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 www.ellenanneeddy.com. She also offers independent studio time in her studio in Indiana. Talk to Ellen about classes at 219-921-0885, or contact her scheduler Sarah at 616-485-5646 to set a date

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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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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Case for Kits-I have to follow the instructions?



I'm famous for my inability to follow a map, a set of video equipment instructions, or God help me, a cook book. I'm truly dyslexic, but that's really only a good excuse. The other factor is that I'm a pig on ice.  A pig on ice is a stubborn creature who may be in big trouble but is very unlikely to accept your help. It's just going to do what it does.


So, burdened as I am with those difficulties, I'm very unlikely to get a kit to make anything. It comes with instructions, and I'm more likely to line the cat pan with those rather than read them.
So, why did I say I'd make kits? Because my limits are not anyone else's and if it helps launch them, then let's do it.

Around 5 years ago, I began to see a difference in the quilters in my class. Quilters are to the main, brilliant, able and intellegent. They're a pleasure to teach. And Why NOT! They're women past the age of a great deal of personal vanity and silliness. And with vast experiences. 
But the new students are, though just as brilliant, and able, new to sewing. They measure their experience in months, not years. For some of them, you're looking at their first machine and they bought it 2 months ago.
Are they less able? Less worthy? Good God no!
But they do need a leg up.
I took my education in primary and specialized in first grade. I do not believe in the bell curve. In the same way I was unwilling to have one student who couldn't tie their shoes (think about this. If they can't tie it, who will have to?), I refuse to have a student who can't start where she is, and learn what she can. And to the main, I see them shoot past us older girls, because they don't know the limits that really don't count now. I'm honored when they come to my class and I stand back when  they get going. I know its going to happen like a rocket taking off, and I'd rather not get run down.


So when is a kit not a compromise?
When it's a point to jump off from. Often the hard point for someone starting is the whole design process.It's my favorite thing to teach. I've watched so many people go from their fear to their fervor. The passion that is unleashed as we start to play with our own images is a holy thing and a thing that makes us whole. But not every one can do that on command on a Saturday afternoon in a six hour class.
One of my favorite art facts is that Degas traced a particular pastel and colored it different ways, over and over and over on tracing paper. Someone was actually smart enough to preserve them. He'd taken one part (the color choices) of his creation and made an exercise of try dozens of different colors in different ways. Creative? Maybe not. Good learning, well, Brilliant! He limited the choices he was making to focus on learning new skill. And that, is what we can do with kits.


So in the same way, I've done 10 kits for Cotton Club that range from ladybugs, butterflies, pansies, roses, luna moths, fish, frogs, leaves and black eyed susans. There's a full color wheel of hand-dyed threads with others chosen to make your project simple. By taking some choices off the table, we can focus and really learn one thing well.


But, for the other pigs on ice, and I know you're out there.
Use it:

  • To build your stash
  • To try colors you don't often try
  • To work with different bobbin work styles
  • To stretch your color knowledge and your stitching skills.
And if you don't wander off the path and do something off the wall, I'll be highly disappointed.
You'll find these kits at
The Cotton Club
 You'll find a slide show of them on my blog at
Thread Magic Events

Thread Savy-Why dye! The Case for Hand-dyed Thread

We've talked about the commercial thick metallic threads. They're yummy.As your asking yourself, "What more could you need?", think of this. They don't come in very good variegations. 




Variegated thread is sort of a mixed blessing in almost all the commercial threads. There are two basic types. There are threads variagated through rainbow colors. These make great stippling threads. The color changes carry your eye across the surface and they're very interesting for that. But they're miserable to shade with. Who, over the age of three, wants a random rainbow colored anything? It's a serious limit. 




They also come with small variegations, that range around one color. Again, it's a limited effect. Finally you'll find pearl cottons that range in value from white to the darkest tone of the color. This works for flowers, but for anything else, it looks like it fades in and out. These threads were never made to shade solid images.


This is why I dye thread. I've learned that the best way to color an image is to have a range of colors, light to dark and then to add a shader for weight and a shocker for interest. With thinner threads, you pick your colors one by one. But thicker threads fill up quicker and don't have enough space to let you do that. So when I dye my own threads, I dye in that range and a shocker or shader( sometimes one color works for both purposes) so that thread will automatically shade as I stitch.
The threads I dye are #5 Pearl cottons. They're made from mercerized cotton and dye beautifully! And they're already washed out and needle ready( I wash out all my red threads an extra time, just to insure their color fastness). Slightly larger than the #8 metallics, they are a perfect thread for bobbin weight work.


