ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Monday, July 4, 2011

Threads: Uncommon & Unforgettable

I've been working on numerous small samples in preparation for my new class, "Threads: Uncommon & Unforgettable" at the Haliburton School of the Arts, August 1-5. The class will cover a multitude of ways to use all kinds of threads, including hand-dyed (which you will learn to dye yourself). Students will be trying a variety of methods for using thread on quilts by making small samples, that can either be put together in a sample book or framed for a set of small works. Although I've used most of these methods in my quilts at one time or another, the small samples will give ideas and inspiration for students to work small, and are giving me a chance to review best ways to create these works and document processes for student notes.

We'll be doing a little thread sketching. Thread sketching is done through the quilt top (without batting) keeping the thread raised higher whereas during machine quilting the thread sinks into the sandwich more. Thread sketching gives a "sketchy" kind of look to your quilt top, especially when you do it in black. Don't worry, you don't need to know how to draw.
On this one I did go free-hand and sketched without a guide. At a certain point if you are adding too much thread you really do need a hoop.
This was thread sketched, and then coloured pencils added.
We'll be trying a little machine quilting with hand-dyed pearl cotton.
Heavier weight hand-dyed pearl cottons are great for couching, which is what I did in this sample. In between I have quilted with a 40 weigh rayon thread.
The snowflake below is achieved through bobbin drawing using "Razzle Dazzle" thread by Superior.
The bottle fly below is threadpainted separately with stabilizer and hoop and attached to the quilt. There will be a piece of white silk organza in your kit (included in the supply fee) if you want to try insect wings. I really love this little bottle fly and yes, he is the same fly as in the thread sketch at the top of this post!
One thing that is new to me is hand-stitching with hand-dyed threads. I mastered 9 different stitches yesterday and I AM IN LOVE. What is not to love about french knots using hand-dyed thread? I always expected the fabric to pucker, but not if you attach a batting to the back and do all your stitching through the front and batting. At the end you can attach a back and all the knots will be hidden.
A big problem with writing your class supply list a year before your class runs is so much happens in that year that you have new things you want to add. So if you are taking the class and reading this post, please bring some favorite photos and images. I will also have lots of my own with me that you are welcome to borrow and use, but it is nice if you get to work with your own favorites. If you have artist pencils, do bring them, but if you don't please do not spend the money. We may only use them for a little bit and you are welcome to borrow mine. Also, I forgot to add practice sandwiches to the supply list. I'll be emailing the class in a week or two when the registration list is more stable to communicate the above.

Also, guess who has signed up for the class? Anita Zobens, owner of Cotton Mill Threadworks and a Superior thread educator. As many of you know, Haliburton has an art supply store on campus during summer classes, but there is nothing for sale there for fibre enthusiasts. I've asked Anita to bring a selection of Superior Threads and stabilizers in case there is anything you need. Although I am a huge fan of Superior products, there will be no sales pressure and sales will be restricted to lunch hour and after class to preserve teaching and learning time. My store of hand-dyed fabric will also be available, and the same policy applies (sales only during lunch hour and after class). The threads for dyeing that will be in your kit are still sitting somewhere in Canada Post's backlog of mail, as are the yorker bottles you will need for dyeing the thread.

Now it's back to more experimentation for me!! I still have some samples of bobbin lace and stitching on tulle to prepare, and a set of notes to write!


  1. Love the little fly=) You are one busy girl!

  2. One thing I nearly always struggle with is "How Do I Quilt This Thing?" With smaller pieces, it's a little easier to figure out a design or designs to use, but a bigger piece seems to give me a lot of trouble. Do you have any suggestions?

  3. I love your thread projects! Especially the insects and the stone wall/wooden door piece.

  4. Laura
    I think that is the challenge for everyone ... how to quilt it? With traditional quilts, you can look at what others have done before and you can even find books with suggestions on how to quilt them. But with art quilts, you are talking about a unique and original piece of work, so there isn't a clear answer. Each one has to be considered on its own. I sometimes know how I want to quilt something before I even start it, but other times have no idea and it hangs on the wall for 6 months before I figure it out. Lately though, since most of my work is nature themed, I tend to use slightly curved organic lines because that's what foliage and flowers seem to call for. I'd be better able to give suggestions if I saw an example of the quilt you are considering. Another suggestion might be to print a picture of your quilt in a full-page size and try some motifs on it to see how they look.


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