2023 Thread Matters: Pizzazz with Machine, Needle and Thread

Greetings Aurifil thread lovers! 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 & fabric designer, educator, and cheerleader for all things quilting. You’re going to love Heidi’s bright, whimsical design style and supporting educational materials. Today, Heidi shares the use of decorative machine stitching to enhance our projects, yet another fun approach to apply various weights and colors of Aurifil thread. I know you’ll be inspired to give it a go! Many thanks to Heidi for sharing her experience with us. 

If your shop, group or guild is ready to take their understanding of thread weights, ply, needles, tension, and technique to the next level, there’s no better time to book an in-person or virtual Aurifilosophy event with one of our certified educators. Learn more and find your favorite Aurifilosopher by clicking HERE. Or, to join an upcoming Aurifilosophy event take a peek at our available sessions right HERE.

Most modern sewing machines have a variety of available decorative stitches that may get overlooked. I recently took a peek at the decorative stitches available on my home sewing machine and was amazed to see the wide variety of options available! Now, I do use a nice BERNINA sewing machine with lots of stitches, but even the most basic sewing machine should have a few standards like the zig zag stitch that can be used to add interest to a pieced block.

I also discovered that I have some Aurifil thread in gorgeous hues that rarely get used on the tops of my projects, instead being relegated to the seams or the edge stitching on appliqué. These threads deserve to shine, so I combined my machine’s decorative stitches with my less often used Aurifil threads to add interest to some of my blocks. I was so excited about the results that I wanted to share them with all of you.

To get started, I made two pieced half-square triangle blocks using our Chickadee Fabric Collection. I then used colors from our exclusive Whimsical Workshop Chickadee thread set to add decorative stitching to one so that the difference is clearly shown in side-by-side comparison.  Notice how the combination of stitches + bold threads completely elevates the project!  

I have been experimenting with this technique quite a bit and found it works best to embellish tonal or solid fabrics. In the following example, I used several decorative stitches and thread colors to enhance this pieced butterfly block.

Another wonderful way to utilize your machine’s decorative stitches is in adding dimension and interest to fusible applique. Whimsical Workshop’s  Belle Epoche quilt is designed to represent an Art Deco Dragonfly pin. I used a decorative stitch and contrasting thread to create the look of prongs holding the stones in place. It is a small detail but truly elevates the overall finished look.

This technique will  also work on wide zippers or trims. I incorporated a decorative stitch in securing the edges of this wide zipper to add interest and complement the primary color of the bag fabric.

Are you ready to give this technique a try? Let’s go over some tips for you to successfully add a little pizzazz to your next project. 

  • Always use a stabilizer on the back of the fabric you are stitching on. I like to use the washaway sticky back stabilizer. It is easy to secure and very easy to remove.
  • I have tried several different types of needles and would recommend embroidery needles for Aurifil 80wt and 50wt threads and topstitch needles for Aurifil 40wt and 28wt threads. Quilting needles may also work if that is all you have on hand.
  • For the bobbin thread, I’d recommend selecting a neutral color or one color that will work with your overall color palette. My preference is to use 50wt thread in the bobbin for all top thread weights mentioned above, making the technique quick and easy since only the top threads are changed between colors. 
  • I like to experiment with a few different thread weights to see which one displays best. The following is a practice piece where I used 80wt, 50wt, 40wt, and 28wt to see how thick I could go before losing the details of the stitch.  My preference is to use thicker threads in larger areas and thinner threads for a more delicate finish.

I hope these examples and tips have inspired you to try this technique on your next project. It’s fun to play with the different stitches and it’s always a blast to play around with Aurifil threads in different colors and weights. Check out this recent finish of mine – I used a decorative stitch to create added texture on the spool of threads!  Now go out there, have some fun and create!  

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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.

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.

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