It sounds complicated. But the dyeing makes it a simple coloring exercise. And I never stay within the lines, so I don't see why you should either.


You put these threads in an adjusted  or bypassed bobbin and stitch from the back. The results are spectacular.  I often add either black  or iridescent white Candlelight  for details and to outline.


Ellen Anne Eddy's Hand-Dyed Thread Club  can checked out at The Cotton Club. These cute little kits can start you out with threads that will do the hard color choices for you. 
You can see these kits at the Cotton Club or on my blog at
Thread Magic Events

Thread Savy-Why dye! The Case for Hand-dyed Thread

We've talked about the commercial thick metallic threads. They're yummy.As your asking yourself, "What more could you need?", think of this. They don't come in very good variegations. 




Variegated thread is sort of a mixed blessing in almost all the commercial threads. There are two basic types. There are threads variagated through rainbow colors. These make great stippling threads. The color changes carry your eye across the surface and they're very interesting for that. But they're miserable to shade with. Who, over the age of three, wants a random rainbow colored anything? It's a serious limit. 




They also come with small variegations, that range around one color. Again, it's a limited effect. Finally you'll find pearl cottons that range in value from white to the darkest tone of the color. This works for flowers, but for anything else, it looks like it fades in and out. These threads were never made to shade solid images.


This is why I dye thread. I've learned that the best way to color an image is to have a range of colors, light to dark and then to add a shader for weight and a shocker for interest. With thinner threads, you pick your colors one by one. But thicker threads fill up quicker and don't have enough space to let you do that. So when I dye my own threads, I dye in that range and a shocker or shader( sometimes one color works for both purposes) so that thread will automatically shade as I stitch.
The threads I dye are #5 Pearl cottons. They're made from mercerized cotton and dye beautifully! And they're already washed out and needle ready( I wash out all my red threads an extra time, just to insure their color fastness). Slightly larger than the #8 metallics, they are a perfect thread for bobbin weight work.


It sounds complicated. But the dyeing makes it a simple coloring exercise. And I never stay within the lines, so I don't see why you should either.


You put these threads in an adjusted  or bypassed bobbin and stitch from the back. The results are spectacular.  I often add either black  or iridescent white Candlelight  for details and to outline.


Ellen Anne Eddy's Hand-Dyed Thread Club  can checked out at The Cotton Club. These cute little kits can start you out with threads that will do the hard color choices for you. 
You can see these kits at the Cotton Club or on my blog at
Thread Magic Events

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thread Savy- Thick Metallic Threads


We've talked about all the needle usage threads. Thicker threads (sizes #5-8) can be run through the bobbin of your machine and are instant gratification.
The metallic thick threads are especially yummy. Because they're thick, they build up an image very quickly. And being metallic, shiny and gorgeous doesn't hurt either.


What's the catch? Well, it helps if you're dyslexic. Because these threads are sewed upside down. 



There are three basic brands. Madeira Glamor, YLI Candlelight and Superior Razzle Dazzle are all identical in form and function, but the differing companies offer different colors. They work in an either adjusted or bypassed bobbing case (ask your mechanic and he'll help set that up. And you sew upside down. Use a matching polyester #40 thread through the needle. The thicker thread will look like it's been couched on. It's a very pretty look.


Is that hard? Of course not. Can you look through a slide backward? I use my drawing on stabilizer in the back and fill it in with simple  straight stitch repetitive shapes. Or I've drawn on the quilt sandwich from the back and stitched along that.


The dandelion puff here is YLI Rainbow Candlelight.


Wrapping it up
Thick metallic threads work beautifully in a bypassed or adjusted bobbin case. Stitching with a straight stitch you can make wonderful filled in images or lacy textures, at your choice.





Thread Savy- Thick Metallic Threads


We've talked about all the needle usage threads. Thicker threads (sizes #5-8) can be run through the bobbin of your machine and are instant gratification.
The metallic thick threads are especially yummy. Because they're thick, they build up an image very quickly. And being metallic, shiny and gorgeous doesn't hurt either.


What's the catch? Well, it helps if you're dyslexic. Because these threads are sewed upside down. 



There are three basic brands. Madeira Glamor, YLI Candlelight and Superior Razzle Dazzle are all identical in form and function, but the differing companies offer different colors. They work in an either adjusted or bypassed bobbing case (ask your mechanic and he'll help set that up. And you sew upside down. Use a matching polyester #40 thread through the needle. The thicker thread will look like it's been couched on. It's a very pretty look.


