We adore Karen of Redbird Quilt Co. She is kind, caring, and often hilarious. <3 She is incredibly talented in her home machine quilting skills, something that she shares far and wide across this great country of ours. She has long been a friend to Aurifil and we keep a close eye on her social media accounts, always anxious to see the next piece of art that furthers her glorious quilty journey.
We jumped at the chance to collaborate on a collection with her, to accompany her lectures and classes, to showcase her super quilting style… The Subtle Sampler is just that — a sampler of Aurifil thread weights in fabulously subtle colors (with a few pops here and there). This box could just be the go-to for new Aurifil users looking to try everything out, or even for loyal Aurifil users eager to branch out from their normal 50wt go-tos. With 50wt, 40wt, 28wt, 12wt AND our two shades of monofilament, this box has everything a quilter could possibly need!
Karen has been kind enough to share some of her inspirations with us, including a few fabulous showcase pieces to illustrate how to use multiple thread weights within one piece.
THREAD COLLECTION DETAILS
The Subtle Sampler
12 Large Spools
Clear Monofilament, Smoke Monofilament (1094yds/spool)
12wt: 6722, 6723 (356yds/spool)
28wt: 2430, 2130, 2880 (820yds/spool)
40wt: 2530, 5017, 5006 (1094yds/spool)
50wt: 2312, 2000 (1422yds/spool)
What first drew you to the world of sewing and quilting?
As a teenager I worked in a garment factory in my hometown of Sayre, PA. My mom (the best mom ever!!) raised 5 of us on a single income. I worked to help purchase school clothes and other necessities. Needless to say, once I walked away from sweat-shop sewing I didn’t sew seriously again until my mid 40’s — about 10 years ago. It was then that my sister Janet asked me to join her in a $1 Block of the Month using Thangles™. I learned to piece, put together a table topper, made a few pieced quilts for our cottage, and quickly moved on to learn needle turn and wool applique. Over time I found myself hurrying through the creation of the quilt top so I could Free Motion Quilt it on my home machine. I was addicted! That is the beginning of my story. ☺
When did you first discover Aurifil threads and what do you love most about them?
This one is simple – and I’m so grateful for it. An amazingly talented mentor, Wendy Sheppard of Ivory Spring introduced me to Aurifil thread. Like many quilters trying to save a few dollars, I was taking my 40% off coupon to the local craft store and buying inexpensive thread. My machine wasn’t too unhappy (and I didn’t know any better) so it worked for me for a few years. Once Wendy started using and blogging about Aurifil, I immediately gave it a try. Working with Aurifil completely changed my opinion of thread. The colors, weights, strength, natural (cotton) fibers, and minimal lint sold me on Aurifil. Today I use Aurifil for ALL of my projects — needle turn applique, wool & machine applique, machine quilting, hand embroidery accents, thread accents and so on and so on… Oh my goodness, I can’t get enough of it!
What inspires you to try new techniques?
Ohhh… I’m inspired by the craziest things… I take my camera (aka my phone) with me everywhere. I shoot pictures of nature, of birds, doors, floors, ceilings, decorations – everything! If that doesn’t inspire me, falling in love with a fabric line does! Sometimes I’ll combine an inspiring image with an upcoming fabric line. I’ll scratch down a few ideas on paper and begin to play. Some people design via software – and I’ve had my share of that – but for me, the creative process blossoms when I can sit and PLAY with tangible objects — fabric, tools, thread. Once I start down the path, the ideas begin to flow and take over my brain. Then I play – I play by creating samples and smaller renditions of larger quilts to come. The smaller renditions of my creations make really great table toppers or workshop samples. 😉
Tell us about The Subtle Sampler and how you put it all together.
The Subtle Sampler collection is a dream come true! You see, I’ve been creating with and bragging about Aurifil thread for years – telling everyone I know to TRY IT! At my workshops, I share my open spools of Aurifil and encourage those new to Aurifil to try it on their machines. It never disappoints. In my “Aligning your Free Motion Quilting Stars” lecture, I share the advantages of using various weights of thread during the quilting process. However, as I looked at the collections available at the time, there really wasn’t an Aurifil Collection that contained all of my favorite weights. The opportunity to curate this collection was an honor. With the threads in The Subtle Sampler, I can piece, hand applique, bind, and stitch dense machine quilting with the 50wt. Using 40wt or 28wt allows the thread to take center stage for free motion quilting, doodle quilting, thread painting, and for machine applique accents. I can top stitch, big stitch quilt and hand stitch wool applique with Aurifil 12wt. And finally, no quilting sampler is complete without monofilament. It provides a perfect way to quilt that “hard to match” print AND works wonderfully for ditch stitching, couching, and invisible machine applique. Each weight has a purpose (actually many purposes – that’s how I justify buying them! 😉 ) Putting them all together in The Subtle Sampler is exciting – it makes me smile.
Do you really use all those thread weights? In one quilt!?
It’s funny, as I perused my quilt trunk for an upcoming event, I counted the quilts where I used MORE THAN ONE thread weight for the quilting or embellishments. I was astonished at how many I had – too many to share them all here!
That said, I’ve compiled a few of my favorites to highlight today:
Hearts Content Pillow
Design by Karen Miller. Introduced as a pattern & free tutorial on the Moda Bake Shop (2014). At first glance, you may not notice that I used Aurifil 50wt, 28wt and 12wt threads on this sweet little project.
