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.

About Me

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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
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shopping at Quilt Stores:The Care and Feeding of Community

Every time I write something about a product or a quilting toy, I find myself first looking for an online link for it, and then writing this disclaimer that it's always best to shop at a local store. It feels a bit schizoid to offer those two bits of information. But I never know what will be needful. I know there are people who live at the back of the beyond. The internet is the world's largest market place. You can find anything there if you hunt long enough. I love the ability to read reviews. I hate vacuum cleaners. This may sound like a non-sequetor , but it's not. I just bought one I love, courtesy of Amazon and the three million reviews available. It's got it's place.

So why should we ever shop anywhere else?

There's a delusion that a store is only a place to buy something. I say it's a delusion because that may be it's primary purpose, but it's not its job. Stores create community. A great store is the beginning of a great community.

How does this work? It depends on the store. It depends on their attitude and what they offer their clients.It depends on the client's willingness to join in.

Do you need to know where the local quilt guild is?
Ask the store.
Do you need someone to fix your machine?
Ask the store
Do you need someone to show your quilt to before you bust?
Take it into the store.
Do you need someone to help you match the thread or fabric?
Ask the store?
Do you need to know about new products?
Ask the store.
Do you need to know a great long arm quilter who will finish your quilt?
Ask the store.
Are you beginning to see how this works?

But past that, it's a place to meet other quilters, take amazing classes, find out what's new, share your joy, and be with people who love what you love.

Whenever I travel I ask to see the local quilt store. What I find there tells me a great deal about the community I've come to teach in. I can see if they're traditional or arty, active or passive. The store is not about the store strictly. It tells me a great deal about the people it serves.

Much sadder are the places where the store once was and is now gone. The chain stores have a bit of everything, but never the focus or range you can expect from a store specialized in quilting. It makes a huge hole in the community when a store closes.

One of my favorite quilt stores is Glacier Quilts in Kalispell, Montana. This is not an easy place to get to. It's tucked right next to Glacier National Park. And it's completely worthy.

They have a mountain of fabric. That's always good.They have a brilliant sewing machine mechanic. That's always better. They've got a wall full of notions, and books, and all the fixings.

So what makes it better than that?

They have children who are part of the store. There's a large playpen for your child and they'll let you borrow their's if you're suffering from baby withdrawal.

They have machines set up for people to just come in and use. You can work on an aids baby quilt or bring in something you're working on and do it in company.

They host amazing classes.

They bring in snacks and lattes at need.

They're right next store to a outfitters store where your husband can be parked.

They have brilliant other quilters working there who will share their opinion if asked.

They create a community where people can go.

This is one of many great stores I've seen. It's one of the very best. This is what the internet cannot bring you: community in your community.

What is the price for this community?

If you don't support little stores, they can't support you. That's also true of vendors at quilt shows. They take big risks to bring you what they have. When you see bolts and bolts of fabric, you see not their wealth but their debt. They're prices  may be a bit higher than a chain store because they probably can't buy in the same volume. 

But if you're running  off to the chain store 3 times out of 10, the chances are your little store won't be there in a year. So for perhaps 50 cents less, you can lose your little store.

We recently learned the Walmart lesson. Walmart put in fabric in their stores and undersold everyone. Everyone bought at Walmart.  No one else could compete with their buying power. Many small stores failed under that weight. Now Walmart tells us it's just too much trouble to sell fabric. After all, it takes people who help you.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a good thing. Perhaps we'll have room for more great little stores where people meet for classes, learn cool things, and care for each other.

Wrapping it up:
If you're in Kalispell, visit this shop because you'll think you went home. Visit your local store and see how they make you at home there too. Shop the internet as a last resort because it really is that. It can't ever make you feel at home. Because home is where the heart is and the internet is not a place of the heart.

Glacier Quilts
125 Hutton Ranch Road
PO Box 7274
Kalispell, MT 59901

Phone: 406-257-6966 Fax: 406-257-6969 email:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Enough Ironing Board: How Board Can You Be?

Every so often I go on a quest. I look at a situation and decide there has to be a better way. There usually is. It's just often outside the quilt world proper.

My father used to say if a job took too long, was too nasty, or didn't work right, you had the wrong tool. He also said you could use a hammer for a saw, but it was hard on the hammer and hard on what you were sawing. He didn't often say much, but he was surely right about this.

I have a small table I've used as an ironing board for years. I covered it with cotton quilt bat and some muslin dipped in boric acid solution as a way of making it fire retardant. It's so much easier to work than an ironing board. It also never falls over.

Did I say it was a small table? I don't often work large but when I do, I do. I'm working on a piece that's around 68"x50". Since all of that has to be backed with a stabilizer, I've been wrestling with it on that small board.

I also have a lovely old Create-A-Space table I bought over 20 years ago. It's about 48" by 74", and it came with a cutting mat. 

I morned the day they stopped carrying these. Mine is a bit rickety but a worthy studio companion. There are smaller versions of this available, but this was worthy.

The smaller versions have an ironing board cover you can order. I did, not thinking the smaller issue would count. I've always been in the headset that you can always stretch things. Not that much.

It had an interesting grid and a foam sheet to put under it.  And it fit just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine. It was useless.

As I was making my plans to buy some really wide muslin and get some boric acid, I walked past the linens isle in the discount store.  The twin mattress pad fit perfectly.It was cotton with poly bat. It cost around $8, rolls up in the cupboard when I need to cut on the board and doesn't have a odd foam sheet for me to lose in the studio somewhere.

Follow this link to E how, where they talk about how to make fabric flame retardant with Borax, boric acid, and a spray bottle. Easy and low tech.

Wrapping it up:
If you've got a table the size of a twin bed, and you have a mattress pad, you can have a ironing board pretty much the size of God. And if you can think outside the box, you can do  just about anything.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Say Cheese: the Wonders of Cheesecloth

I'm always on the hunt for cool new sheers. Why?

So many things really are see through. Flowers, water, air, smoke, fire  and ice are all if not see through, translucent.  So it makes sense to use see through and translucent fabrics to represent them. 

In the quest for the new, some while back, I discovered something old. I wish I remembered the name of the lady who showed me. I was in Athens, Georgia, teaching. A lovely woman from Germany pulled out a wad of cheesecloth. I was in love! What a wonderful fiber!

This is exactly the same cheesecloth that you use in the kitchen. It's 100% cotton so it dyes beautifully. And because it's so thinly woven, it's sheer. But because it's hand-dyed, it can have all the amazing mottled surface of hand dye.

This rose and its leaves are almost all cheesecloth. They've been put on with Steam-A-Seam 2, my favorite fusible. And then stitched with metallic and polyester 40 weight threads.

There's no trick to dyeing cheesecloth. It dyes perfectly with fiber reactive dyes, just like other cottons. The trick is in washing it out. It's a bad boy and it needs to be kept isolated to  make sure it doesn't tangle or shred. I put mine in a tied nylon knee high, and then stuff it in a nylon laundry bag. That keeps it from getting mangled. The one time I had a whole bag of cheesecloth get loose in the washer, it became a solid mass of cheesecloth. For a while, I wore it like a fox wrap. Then I gave it to someone who made paper with the fibers. There's always a use somewhere. 

And like most wonderful things, it can be used in other ways. I've always offered the idea of using lime green cheesecloth on a turkey for those special Thanksgivings where you have to deal with a relative you're less than thankful for. For some funny reason, they don't seem to come back after that. 

It's cheesy. I've never really done it, but sometimes the fun is just in the imagining.


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