Is that hard? Of course not. Can you look through a slide backward? I use my drawing on stabilizer in the back and fill it in with simple  straight stitch repetitive shapes. Or I've drawn on the quilt sandwich from the back and stitched along that.


The dandelion puff here is YLI Rainbow Candlelight.


Wrapping it up
Thick metallic threads work beautifully in a bypassed or adjusted bobbin case. Stitching with a straight stitch you can make wonderful filled in images or lacy textures, at your choice.





Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Musings: Art Outside the Box. Your Authentic Voice


I was talking with another artist friend about finding your voice. She's spent around 4-5 years now taking every class, pushing every limit, driving herself to the edge. She's a fine artist and an accomplished quilter. She's getting into her shows and she's producing madly. But she's still looking for her voice. She's looking for the art only she can do, the things only she can say with it.


Perhaps we're always still looking for our voice. One of the reasons I treasure the art/ quilt movement so much is that in many ways it's really been the first art form made almost exclusively of women past their childbearing years. Art/quilting couldn't have happened a hundred years ago. Women didn't live long enough to have the passion and drive left to truly find their voice and then the energy to say what they needed to say. Anatomy as destiny was a cruel road. It's not that long ago. Suddenly there's a groundswell of women who found a space in time to say something and a different way to say it.


I don't mean to dismiss male quilters. There are many fine ones, but men have always had stronger communication  skills and more built in confidence and entitlement about how they use them. One is rarely left asking what they thought. They'll tell you. They're good at that.


As women, we've had to fight for that voice. We've had to redefine what we do as art. We've had to build places to show it, tools to create it, new palettes of thread and cloth to work with. Almost all of this has been a grass roots thing, something sprung out of small groups at home. Until someone with a business degree noticed that quilters spend money, and it became a business.


 But in the middle of that, thousands of women have found a new way to say the unspoken, the unheard of, the heart's whisper, the moan of fear and pain, the laughter of raucous joy, all of that has bled its way into our art, through our quilts.


I think there's two parts to voice. The first part is the technical skill. There's a vocabulary in our skills that is the building block of what we say in our work. As long as you're working primarily with someone else's blocks, I think that voice isn't truly yours.


But then there's vision. That's truly unique. I'm always a bit wistful about the quilt fashions each year. There'll be a run on one subject or another. Someone will bring out a new book that touts a particular technique and you see it everywhere. I find that sad because under it, I know that I haven't truly heard that woman's  voice.She's working on technique or on eye candy, all good exercises on the way, but not her true voice.She's coming. Her voice is in the wind, on the way.


How many of us really have that courage anyway? To pull out the bits of our lives for display and to shout them into existence in cloth.


My voice is not safe. Its not  quiet. It's not even safe for me. As I speak my heart, my heart is out in public, beating, bleeding, bearing examination, bearing judgement. And yet, what else can I do? What else is art for?
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thread Savy-Metallic Threads


Metallic threads are different from all other kinds. Largely because they are hybrids. Rayons, polys and cottons are all of one piece. It makes them stronger. It makes them more integral. It's rare to even have a rayon (the most fragile of the three) that won't work easily and well through the needle.


Not so with metallics.Most people report they have trouble sewing with metallic thread. It's also always harder free motion. Why?


It's All in How It's Made
Metallic threads are usually a combination of lurex, viscose(rayon), polyester, and whatever else was in the test tube. They're usually wound together in the process. Of course, whatever is wound can be unwound. So it makes sense that under the stress of sewing, these threads are much more likely to break.
There are three basic forms of metallic thread

Flecked Thread
These threads are twisted with the components all together. They have an appearance of flecked sparkles.These tend to be the strongest of the metallic threads. My favorite flecked threads are the Madeira Supertwists.These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.



Wound thread
This thread has a poly or rayon core with lurex or metal wrapped  around it.These threads vary a lot, depending on what the core is, and whether the wrapping is glued on or not. My favorite wound thread are  Superior Metallic, and Yenmet, which have a poly core and are glued supposedly with rice paste. These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.



Flat Threads
These threads look like Christmas tinsel. They're flat and nothing but lurex. They're notoriously breakable.
But they are lovely. I use them in the bobbin only.