Let’s look closer. Notice the beautiful Aurifil 12wt top stitching? It’s a quick and simple way to add a classy little touch on your quilt top. Use a walking or even-feed foot, a 90/14 or 100/16 needle, 40wt or 50wt in the bobbin and reduce your top tension considerably. I also increase my stitch length to enable the thread to take center stage…
On this image, you may notice that around Edyta Sitar’s beautiful fabric, I free motion quilted an accent with Aurifil 28wt. I love the way it looks – it highlights the fabric perfectly. I used a 90/14 needle and 50wt in the bobbin.
Finally, the remainder of the piece was echo quilted with Aurifil 50wt. I reserve 50wt thread for really dense machine quilting. You’ll never notice the backtracking and the thread blends right into the fabric. I love it. Learn more on my blog by clicking here.
Design by Karen Miller. Inspired by a design that one of my favorite longarm quilters shared years ago. I call the center Feather Galaxy – it was quilted with Aurifil 50wt thread (top and bobbin). But, around the piecing of the sampler, I used Aurifil 12wt again for some awesome top-stitching. I just LOVE how it looks.
Simply Spring Fleur Quilt
Design by Karen Miller. Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt, 40wt, & 12wt Threads. Fabric is Millie Fleur by BariJ for Art Gallery Fabrics. Click here for more.
Family Estate Quilt
Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt & 40wt Thread + Clear Monofilament in the border. Pattern by Edyta Sitar (Friendship Strips and Scraps, Landauer Publishing, LLC, December 1, 2010.) Click here for more info.
Panels, Panels, Panels!
Are you anxious to learn to Free Motion Quilt but nervous about ruining a quilt top you spent months (or years) creating? Consider picking up a panel at your local quilt shop and using it for practice. When you’re done stitching you can donate it to a local hospital, charity, or Project Linus organization. Or, maybe there’s a little one in your family who would love to cuddle with a small quilt. Quilting on panels allows you the freedom to learn and grow without the financial or emotional worry of ruining your creation.
World of Susybee, Zoe the Giraffe Play Mat. Made using a 1-yard cut, with 2 layers of Quilter’s Dream Wool batting and Susybee’s own cuddly flannel backing. Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt, 40wt, & 28wt threads. For more info, click here.
Flutter the Butterfly
Panel by World of Susybee. Made using a 1-yard cut, with 2 layers of Quilter’s Dream Wool batting. Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt, 40wt, 28wt, & 12wt Threads. Click here and here for more info.
A Quilter’s Doodle Quilt
Design by Karen Miller, featuring Aurifil 100% Cotton 28wt and 12wt threads and Grunge Fabrics by Basic Grey for Moda. Learn more about A Quilter’s Doodles on the Aurifil Facebook Live video recorded in May of this year by clicking here.
Where else can we find you this year?
Sometimes I have to stop and pinch myself! I’m so grateful to make a living doing what I love. I travel, lecture, and teach quilty workshops at shops, guilds, and private groups nationally. One day soon I hope to do the same internationally. I’m very blessed.
Later this month, you can find me at International Quilt Market, helping out in the World of Susybee booth (#537), and presenting two demos at Aurifil’s booth (#900) — Saturday at 2:30pm & Sunday at 11:30am. If you can’t make Market, the demos will be broadcast live on Facebook or recorded and shared on Aurifil’s YouTube account following Market.
In addition to a wide variety of Guild Programs booked for 2018, I’m teaching at two really great national events in February.
Join me for 3 days of progressive domestic machine quilting at the ever-so-popular Birds of A Feather event in Herndon, VA. The great folks at The Longarm Network host the event and bring in amazingly talented longarm & domestic machine quilters, fiber artists, creators, and designers. This year I’m honored to share the docket with folks like Jamie Wallen, Bethanne Nemesh, and Teresa Silva (just to name a few!) It’s going to be an awesome event. Learn more by clicking here.
A bit later in February, I’ll be teaching 5 full days of domestic machine quilting Workshops at the Ohio Lake MetroParks FarmPark Quilt Show. This show features breathtaking works from internationally acclaimed featured artists known for their works, writings, and workshops. I would love to meet you there! The course catalog will be available soon, so stay tuned to http://www.lakemetroparks.com for the announcement.
Lastly, maybe you’d rather we meet in Florida? I’ll be certain to capture your interest in Free Motion Quilting at Flash Sew and Quilt in Naples. I’ll be there for 2 days, March 9th and 10th. I can’t wait!!
To enter-to-win Karen’s The Subtle Sampler thread collection, click here to head to the Rafflecopter entry page, or simply click on the image above. You do not have to complete all the options to be entered but the more options you choose, the more entries you have! Entries will be accepted from now through 11:59pm Eastern Time on Saturday, November 4! Winner will be randomly selected and announced here on Monday, November 6. Good luck!
FREE PDF & ADDITIONAL GIVEAWAY!
Karen has created a super handy printable pdf overview of the threads in The Subtle Sampler. Click here or on the image below for more information. And finally… Karen has a fabulous giveaway running over on her blog as well — so many fun chances to win! Click here to check out Karen’s post and enter to win.
Karen L. Miller is the owner of Redbird Quilt Co., launched to share her love of wool and cotton applique and to demonstrate how free motion quilting (on a home machine) can bring fabric to life! At Redbird Quilt Co., the Northern Cardinal takes center stage in many of the designs. The entire Miller family enjoys feeding, observing, and photographing the many Songbirds that grace the North East USA landscape and therefore Songbirds are often found in Karen’s designs.
Karen lives in the Finger Lakes Region of New York where there is a fantastic array of forests, lakes, farmland, and families. She and her husband share their home with one crazy Yellow Nape Amazon “Cayman”. Their children are grown and they are blessed with 8 special little grandchildren of which the 3 girls LOVE to sew with “Gramma Karen”.
** Images, biographical text and interview text by Karen Miller.