Can You See The Difference Between Quilts?

I couldn't wait to turn the calendar to October, and not just because it's my birthday month! I was just so excited to enjoy one of the best examples of free-motion thread painting I've seen, Susan Brubaker Knapp's "Autumn's Bounty," the October quilt in the 2010 Quilting Arts Calendar (Susan's "Citrus Slices" is on the calendar cover, too).

The more I look at this quilt, the more I appreciate how Susan captured the shape, texture, and dimension of the pumpkins, primarily with her threadwork.

So, in honor of her being "Miss October," I asked Susan to share some of her tips for successful thread sketching with you.

Tips for Successful Thread Sketching
By Susan Brubaker Knapp

1. If the base of your piece is simple (only a few colors, such as in my apple piece), you will have to add a lot more thread colors to achieve realism. If you don't want to do this, add more complexity with the base.

2. Pay attention to the direction/quality of your stitching. For example, a ball should have curving lines of stitch if you want it to end up looking round. A flat object should have straight lines.

3. To avoid puckering or draw up, use a light-weight thread (60 or 50 weight is good). I love AURIfil No. 50 Cotton Mako. In teaching, I find that cotton is easiest for beginners. 

4. Take great care in stabilizing the piece, or you will end up with a scrunched-up mess. I use one or two layers of Pellon 910 or Heavy Weight Shaping Aid. 

5. Even if you plan to do more heavy thread sketching in one area, go over the whole piece with some stitching before going back to this area. Heavy stitching in one area can cause your piece to draw up. 

6. If you work from a photograph or drawing, as I usually do, keep it in front of you while you are stitching, and refer to it often.

7. Be patient with the piece and with yourself. It often takes a lot of stitching to achieve the desired effect. 

In these two examples, I hope you can see what a difference some thread sketching makes:

"Cripps Pink" before: 

In this piece, I started with a very simple pattern, with only two colors of fused fabric for the apple, and two others for the background. I wanted to demonstrate how much realism I could add with thread alone.

"Cripps Pink" after:

I used brown, purple, dark red, dark orange and medium orange thread on the apple, and made sure that my lines of stitching curved to create the illusion of roundness. The many thread colors are needed to create dimension (with darker thread on the shadows and lighter on the highlights) and to blend the colors.

"Prepared for Takeoff" before:

Look how flat and uninteresting this piece looks before the thread sketching. I marked some of the lines and areas I wanted to thread sketch with a mechanical quilter's chalk marker before I started stitching.

"Prepared for Takeoff" after:

Thread sketching adds subtle color variations, emphasizes the lines and patterns, creates the texture, gives the piece a sense of movement, and makes the whole piece pop. A webbing of black thread for the shadow under the butterfly adds dimension.

You can find lots more information and tips, as well as demonstrations of how Susan stitches, on her DVD, "Master Machine Stitching: Thread Sketching Beyond the Basics." I'm sure this video is going to be as popular as her first one on free-motion stitching, so don't wait to order your copy–or download it today!

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Free-Motion Quilting, Machine Stitching, Quilting Daily Blog

One thought on “Can You See The Difference Between Quilts?

  1. Wow, what a difference the thread sketching made in both of these quilts!!! I also loved the short turtorial given for each quilt. This was just great!!! Thanks, Peggy