The Three Best Tricks
Here are the three best tricks for making metallic thread work better.
The Bobbin vs the Needle
Every thread that goes through your needle goes through it 50 times. That's a lot of wear and tear. If it goes through your bobbin it gets picked up just once. So if your thread is breaking, sew with it in the bobbin with a poly or rayon thread that matches it in color on top. Much less breakage.
The Right Needle
The best needle for all free motion embroidery is usually a #90 topstitching needle. The bigger eye and shart point make a huge difference. See my entry, The Needle Knows.
Sewers Aid
This silicon thread treatment makes threads infinitely stronger. You can use it on threads that need some help. Just drool it along the spool.
And as always
Garbage in, Garbage out
Nothing fixes either cheap or old thread. If it won't sew you can always glob with it. I'll show you that trick another time.
Wrapping it up
Metallic threads are a beautiful addition to your thread pallet. With special care and tricks they add all the glitz a girl can use.

Thread Savy-Metallic Threads


Metallic threads are different from all other kinds. Largely because they are hybrids. Rayons, polys and cottons are all of one piece. It makes them stronger. It makes them more integral. It's rare to even have a rayon (the most fragile of the three) that won't work easily and well through the needle.


Not so with metallics.Most people report they have trouble sewing with metallic thread. It's also always harder free motion. Why?


It's All in How It's Made
Metallic threads are usually a combination of lurex, viscose(rayon), polyester, and whatever else was in the test tube. They're usually wound together in the process. Of course, whatever is wound can be unwound. So it makes sense that under the stress of sewing, these threads are much more likely to break.
There are three basic forms of metallic thread

Flecked Thread
These threads are twisted with the components all together. They have an appearance of flecked sparkles.These tend to be the strongest of the metallic threads. My favorite flecked threads are the Madeira Supertwists.These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.



Wound thread
This thread has a poly or rayon core with lurex or metal wrapped  around it.These threads vary a lot, depending on what the core is, and whether the wrapping is glued on or not. My favorite wound thread are  Superior Metallic, and Yenmet, which have a poly core and are glued supposedly with rice paste. These threads work either in needle or bobbin, zigzag or straight.



Flat Threads
These threads look like Christmas tinsel. They're flat and nothing but lurex. They're notoriously breakable.
But they are lovely. I use them in the bobbin only.


The Three Best Tricks
Here are the three best tricks for making metallic thread work better.
The Bobbin vs the Needle
Every thread that goes through your needle goes through it 50 times. That's a lot of wear and tear. If it goes through your bobbin it gets picked up just once. So if your thread is breaking, sew with it in the bobbin with a poly or rayon thread that matches it in color on top. Much less breakage.
The Right Needle
The best needle for all free motion embroidery is usually a #90 topstitching needle. The bigger eye and shart point make a huge difference. See my entry, The Needle Knows.
Sewers Aid
This silicon thread treatment makes threads infinitely stronger. You can use it on threads that need some help. Just drool it along the spool.
And as always
Garbage in, Garbage out
Nothing fixes either cheap or old thread. If it won't sew you can always glob with it. I'll show you that trick another time.
Wrapping it up
Metallic threads are a beautiful addition to your thread pallet. With special care and tricks they add all the glitz a girl can use.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thread Savy- Mono-filament Threads



Mono-filament threads are a whole other class. They are an embroidery thread of a sort.They are a war horse thread with specific purposes. But they do not really work for any classic dense embroidery.


Why?


Because they are so strong. In general, threads that are made of one particular thing are stronger than threads made of several substances twisted together. Metallic threads are always weaker than single fiber threads, because they're really not all of one piece. It's lurex, viscose, poly, and often a partridge and a pear tree. Metallics are not only a test tube baby. They are hybrids.Mono threads are one single substance that is stronger than the cotton threads of your fabric. Which means it can, if misused, cut through your surface fabric. So some caution and information is a real help here.


Early mono-filament nylon:
In the seventies, when we had the beginning of of knitted fabrics and sewing for knits, mono-filament came to the fore for lingerie and stretch knits. It was almost like a cord. It also melted easily with an iron.You could iron your garment and watch the seams separate. It was a heavier weight thread at around #20, which made it way too strong. It was wonderful for hanging sun catchers and that was it's very best use.Lots of the bad stories about mono-filament thread are in response to those original ones.This was the mono filament nylon they said could hurt your machine. It could. It came in giant cones. If you still have any of this left, use it for hanging pictures or make some mobiles. Please don't sew with it.


Mono-filament now:
We've come a long way.Because of the intense strength of these threads, it's recognized that they should be usually 40-70 weight (remember that larger numbers are thinner threads).  They're perfectly safe for machines, both in the needle and bobbin.They also come in polyester and in nylon. The polyester ones are also available in colors.


