Thread Matters 2022: Thread Sketching a Mandala

Greetings Aurifil family! As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator I’m thrilled to welcome fellow Aurifilosopher Heidi Pridemore of The Whimsical Workshop to Thread Matters.   Heidi is a talented and creative pattern and fabric designer, educator and cheerleader for all things quilting. You’re going to love her bright, whimsical design style and supporting educational videos. Today Heidi introduces us to thread painting a mandala. This is a fantastic approach to get to know various weights and colors of Aurifil thread – I hope you give it a go!  Many thanks to Heidi for sharing her experience with us. 

Is your shop, group or guild looking for insightful, inspiring and educational information on thread? Consider booking a virtual or in-person program with one of our skilled Aurifilosophers. Learn more about Aurifilosophy and find your favorite Aurifilosopher here

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


When I first saw the Bird of Paradise Color Builder collection, all I could think of was sunshine and happiness. Contemplating an inspiring project to showcase these warm happy colors, I was drawn to my recent experiments with thread sketched mandalas. Aurifil thread weights lend themselves to thread sketching as each weight of thread can mimic the look of unique pen sketches and pen thicknesses.   Join me to walk through the process! 

Here is the first Mandala I did using the Aurifilosophy 7 weight sample box. I started with 80wt thread in the center and increased the thread weight in each round as I worked towards the outer edge. 

After making the first Mandala, I was hooked. I found these so fun and easy to make. Mandalas can be simple to draw and there are a wealth of online sources showing you how to sketch the circle framework and the mandala line art. I have included a PDF with two basic mandala framework examples to make it easier for you to experiment in drawing your own mandala. 

One of the best parts of sketching a mandala is that the imperfections of the creation adds to the charm of the finished piece.  This benefit takes away all the pressure of having it be perfect – a great way to practice and improve your thread sketching skills.  

The fact that these mandalas remind me of the sun made them a perfect thread sketching project to showcase the beautiful Bird of Paradise Color Builder Collection.

Here are some of my top tips on thread sketching with Aurifil threads:
FIRST— set up your sewing machine for free motion quilting and use an embroidery foot with an open front so you can always see what you are doing. 

SECOND— Make sure the area around the foot is clear so you do not accidently bump into something when you are sketching.

THIRD— If your sewing machine has a speed option, turn down the speed. Take your time and go very slowly at the start to help control your stitch length and tension. I recommend using Schmetz Gold Embroidery Needles. When using assorted thread weights, I generally start with a size 75 needle and increase to a size 90 needle for the thicker thread weights. I always put a new needle in the machine at the start of a new project. 

My favorite weights of Aurifil thread for mandalas are 50wt for detailed areas and small outlines, 28wt for filling in areas and for most outlining, and I love using 12wt for bold outlines and to really make an area pop. 

For all three weights I used on the mandala, I chose Aurifil 50wt in the bobbin and picked a bobbin color that blended well with the assorted colors I used on the top. For this project, I picked a bright yellow for the bobbin thread.

I backed my drawing with batting and backing fabric as my stabilizer. If you do not want to use batting, use your favorite adhesive washout stabilizer on the back of the piece.

Check out my video tutorial that walks you through how to make this adorable little mandala that fits perfectly in a 4” embroidery hoop. 

I hope this post and my video will encourage you to try your hand at thread sketching and to create a little sunshine for your own space. 

Website | Shop | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube

The Whimsical Workshop, LLC is a full-service design studio and retailer led by Heidi and Matthew Pridemore. We specialize in bright, fun quilt patterns, fabric, fabric kits, books, and licensing. We also offer lectures and workshops about design, quilting and crafting. You can also find quilting tutorials, tips and tricks from Heidi on our YouTube Channel. Although The Whimsical Workshop is based in Arizona, their products are available worldwide through their website. The Whimsical Workshop continues to create new and exciting products that spark people’s imagination and make them smile.

Heidi was born and raised in Rochester, New York, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2000, Heidi began offering her services as a product designer to a number of fabric companies. She created her own line of quilt patterns beginning in 2002 and in 2004 Heidi started designing fabric in her own bright and whimsical style. By 2005 the work load warranted expanding to a partnership and The Whimsical Workshop, LLC was born with Heidi as the chief designer. Heidi is known for her fun and whimsical quilts which she often makes in dramatic, bright colors. She also designs quilt patterns for a variety of popular quilting magazines. In addition she has written five books; Quilted Whimsy, Bold Batiks and Dazzling Designs for Leisure Arts, Pop Up Paper Structures for C&T Publishing and Fabric Jewelry-Wrapped, Braided and Sewn for F&W Media.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: