When Bari J. sent me this quilt top to do up for Fall Market, she said I could do whatever I wanted, and since it was so simple, maybe do something fun. “OK, but, can I use wool thread,” I asked? “Whatever you want,” she replied. Delightful words!
As I was looking at the top, It had squares of “White Linen” fabric interspersed with the prints, and I knew that those were the squares to do something special. I didn’t want to compete with her prints from Millie Fleur because this was for Quilt Market, so the background quilting was simple and a riff off of one of the blender prints. In the end, I decided to do something I hadn’t seen anyone else do, quilting with wool thread.
It’s no secret by now, I love pretty much anything that has wool in it. I used wool covers for my cloth diapered baby butts, I am constantly making wool applique designs, and I happily bartered knitted goods for a quilting job I did (while I love knitted stuff, knitting is *not* something I enjoy unless it’s easy and mindless, yet still cool, like this clapotis design). My Big Idea for Bari’s quilt was to use Lana wool thread by Aurifil to quilt a flower design from one of Bari’s prints (“Line Drawing”) in each of the solid blocks. Here’s how I did that:
Prepping the Design
First, I used a light board (or a window works!) to sketch out the flowers I wanted to use.
Then I took them to my photocopier and enlarged them individually to the size I wanted. This took some fiddling to get them the right size. When I had what I wanted, I put them underneath the fabric and traced around the design with an air-erasable purple pen.
Preparing to Quilt
This tutorial is for either a domestic or longarm machine (I quilted this on my BERNINA Q24).
Wool thread can be fairly fuzzy, so before you begin, get your tools in place:
- Top stitch or jeans needle, size 100
- polyester bobbin thread (I had the best luck with a 50 or 60 wt. thread)
- If you’re using stitch regulation, use 8 or 9 stitches per inch
- A practice sandwich to adjust tension. You will most likely need to lower your top tension a great deal to accommodate the thickness of the thread. There’s so much texture, it also doesn’t show at all if the bobbin thread pulls to the top a bit.
Wool thread does not have the same characteristics as polyester or cotton. Running over it more than two times usually result in a popped thread, so I would recommend crossing over your quilting lines as little as possible.
Plan your attack ahead, before you begin quilting. Also, don’t be afraid to see a little fuzz on the back of your quilt. Some of the fiber will be pushed through, but it shouldn’t be the whole thread!
Slooooow down. This is one of those things where slowing down your quilting speed pays off.
Quilting the Flowers
The first thing I did was to outline the shape of each flower.
After I had the outline of what I wanted, I then added details.
You can tell that this is kind of meh. At this point, I was seriously questioning my sanity, but my original inspiration had been those little Victorian postcards with flowers on them, so I knew I just needed to add more detail. I framed each of the flowers with a variegated thread (Aurifil 50 wt cotton)
and then switched to So Fine white poly (also 50 wt) to echo around the flower and add pebbles. I also quilted the background so it looked like the frames were sitting on top of it.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and won’t be afraid to experiment with wool thread in your own projects! Let me know how it goes, and I’d love to see what you do! You can tag me on Instagram using @mandaleiquilts