If they aren't in colors, they'll come in clear and smoke. Clear is for white and pastel work. Smoke is for anything darker. Withing those formats, it really is invisible.


They shine as stippling threads. They work very well in both contemporary work and in traditional machine quilting looks. They are much safer for your surface fiber if they're done with a straight stitch.


You may be tempted to use the colored ones for zigzag embroidery. Don't. They're #70 which means they won't fill in well. And they will cut through your top fabric.


I do use mono-filament as an appliqué thread and for couching, with a zigzag stitch. But in both cases I never stitch densely. I stitch just enough to attach everything. Dense zigzag stitching with mono-filament will cut through your surface fabric, even now. But I haven't had one of the newer mono-filaments melt ever. They've licked that problem.



I also use them as a major part of bias application. If you check out my book, Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques, you'll see it used to sew down the top edge of bias tape. I'm not sewing those puppies by hand.


Wrapping it up
Mono-filament threads are brilliant for sewing things down invisibly, for stippling, and for straight stitching. They can be used zigzag, but with caution. And as always, garbage in, garbage out. You can't afford cheap threads.


Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques is available on my site at
http://www.ellenanneeddy.com/store-detail.php?cat=1&ID=3.





Thread Savy- Mono-filament Threads



Mono-filament threads are a whole other class. They are an embroidery thread of a sort.They are a war horse thread with specific purposes. But they do not really work for any classic dense embroidery.


Why?


Because they are so strong. In general, threads that are made of one particular thing are stronger than threads made of several substances twisted together. Metallic threads are always weaker than single fiber threads, because they're really not all of one piece. It's lurex, viscose, poly, and often a partridge and a pear tree. Metallics are not only a test tube baby. They are hybrids.Mono threads are one single substance that is stronger than the cotton threads of your fabric. Which means it can, if misused, cut through your surface fabric. So some caution and information is a real help here.


Early mono-filament nylon:
In the seventies, when we had the beginning of of knitted fabrics and sewing for knits, mono-filament came to the fore for lingerie and stretch knits. It was almost like a cord. It also melted easily with an iron.You could iron your garment and watch the seams separate. It was a heavier weight thread at around #20, which made it way too strong. It was wonderful for hanging sun catchers and that was it's very best use.Lots of the bad stories about mono-filament thread are in response to those original ones.This was the mono filament nylon they said could hurt your machine. It could. It came in giant cones. If you still have any of this left, use it for hanging pictures or make some mobiles. Please don't sew with it.


Mono-filament now:
We've come a long way.Because of the intense strength of these threads, it's recognized that they should be usually 40-70 weight (remember that larger numbers are thinner threads).  They're perfectly safe for machines, both in the needle and bobbin.They also come in polyester and in nylon. The polyester ones are also available in colors.


If they aren't in colors, they'll come in clear and smoke. Clear is for white and pastel work. Smoke is for anything darker. Withing those formats, it really is invisible.


They shine as stippling threads. They work very well in both contemporary work and in traditional machine quilting looks. They are much safer for your surface fiber if they're done with a straight stitch.


You may be tempted to use the colored ones for zigzag embroidery. Don't. They're #70 which means they won't fill in well. And they will cut through your top fabric.


I do use mono-filament as an appliqué thread and for couching, with a zigzag stitch. But in both cases I never stitch densely. I stitch just enough to attach everything. Dense zigzag stitching with mono-filament will cut through your surface fabric, even now. But I haven't had one of the newer mono-filaments melt ever. They've licked that problem.



I also use them as a major part of bias application. If you check out my book, Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques, you'll see it used to sew down the top edge of bias tape. I'm not sewing those puppies by hand.


Wrapping it up
Mono-filament threads are brilliant for sewing things down invisibly, for stippling, and for straight stitching. They can be used zigzag, but with caution. And as always, garbage in, garbage out. You can't afford cheap threads.


Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques is available on my site at
http://www.ellenanneeddy.com/store-detail.php?cat=1&ID=3.





Friday, January 15, 2010

Thread Savy-Basic Embroidery Thread


Thread information is one of the deep dark mysteries of the quilt world. It's so common we think we should know. 

Like most things, it's more complicated than it looks. And like most things we should know, it's really unhelpful to should on ourselves.
There are many brands and I have my favorites. I'll talk about that another time.There are also whole lines of thicker threads, I'll cover later. But I'd really like to lay the basis of info you need to have about basic thread for machine and free motion embroidery.




