Thread Matters 2020: Machine Embroidered Color Builder Feathers

Welcome all!  As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator, I’m excited to introduce fellow Aurifilosopher Donna Morales-Oemig of Follow That Thread, our third contributor to Thread Matters 2020 – The Aurifilosopher Series! I’m in awe of Donna’s brilliant use of all the Color Builder collections for these simple, organic, and yet spectacularly beautiful machine embroidered feathers. Her projects makes me want to run out and purchase an embroidery machine! Thanks for helping us with our mission to Educate – Inspire – Grow Donna !!

If you missed the 2019 introduction of Aurifilosophy and this fun new Thread Matters series click here to read more.  Consider scheduling an Aurifilosophy Program for your shop, group or guild – learn more here.

Happy Stitching!
Karen L. Miller ~ Redbird Quilt Co.

One of the things I am learning more about in sewing is Machine Embroidery and Machine Embroidered Appliqué. A good business friend piqued my interest by inviting me to a class with Sarah Vedeler of Meaning of Life Designs. In class, I was set loose on a lovely embroidery machine, stitching one of Sarah’s stunning designs with her guidance and expertise. I was hooked, and not long after I bought an embroidery machine of my own.

Machine embroidery takes time and plenty of thread! Happily, I’ve got all of Aurifil’s product line close at hand thanks to my 17-year strong business, Follow That Thread, an independent Aurifil Distributor and Retailer. My blog post for the 2019 Thread Matters series featured samples of quilting with all the available Aurifil thread weights. The unifying samples in that post were completed using a digitized quilting design on an embroidery machine. This year, my focus is on celebrating the new Color Builder sets by using them in machine embroidery.

When Aurifil first told me about the Color Builders, my mind went to other color trends happening in the Quilt Industry. Ombre is big again, with fabric lines and books, and plenty of quilt projects featuring gradations of color. Ombre comes from the French “ombrer”, which means to shade.  While ombre can contain multiple hues, the Color Builders contain three shaded colors in one color family.

Customers love to see stitched samples, so I decided to use all the Color Builders in one small embroidered quilt. One of my favorite design sources, Urban Threads, has a three-color feather design (UTZ1758) which seemed perfect. I wanted to practice doing multiple hoopings on one piece of fabric, a technique I learned in Sarah’s class. It seems hard at first, but with a little measuring, basting, and ideas for alignment, it’s easy to accurately place any design in multiple locations. Today, I’m excited to share the steps for how to do just that.

First, check the design information for the size of the finished stitch-out. This particular feather fits in a space measuring 3.25” x 9.75”. Calculating the space showed me that twelve feathers would fit three across and four down on a full width of quilting fabric that was about a half yard long. The piece was cut generously to allow for shrinkage after stitching.

Next, draw a center line from selvedge to selvedge using chalk. I used a black fabric and I prefer chalk since it will brush or wash out completely. Draw parallel lines on each side of the center line to create two more columns of feathers.  Space the feathers as you like and leave room to bind off the finished project. The horizontal lines marking each feather center were next and it helped to fold the fabric in half to figure out the spacing for six feathers at a time. Cut a piece of batting to fit the background fabric and pin it to the wrong side. Cut 12 pieces of tear-away stabilizer larger than each feather to support each design location and anchor the next step.

Sew basting lines through the chalked markings to denote the precise location of the design center for each stitched motif.  This basting goes through the fabric, batting, and the individual pieces of tear-away stabilizer. The photos below show six of the twelve design locations both from the front and back along with basting.

Once all 12 design centers are basted, it’s time to hoop. Place one piece of tear-away stabilizer in a hoop that is large enough to hold the design. On my machine, this is the large oval hoop.

The hoop holds the stabilizer tight like a drum, but not too tight. My hoop must be “burped”, which means the center ring is depressed just a little so just the stabilizer rides along the machine bed, not any part of the outer hoop.

Using the hoop grid template, mark dots showing the center horizontal line plus one dot near the top of the hoop.

Use a small ruler and connect the dots, keeping the crossed vertical line square to the horizontal line.

This will give the target location for attaching the prepared fabric.

Attach the quilt top to the hoop by matching the basted cross hair to the drawn lines on the stabilizer. Start by sticking a long pin in the center of the crossed lines.

The pin stays best if it is sticking into a thick foam pad. I use my sewing chair or even a flat sofa cushion or a mattress! Rotate the fabric gently on the pin axis until the compass point lines match up.

Carefully pin the fabric to the hooped stabilizer, making sure not to tear the stabilizer. Flat head pins work really well for this, as does keeping the pins flat to the work as you place them. Place a pin at each line and double-check that nothing shifts as you go. If something does shift, simply re-pin and check the lines again.

Take the hooped fabric to the embroidery machine and prepare for stitching. Transfer the design to the machine. Load the first thread color in the top, and use a thin thread for the bobbin. Aurifil’s 50wt is perfect for use in an embroidery bobbin.

As one last way to get the design exactly where you want it, test that the needle centers to the cross hair point. Designs automatically center themselves in most machine brands. Some play in the template or in hooping may put the “center” a little off, so check the design under the needle and make fine adjustments. This stitch-out was a little left and below the fabric center, so I fine-tuned the hoop to the needle.

If your machine has the option to add a basting box, do so. This will replace the pins and will ensure the design will not shift while stitching.  If your machine does not have the option, you can free-motion baste through the layers or even add some hand stitching inside the hoop. Stitch this slowly and take out pins as you go.

Stitch the colors in order after removing the inner basted cross hair lines.  I do this in sections to keep as much basted as possible through the sewing process. I also like to remove lint from the fabric surface with a little piece of painter’s tape around my finger.  This really helps on the black fabric, but is useful on light colors as well.

Keep removing the basting, lint-rolling, and stitching the colors in turn.

When each hooping is done, repeat the process of hooping the stabilizer, marking the cross hair lines, attaching the quilt to the hoop while lining up the cross-hairs, fine-tuning the center to the needle, removing the basting as you come to it, and stitching the colors. The prep work you did in marking where the designs should go on the fabric and carefully lining it up on the hooped, marked stabilizer is the trick to getting your embroidery exactly where you want it.

This last picture shows half of the Color Builders stitched out on the sample quilt. Dolomite Green was the last one added to this side and it is sitting just where it is supposed to be.

Happy Stitching!


  • Aurifil is giving away one Dolomite Green Color Builder Box

To enter-to-win, click HERE to head to the rafflecopter page. This giveaway is open to all of our friends, worldwide. We’ll accept entries through 11:59pmEST on Thursday, March 12th. We’ll contact the winners via email. Good luck!


Aurifilosopher Donna Morales-Oemig is the owner of Follow That Thread, an online and traveling retailer and Distributor of Aurifil thread.


  1. Your feathers are gorgeous, love the colors. Thank you for a great post. I really like your idea of the painter’s tape on your finger.

  2. Thanks. I’ve done some machine embroidery, and love using Aurifil for it. but haven’t tried multiple hoops for one fabric. I’ll have to. Thanks.

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