 Of course it didn't work.After I'd proved that with about 10 hours of ineffective needle punching, I layered it with Aqua-Film over the yarn and stitched it all down with mono-filament nylon. I was declared stubborn as a child, but our childhood faults are often our adult virtues. Now they say I'm determined. 

I fused on Silk Leaves (I'm not sure but they were probably from Joann's, Walmart of Big Lots) with Bo Nash Bonding Powder. I love this piece. But it was a case of using some things you don't always find on a quilt.

After years of doing all kinds of things to materials most folk don't try to quilt with, it seems a worthy question. How do you know if you can put it on your quilt?

If we're talking fabric, it's a shorter list of potential woes and issues. For starters, it's probably flat. The big questions are:

  • Will it melt?
  • Is it too thick to stitch through? If you can't stitch it, how will you put it on?
  • Is it knitted?(Knitted things are harder to fuse and much harder to stitch)
  • Is it rayon?( if it is it's probably not light fast.)
Lace, brocade, organza, sheers, fused Angelina and Crystalina, and all kinds of fabrics work excellently with Steam-A-Seam 2 or other fusibles. Velvet is a special problem because the nap hides stitches and fuses poorly.

Natural objects have one basic problem. Will they break? Feathers, leaves, sticks, whatever, it will dry out and then they're likely to break. Particularly if you're sending it out and showing it.

Unnatural Objects. This sounds much worse than it is. But things like plastic toys, odd bits, old jewelry are all possibilities if they get through this list of issues.

  • Is it sticky?
  • Will it break?
  • Will it melt?
  • Will it bend permanently if I fold it?
  • Can I fuse it?
  • Can I stitch through it?
  • Will the objects rip the quilt surface?
The real issue with all of these things is, what you need this quilt to do. Where will you show this quilt?

Is it going straight on your wall, never to move? You can feather it,bead it, attach sticks and stones, put plastic cruddies on it and not even blink.

Is it aimed for national shows? You need to think about how you're going to send it. And how they will send it back to you ( Not always the same thing).

If you're selling it, you need to at least let the buyer know what's possible. If things will either melt, bend or break, let them know.

Think about where your quilt will be while you choose its odd embellishments.

Wrapping it up:
The world is full of wonderful weird fabrics and things that probably should end up on a quilt somewhere. Just make sure they'll go along with your plans for that quilt. 
And remember that our stubborn streaks as a child make us fully determined and able (and probably dangerous) as  adults. You're the only one who ever gets to tell you, "no".

You'll find Bo-Nash Powder at if you're local store doesn't carry it. But always try your local store first. They deserve you're support and make your quilt community. Help them be there for you.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Glue it to it: My Favorite Fusible

One of the odd things about having quilted long enough is that you have a living history of the march of products. I've been at this since 1975 which means I've gotten to see them all come and go. The techniques change a little. What marches that change most is the available products. This was never so true as with fusibles.

I personally welcomed all the changes, and once the new one came out, promptly gave away the old product to someone who didn't care. The changes were that good.

 My first adventure in non-sewn applique was in 1975 and it involved scotch tape.  Which melted, but not in any way you would suspect or want. As you can imagine, I didn't try that again.

Somewhere in the early 1970s Stitch Witchery arrived. I started using it in the early 1980's. It was an unbacked glue web that spread everywhere and created a fabric surface just like cardboard. It was the only game in town for those of us hopeless in hand-applique. We used it, or tried to and pretended it looked fine.

Wonder Under was a big step up from that. It had a paper back. You ironed it onto your fabric and cut your shapes and then ironed them down. At least the glue stayed put. It created a fused surface that held it's edge as you stitched it by machine. It was functional. And it was paper backed, which meant the shapes matched your fabric shapes and you didnt' smear your iron.It also glued up fabric you might want to use in other ways and created a whole new stash category of pre-glued fabric.

A few years after that, Aileen's Fusible Web showed up. If you looked at it next to Wonder Under the difference was immediate. It had at least twice the amount of glue on the surface but was no more stiff. It was wonderful. And it was also paper backed. I used it until their factory burned down and then we were left with Wonder Under again.

Until the Steam-A-Seam came out. I often miss the beginnings of new products because I live in a studio and not at the store. Most of the studio supplies are ordered in from wholesalers so that's why I'm often on the end of  the wave instead of the vanguard. I don't get to see things until someone shows it to me.

So I missed Steam-A-Seam 1. It was tacky. And I don't just mean the fabric. You could tack it on to one side of the fabric and it would stick. You could also remove it so you didn't have a pre-glued fabric collection anymore. And it was paper backed. Ironing it made it permanent. 

That was good. The second version (Steam-A-Seam 2) tacked on both sides. Ca-Ching!!! You could tack it on to your fabric. Then peal the back and tack it on to your piece. And move it endlessly. Only when it ironed was it on forever. They made a light version of it which is functional for cottons and miserable for the brocades, laces, and sheers I like to fuse with. But I still buy Steam-A Seam 2 in 25 yard boxes and go through something like four of them a year.

There are new fusibles that have come out, but they aren't paper backed and I just won't go there. I know I'll make a mess.

Things to know:

  1. No glue holds things down indefinitely. You will need to stitch it in some way. I use mono-filament nylon for soft edges and either poly or metallic thread and a zig zag stitch to make it stay.
  2. I am doing wall hangings, so I prefer my work to be stiff. You may have other druthers. Honor those. Use a product that gives you the right results for you.
  3. Glues get old. Don't buy more than you can use in 3 months. If it does get old, you can use it old style by ironing it on to your fabric. But what a mess.
  4. Odd fabrics like brocade, lace cheesecloth, sheers, an angelina fiber can all be fused but you'll need a non-stick pressing cloth to catch the glue.
  5. In case you don't catch the glue, iron cleaner is your friend. I clean my irons around  every week.
Wrapping it up. The glues just get better and better.I'm an unabashed fan of Steam-A-Seam 2 for it's tack and it's fusing capabilities.

You'll find Steam-A-Seam 2 at any fabric store worth it's salt. It comes in bolts of 12" wide, and then in packages of sheets and in small strips in rolls for hemming. I use those for making rod pockets. See Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques for instructions.


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