Sewing and Embroidery Threads
Sewing threads are three ply threads made for holding pieces of fabric together. They are almost always an unacceptable embroidery thread because they are not made to lie on top of each other.If you sew over them consistently, you can make a surface similar to chain mail. 
Embroidery threads are  usually a two ply thread. They're finer and they are made to overlap and blend into each other.
Thread Sizes
Threads usually have two numbers on them. One will be a color number. The better quality threads are consistent color-wise and don't have dye lot issues.So you can buy the same color over and over with confidence.
But the other number is the mystery. We hear about 40 weight thread. What is that?

Thread sizes are an old measure system. It's really the thread count per inch. If you laid your threads side by side, how many threads would make an inch?
So a 40 weight thread would be forty threads, side by side. A thirty weight 30 threads. 200 count percale is two hundred threads to the inch.( The same system applies to linens as well). For embroidery purposes, any thread between 12-40 weight can usually work through a top stitching 90 needle( see my early blog on Needle Knows).
These threads can be used either in the bobbin or the needle, zigzag or straight stitch, computerized or free motion. They are the backbone of embroidery.
What's My Thread Made Of
Threads are made of a number of different fibers.Some are more successful than others. It's worth knowing how these fibers react when you choose your threads.

Cotton is probably the most basic embroidery thread. It's strong, comes in many colors and is versatile. It has one flaw that to my mind is unforgivable. It's not shiny. Magpie that I am, I will confess, I never use it.
Rayon is the most common embroidery thread. It has a lovely sheen and a fine color range. But it's never strong. Some brands are better than others. I use rayon that's in my sewing box. But I've stopped buying it for myself or for students, unless I simply can't get the color any other way. It's never as strong as polyester. In fairness, I do think it blends better than polyester. But the breakage is an annoyance I'm unwilling to offer to students or put up with myself.
Polyester threads are the gold standard of the 40 weight crowd. They're strong, and the color range is astonishing. They are my go-to, war horse 40 weight thread.


Acrylic threads truly lead me to ask the question, "Why?" These threads are so unstable I don't even want to see them in someone's stash. My personal experience with them has been too unpleasant for words. I can't recommend them. They seem to be set up for computerized embroidery, and perhaps they work better for that.

Garbage in, Garbage out
There are threads I consider a bargain. But when someone tells me about this wonderful thread they found that's so cheap, I do need to restrain my eye roll.Usually cheap thread is just that. It's not merely inexpensive. It's cheap. Save money on something else. You're time is valuable, and cheap thread usually wastes mountains of time in breakage and bad behavior. Old thread is also a case in point. It will get too old to use, and at that point is no bargain.

Wrapping it up
All that said, the real test of any thread is how it works in your machine.Keep track. You may find that your machine has very different opinions, and in the end, those are the only ones that count for you.



Thread Savy-Basic Embroidery Thread


Thread information is one of the deep dark mysteries of the quilt world. It's so common we think we should know. 

Like most things, it's more complicated than it looks. And like most things we should know, it's really unhelpful to should on ourselves.
There are many brands and I have my favorites. I'll talk about that another time.There are also whole lines of thicker threads, I'll cover later. But I'd really like to lay the basis of info you need to have about basic thread for machine and free motion embroidery.




Sewing and Embroidery Threads
Sewing threads are three ply threads made for holding pieces of fabric together. They are almost always an unacceptable embroidery thread because they are not made to lie on top of each other.If you sew over them consistently, you can make a surface similar to chain mail. 
Embroidery threads are  usually a two ply thread. They're finer and they are made to overlap and blend into each other.
Thread Sizes
Threads usually have two numbers on them. One will be a color number. The better quality threads are consistent color-wise and don't have dye lot issues.So you can buy the same color over and over with confidence.
But the other number is the mystery. We hear about 40 weight thread. What is that?

Thread sizes are an old measure system. It's really the thread count per inch. If you laid your threads side by side, how many threads would make an inch?
So a 40 weight thread would be forty threads, side by side. A thirty weight 30 threads. 200 count percale is two hundred threads to the inch.( The same system applies to linens as well). For embroidery purposes, any thread between 12-40 weight can usually work through a top stitching 90 needle( see my early blog on Needle Knows).
These threads can be used either in the bobbin or the needle, zigzag or straight stitch, computerized or free motion. They are the backbone of embroidery.
What's My Thread Made Of
Threads are made of a number of different fibers.Some are more successful than others. It's worth knowing how these fibers react when you choose your threads.

