Sometimes we think that Sarah Fielke‘s need turn appliqué might be as close to perfection as it can get. Super smooth curves, beautifully arranged appliqué, and artfully selected colors… we could get lost in one of her quilts! Whether she’s working through one of her BOM quilts or an insightfully designed story quilt, Sarah’s pieces always turn out to be masterpieces.
Sarah has been working with our threads for years — she was one of our first designers, a tireless thread champion, ready to try something new and find a way to make it flourish at every turn. Our 12wt and 80wt threads are her primary go-tos, for hand quilting and needle turn appliqué. Over the years, she has shared countless tips, handy instructional videos, and mini demos from our booth at Quilt Market.
We owe her endless gratitude… for her creativity, for her knowledge, for her generosity, and above all, her friendship.
We’re so thrilled to present her latest Aurifil set, Everyday Appliqué, a gorgeous collection of Sarah’s 20 go-to 80wt colors for flawless needle turn appliqué. So… read on, learn a bit about Sarah, sign up for the 2020 BOM, grab a thread collection, and watch as your stitchy skills take flight in the New Year!
THREAD COLLECTION DETAILS
20 Large Spools, 100% Cotton 80wt
2630, 2606, 2725, 2024, 2110, 1135, 1154, 2423, 2479, 2260
2515, 2545, 5022, 1231, 2870, 2860, 2835, 2710, 6725, 2775
What first inspired you to start sewing?
My mother was a beautiful needlewoman, she embroidered and sewed my clothes and knitted, and of course made quilts. She let me play in her stash to make clothes for my dolls and little quilts. It was just always around me and it never occurred to me not to sew!
What is your absolute favorite thing that you’ve ever made?
Thats such a hard question – I tend to hand a love/hate relationship with all of them when they’re finished and come back to loving them again later 🙂 Current tops of the favourite list are my 2019 BOM quilt, Coming Home (the pattern for this will be available in book form in January 2020), and the What Goes Around quilt which is in my latest book, Stitch Your Story. Probably still my ultra favourite after all these years for sentimental reasons is A Wing and a Prayer – it was made during a very difficult time in our lives and holds a lot of meaning for me. It has hung in shows and won ribbons all over the world, but it’s come home to stay now. The pattern for it was in my book Quilting From Little Things which is now out of print – but I still have some available at my website.
Do you have a favorite technique?
I love hand sewing and hand quilting – but hand needle turn appliqué is my absolute favourite thing to do.
What inspired you to create Everyday Appliqué?
Actually it was my students! I am often asked what my go-to colours are for hand applique, and what would be the best mid range colours to buy to start an 80 weight collection, or expand their collection enough to be able to applique most colours with a smallish group of threads. So this is my answer to them! All my favourite and most used threads, over the colour spectrum and with some grey tones and shades. It’s perfect for someone just starting out with hand applique, but also for someone taking on a big applique project with lots of different fabrics, like my 2020 Block of the Month quilt.
You are a total 80wt champion for your needle turn appliqué and have been teaching with it for years. Can you share any tips with our readers for successful use?
I completely and utterly adore the 80wt thread! I was sent some spools when it was first being tested and my only response was WHEN CAN I HAVE IT ALL??? The thread is so fine and strong, and makes blending your stitches for invisible applique so much easier. My tips would be:
- Use a fine long needle – fine thread plus fine needle makes beautiful fine stitching. Theres no point using a lovely fine thread and a crowbar – you will still get large holes and it makes it much more difficult to hide things. I prefer a Tulip milliners needle #10 or #11.
- Don’t pull too hard! Needleturn applique is NOT like EPP. One of the biggest things I find with this thread is that students think they need to pull their stitches so tightly that they then have fabric puckers, and sometimes the thread breaks. Needleturn should sit firmly but gently against the fabric, there’s no need to get violent!
- My biggest tip for this thread is – invest. It seems like a lot to buy so many colours at once, and you do need them because your thread should match your applique fabric, not your background. You would be surprised though how long these spools last! Hand sewing uses a lot less thread than machine sewing does and if you splash out on a good broad collection like Everyday Applique, you will find that the yardage on the spools will last you a really long time. You may have to replace one spool here and there – like the green you always use for leaves or if you do a whole quilt with nothing but blue – but then you can just add them back to the box and keep on sewing.
How did you go about selecting the colors for this collection?
I started the selection by working with just one colour, and finding the most useful thread for each colour that would blend across a wide range of light and dark fabrics. Then I worked on making sure that those colours transitioned fairly smoothly to the next colour selection – red to orange for example. Then I added the basics, a medium grey and white and black. I wanted the collection to be a really good basic workbox of threads that would be useful to as many people as possible for as many applique projects as possible.
Can you tell us about your 2020 BOM?
This year the 12 month program for the BOM quilt is called Growing Wild. It’s a response to the growing number of my participants asking for a quilt that is entirely applique! So this year is MOSTLY applique. Theres a bit of piecing, I couldn’t help myself because what I really like best is a combo.
