I grew up in a musical family; my father was a professional trumpeter, conductor, teacher, and my 3 sisters and I were all talented musicians. Some of my earliest memories are of all of us girls standing around the piano, Dad seated at the piano bench, singing songs from musicals – The Sound of Music being our favorite. Mom was always in the comfy wing chair nearby, with our dog Whiskers at her feet, acting as our appreciative audience. We spent many an evening harmonizing over Edelweiss, Climb Ev’ry Mountain and My Favorite Things.
Thirty-five years later, for my dad’s 80th birthday celebration, I rewrote My Favorite Things using words to describe all of my dad’s favorites; dahlias and cannas and mulberry trees….You get the gist of it (did you sing it?). We four girls (now women) sang a performance that brought tears to his eyes (in a good way).
So when I was trying to come up with a name for my blog entries that have to do with tips, tools and techniques, I thought, “Well quilting is certainly my favorite thing, and sharing my tips with other quilters is a close second!” So there you have it – I’ll be telling you about some of my favorite tools that make quilting easier, tips to streamline the process, and techniques to improve accuracy.
HAND QUILTING THREAD
Right from my very first quilt, the Giant Dahlia quilt I showed you in my May 23rd entry, I’ve had a love for hand quilting. If time permitted, I’d hand quilt each of my quilts, but with book deadlines and, well, life, that’s just not practical. But I do still teach hand quilting to those wanting to learn. I believe that this technique, (in addition to machine quilting), is a skill all quilters should have in their arsenal, to be pulled out when a special quilt calls for it.
One of my happiest discoveries a few years back was a line of multicolored hand quilting thread from Coats & Clark that was their cotton-covered polyester hand quilting thread. They no longer make this line of threads, but their division of Star Threads does make a 100% cotton variegated hand quilting thread. As far as I know, this is the only variegated thread made specifically for hand quilting and they quilt up beautifully.
I made up the sample above to show how gorgeous the thread look when made up – the black fabric is the right side, but the thread looks equally wonderful on the wrong (white) side.
The thread is 100% long staple Egyptian cotton, with a glacé finish which helps the thread slide smoothly through the fabric. It comes in 13 colorways and the variegation is in random lengths. There are also a few lovely choices to use if you are hand quilting a very special baby quilt.
There is also a limited range of solid colors from Star, but I prefer the larger range offered by Coats & Clark in their cotton and cotton-covered polyester hand quilting thread.
When using cotton thread or other types of thread not necessarily meant for hand quilting, I use Thread Heaven which is a chemical synthetic compound which coats the thread to reduce the friction on the thread as it’s pulled through the fabric. Reduced friction means less fraying.
To me, these are the criteria for a good hand quilting thread:
• Doesn’t fray too quickly – that means I can use longer strands (and make fewer knots)
• Is easy to thread – but if you have trouble threading the small eye of hand-quilting needles, try the Desktop Needle Threader from Clover
• Doesn’t make those pesky slip knots that limp threads tend to make – helped by Thread Heaven
• Slides easily through the quilt sandwich – helped again Thread Heaven and by the glacé finish
The Star and Coats & Clark threads score fabulously well in all 4 categories and are basically effortless in their use – to me, that’s as good as raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens. I just wish they’d come up with a spool that has shades of olive green!