Cotton is probably the most basic embroidery thread. It's strong, comes in many colors and is versatile. It has one flaw that to my mind is unforgivable. It's not shiny. Magpie that I am, I will confess, I never use it.
Rayon is the most common embroidery thread. It has a lovely sheen and a fine color range. But it's never strong. Some brands are better than others. I use rayon that's in my sewing box. But I've stopped buying it for myself or for students, unless I simply can't get the color any other way. It's never as strong as polyester. In fairness, I do think it blends better than polyester. But the breakage is an annoyance I'm unwilling to offer to students or put up with myself.
Polyester threads are the gold standard of the 40 weight crowd. They're strong, and the color range is astonishing. They are my go-to, war horse 40 weight thread.


Acrylic threads truly lead me to ask the question, "Why?" These threads are so unstable I don't even want to see them in someone's stash. My personal experience with them has been too unpleasant for words. I can't recommend them. They seem to be set up for computerized embroidery, and perhaps they work better for that.

Garbage in, Garbage out
There are threads I consider a bargain. But when someone tells me about this wonderful thread they found that's so cheap, I do need to restrain my eye roll.Usually cheap thread is just that. It's not merely inexpensive. It's cheap. Save money on something else. You're time is valuable, and cheap thread usually wastes mountains of time in breakage and bad behavior. Old thread is also a case in point. It will get too old to use, and at that point is no bargain.

Wrapping it up
All that said, the real test of any thread is how it works in your machine.Keep track. You may find that your machine has very different opinions, and in the end, those are the only ones that count for you.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hoop-Dee-Doo


Most people who do even minimal free motion embroidery are familiar with the distortion issue. It's only natural. You run that much thread through that much fabric and your fabric ruffles like a child's party dress. There are a bunch of tricks that help, but nothing actually cures it. It's the same situation as having a cold. We can make it better but it doesn't go away. Stitch choices, and stabilizers help, and we'll talk about those another day. But one of the best helps is a hoop.
A hoop keeps your fabric from bunching up, going down the needle hole and all kinds of other bad behavior. In holding the fabric tightly, it makes your machine stitch better. And a hoop is something you can hold on to and manipulate easier than just your fabric. Good hoops last for ever and are worthy studio tools. 


I have several hoops in my studio for different purposes. And several hoops I wouldn't use for anything but ring toss. The biggest issue with hooping comes down to two factors: How thick is your project? and How densely did you intend to stitch.


The Hoop That Came With Your Machine
A lot of times people will come in with the hoop that came with their embroidery machine. It's not a bad hoop. It usually has good grip and the sizes are usually sensible. They don't accommodate anything thick though. They're made for one layer of fabric and a stabilizer, maybe. 


The Hardwood Hoop
I use a German hard wood hoop that has a screw. I'm not being  nationalistic here. That's simply what they're called. I assume they do come from Germany, but I don't really know.They're made of a dense thin hardwood. These hoops are narrow and fit under the machine foot. They also have a screw with a slot on one side that lets you tighten the surface, which insures a better stitch.I keep an 8", and a 10" square one. Any hoop over 10" will not give consistent enough support and you'll get skipped stitches.


This is the hoop of choice for free motion embroidery on a piece of lightly stabilized cotton. I use them when I'm embroidering a sold image on a single layer of fabric. You can put a hoop on a project with more than one layer, but it get's harder as they layers add up. 


Did you fuse on several sheers? Have a layer of cut away or embroider on the top as well? At a certain point your wooden hoop is hard to use.That's the time to bring out 



The Halo
This is Sharon Schamber's creation. It's a metal weighted hoop dipped in a rubber substance that grips. Originally I believe she made them for long arm stitching and they're great for that. Instead of clamping them on, the weight holds them in place and you can slide it along as you stitch.
When I saw these, I bought three of them on sight. Two for the studio and one to travel. They are an astonishing help for free motion. I often have a piece where I've stabilized it with a layer of fused on felt or several layers of fused sheers onto window shade interfacing.I bring them into class because I consider them an essential studio tool. You can also stack two of them together for more stability.


They do not work for any embroidery that isn't solidly backed by stabilizer, so you'll want a wooden hoop for that.


Ring Toss Hoops:
These are the hoops that are cruel hoaxes. They have no use in machine embroidery.  I take them away from students in class because I'm afraid they'll hurt themselves on them.


Spring Hoops
 I never use a spring hoop, because they tend to do just that.Sprong! Right while you're sewing!  I really take a down on anything that springs up out of my project while I'm stitching.I consider them dangerous and I take them away from students in class and let them borrow one of mine if they need to.


Cheap wooden hoops
You find these at craft stores. They're thick. The wood splinters and cracks. I believe they're made for hand-embroiderers but I wouldn't use it for that. They're not only inexpensive, but they're cheap too in their making. Who needs splinters?
Wrapping it up


Good hoops make your work easier, flatter, and much more fun. You can find Sharon's halo at her web site at http://www.sharonschamber.com/shopping%20cart/new%20products/newproducts.htm
You can find good hardwood hoops at most sewing machine stores. I bring both kinds to students in class when I'm teaching. A good hoop helps make for a good sewing day.

Hoop-Dee-Doo


Most people who do even minimal free motion embroidery are familiar with the distortion issue. It's only natural. You run that much thread through that much fabric and your fabric ruffles like a child's party dress. There are a bunch of tricks that help, but nothing actually cures it. It's the same situation as having a cold. We can make it better but it doesn't go away. Stitch choices, and stabilizers help, and we'll talk about those another day. But one of the best helps is a hoop.
A hoop keeps your fabric from bunching up, going down the needle hole and all kinds of other bad behavior. In holding the fabric tightly, it makes your machine stitch better. And a hoop is something you can hold on to and manipulate easier than just your fabric. Good hoops last for ever and are worthy studio tools. 


I have several hoops in my studio for different purposes. And several hoops I wouldn't use for anything but ring toss. The biggest issue with hooping comes down to two factors: How thick is your project? and How densely did you intend to stitch.


The Hoop That Came With Your Machine
A lot of times people will come in with the hoop that came with their embroidery machine. It's not a bad hoop. It usually has good grip and the sizes are usually sensible. They don't accommodate anything thick though. They're made for one layer of fabric and a stabilizer, maybe. 


The Hardwood Hoop
I use a German hard wood hoop that has a screw. I'm not being  nationalistic here. That's simply what they're called. I assume they do come from Germany, but I don't really know.They're made of a dense thin hardwood. These hoops are narrow and fit under the machine foot. They also have a screw with a slot on one side that lets you tighten the surface, which insures a better stitch.I keep an 8", and a 10" square one. Any hoop over 10" will not give consistent enough support and you'll get skipped stitches.


This is the hoop of choice for free motion embroidery on a piece of lightly stabilized cotton. I use them when I'm embroidering a sold image on a single layer of fabric. You can put a hoop on a project with more than one layer, but it get's harder as they layers add up. 


Did you fuse on several sheers? Have a layer of cut away or embroider on the top as well? At a certain point your wooden hoop is hard to use.That's the time to bring out 



The Halo
This is Sharon Schamber's creation. It's a metal weighted hoop dipped in a rubber substance that grips. Originally I believe she made them for long arm stitching and they're great for that. Instead of clamping them on, the weight holds them in place and you can slide it along as you stitch.
When I saw these, I bought three of them on sight. Two for the studio and one to travel. They are an astonishing help for free motion. I often have a piece where I've stabilized it with a layer of fused on felt or several layers of fused sheers onto window shade interfacing.I bring them into class because I consider them an essential studio tool. You can also stack two of them together for more stability.


They do not work for any embroidery that isn't solidly backed by stabilizer, so you'll want a wooden hoop for that.


Ring Toss Hoops:
These are the hoops that are cruel hoaxes. They have no use in machine embroidery.  I take them away from students in class because I'm afraid they'll hurt themselves on them.


Spring Hoops
 I never use a spring hoop, because they tend to do just that.Sprong! Right while you're sewing!  I really take a down on anything that springs up out of my project while I'm stitching.I consider them dangerous and I take them away from students in class and let them borrow one of mine if they need to.


Cheap wooden hoops
You find these at craft stores. They're thick. The wood splinters and cracks. I believe they're made for hand-embroiderers but I wouldn't use it for that. They're not only inexpensive, but they're cheap too in their making. Who needs splinters?
Wrapping it up


Good hoops make your work easier, flatter, and much more fun. You can find Sharon's halo at her web site at http://www.sharonschamber.com/shopping%20cart/new%20products/newproducts.htm
You can find good hardwood hoops at most sewing machine stores. I bring both kinds to students in class when I'm teaching. A good hoop helps make for a good sewing day.
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