This year I have two programs running to try something a little different. The second quilt is like a diet BOM 🙂 It’s smaller, simpler to piece and to applique, and runs over 6 months. That quilt is called A Little Wilderness. There are lots of people who want to do both, and if you do there is a discount.
The students work from a hand drawn sketch and so some people say its a mystery quilt – but it really isn’t. The quilts will end up looking almost exactly the same as the sketch does, just with colour. There are lots of examples of the quilts and how they turned out in previous years at my website, and also on my Facebook page and the Instagram hashtag #sarahfielkeBOM.
There is no fabric provided, and I did that very consciously in the beginning because I wanted the program to be accessible to everyone. Not only can you choose your own colour way and have the quilt reflect what YOU like to sew, but everyone also saves on the shipping costs of having a package sent to them every month from Australia.
There is an acrylic template set available which helps with the accurate rotary cutting of the triangles, and also provides peeper templates and cardboards for making all the circles in the quilt – once I’ve taught my method for making perfect circles that is! The template set and any accompanying notions are all shipped at once in January, keeping that shipping cost down for everyone again.
The subscriptions are open right now and the templates and notions packages will go on sale on December 13. You can sign up for the whole year at once, or there is the option to pay monthly which is available until January 31.
Your BOM are always wildly popular — how long have you been running them and what do you love most about that process?
2020 will be my fifth year of the program. There are 5 different quilt design over the first 4 years, and they are all currently available as a pattern book with access to the video instruction included. I started it as a bit of an experiment because I was having a year off writing a book – I thought I might get a few peeps playing along and it would be a bit of fun. It went gangbusters and I got a bit of a shock! A nice shock obviously 🙂 The thing I really love about running this program is everyones finished quilts. Owing to the fact that everyone uses their own fabrics, there are hundreds of different variations on all the patterns out there, and its so fun to see! So many of the quilts, particularly from the Down the Rabbit Hole pattern, have been hung in shows all over the world, some have one prizes and I love seeing each and every single one. It’s incredible to me that my designs are out in the world having this whole other life.
You offer not only a pattern, but also guided instruction for the BOM quilts… what techniques can participants plan to learn/perfect?
Yes each month of the program comes with complete video instruction, with visual aid to learn new techniques and lay out applique, and tips and tricks. These programs are them available with the BOM books after the program finishes for the year.
In previous years the quilts have covered everything from Hawaiian applique, foundation paper piecing, EPP, 60 degree triangles, Dresden plates…. but 2020 is all about applique (and piecing those triangles!), so we will be learning things like making bias tape with a Hera marker, making perfect circles, appliquéing successful inside and outside points and turning curves. We always start applique with the basics – how to thread those little tiny needles, how to hold your fabric and sit so you don’t hurt your hands and back, and how to make (with practise!) those tiny little invisible stitches.
When did you first discover Aurifil thread and why has it been your go-to all of these years?
I first tried Aurifil I think about 10 or 12 years ago at Quilt Market. I met Alex Veronelli over drinks with friends and when he learned I was a hand stitcher, he gave me some thread to play with at market next day. It was the 50wt and the 12wt. I immediately switched from Perle cotton to Aurifil 12wt for my big stitch hand quilting, and I’ve never gone back! It is smooth and fine, gives beautiful plump stitches with body, is easier to thread into the needle, doesn’t pill or fray, doesn’t leach colour like lots of the Perles do, and comes in the most beautiful array of shades. I always used the 50wt for my hand applique and it was lovely – until the 80wt came along and it was like being handed unicorn hair 🙂
What’s up next — where can we find you over the coming year?
I’ve got a busy 2020! You can find me at Quiltcon in Austin, Texas in February, at The Strawberry Thief in Perth, Australia in May, at Quilters Affair in Sisters, Oregon in July and in the UK and the Netherlands in October. My online classes, Big Techniques From Small Scraps and Word Play are still available at Bluprint, and you can always find me online: @sfielke Instagram
Sarah Fielke is an award winning quilt designer from Sydney, Australia. In her 15 years in the quilting industry, her six best selling quilt books have sold over 170,000 copies worldwide and have been translated into 5 languages. Her first book, Material Obsession, is widely described as having been at the forefront of the Modern Quilting movement, and is a staple in many quilter’s libraries. Her fourth book, Hand Quilted With Love, was released in May of 2013, Little Quilts in 2014, Old Quilts New Life in 2015 and her latest book, Stitch Your Story, came out this year.
Sarah’s quilts have roots in both modern and traditional quilting, making her a firm favourite with quilters new and old. She describes her quilts as “contemporary traditional”.
Sarah teaches extensively worldwide and is a vocal and involved member of the quilting community. Her largest following is in the USA, where she travels at least once a year to attend Quilt Market and to teach for the American Quilters Society, Quiltcon and Sisters Outdoor Quilts Show, to name a few.
Sarah exhibits her quilts at quilt shows in Australia and internationally. She has designed fabrics for Lecien, Japan, Spotlight Australia and Windham Fabrics. Sarah is an Aurifil designer and ambassador.