Thread Matters 2022: Just Breathe– Slow Stitching Accents

Greetings fellow thread lovers! As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator I’m excited for us to host Aurifilosopher Sarah Maxwell of Designs by Sarah J. Sarah is one of those magical unicorns in the textile industry. She is a designer for Marcus Fabrics, an Aurifil Designer, a pattern designer, an author, AND she owns and runs a brick & mortar shop, Homestead Hearth. Sarah offers her own line of acrylic templates and will dazzle you with her pattern designs in both traditional and contemporary aesthetics. Today Sarah is sharing a few tips for working with Aurifil’s beautiful variegated threads.  Huge thanks to Sarah for sharing her ideas with us!

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

Hi everyone, Sarah Maxwell here from Designs by Sarah J. I was so excited to see that the 2022 Color Builders include variegated thread and when I saw the August collection, Jade Vine, I knew it would be perfect to pair with Carousel, my newest fabric line with Marcus – Studio 37 Fabrics.  

Cool tones are definitely my go-to colors and jade, in particular, is a favorite. So, when I was designing Carousel, I included lots of variations of the color from light to dark.

The Jade Vine threads, especially the two variegated spools, seem custom-made for these prints. I’ve long loved variegated threads for their super-hero properties. Like most quilters, I sometimes worry my stitches aren’t perfectly spaced, or straight enough, or small enough. Variegated threads have a magical ability to disguise imperfections. When I teach classes, I always encourage students to consider variegated threads for their quilting because they bring a project to life while hiding any wobbles.

For the past two years, I’ve rediscovered my love affair with handwork. In times of stress, nothing is more calming than sitting with needle and thread, quietly reflecting. Handwork is also my go-to when traveling or when I’m headed somewhere that a wait seems inevitable. So when I designed Carousel, I wanted to include a print that would make hand stitching easy. This wavy plaid design checked all the boxes.

If you want to include handwork in your quilt, consider looking for a print with a defined geometric aspect or a regular repeat as you can use that as a guide for your stitches. In my wavy plaid, the wavy lines give me defined grids to stitch within without the rigidity of perfectly parallel straight lines. Remember, I like to make stitching enjoyable, not stressful, so finding any aspect that celebrates the process rather than perfection is important to me.

Another key practice for me the last two years has been trying to pause and take time to just be in the moment. So, when I was planning a project for Thread Matters, I knew I wanted to share a message to everyone that it’s ok to Just Breathe. Using a simple chain stitch, I stitched out the letters using Aurifil 12wt in solid color 2830.

I decided to add some favorite stitches to really focus attention on the words. First, a classic “X” or cross stitch allowed me to use the wavy line intersections as a guide, creating a frame around the words. For this, I used 12wt in 4654.

Next, I wanted to experiment with how the variegated thread would look in straight lines so I used a simple stem stitch with the Aurifil 12wt in 4654 to surround the row of Xs.

Here, I have to highlight how much I love John James big eye needles in size 12. They are absolute perfection! This last year, I’ve also been experimenting with quilting without a hoop. The secret is to baste well — in this case I spray basted. For a larger project I would thread baste. Not having a hoop lets me rock the quilt sandwich onto the needle, resulting in smaller, more even sticthes.

Finally, after binding the mat, I added a row of primitive hand quilting stitches with Aurifil 12wt in 4662 to begin securing the layers together.

I’m having so much fun with this technique of adding some hand stitching accents to a project before assembling it for quilting that I pieced a giant log cabin including the pinks from my Carousel line and now I’m adding stitches to it. The chain stitch remains a favorite, but I plan to branch out with even more fun stitches in each round of the block. Follow me on my social media channels for progress updates.

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Sarah’s love of quilting stems from her college days, when her mom sent her pink dogwood quilt to grace the bed in her first apartment. The quilt was a comforting reminder of her home in the Lake of the Ozarks, where the dogwood blossoms always signaled the start of spring.

A few years later, married and expecting her first child, Sarah caught the nesting bug. Inspired by the treasured dogwood quilt, she bought a Teach Yourself to Quilt book and crafted her first quilt. She continued to improve her skills through classes at local quilt guilds, as well as learning from gifted teachers throughout the United States, fully taking advantage of modern conveniences, such as rotary cutting and computer design, as they became available.

Today, Sarah is a fabric and pattern designer for Studio 37 Fabrics, a division of Marcus Fabrics, with countless quilts to her credit. Her work has been featured regularly in both McCall’s Quilting and McCall’s Quick Quilts for the past several years. Additionally, Sarah’s quilts have appeared in Make ModernSimply Moderne,  American Patchwork & Quilting, and Quilts & More, as well as many other magazines.

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