Adding Some Sparkle

metallicI’m teaching a class at Sew Generously in November about using metallic thread for machine embroidery. The look can be absolutely stunning, perfect during the holidays or special ocassions.

Or it can make you want to throw your thread against a wall and storm out of the room.  (Ask me how I know.)

But some basic tips can go a long way.  Troubleshooting is another issue, and is exactly the reason I offer a hands-on class.  Until you try and fail, you will not know what works and doesn’t on your machine.

Here are a few very general tips on using metallic thread:

1.  Use good quality thread.

This should go without saying, but you know, I always run into people who will pay thousands for a machine and then purchase thread that is garbage.  Thread manufacturing is a science and it can be made to excellent standards or made on the cheap and, let’s face it, when it comes to thread, you get what you pay for.  I always recommend Superior Threads.  I have used their products numerous times with success IF you follow some of the following tips.

2.  Use a topstitch needle. 

They have a larger eye and that gives the thread some room, so it cuts down on breakage.


3.  Don’t be afraid to change your upper tension.

Most of the time, you have to reduce the top tension all the way to 1.




4.  Use the correct thread in the bobbin.

I have had some success using OESD bobbin thread, but nothing works better than Superior’s Bottom Line in the bobbin.  It’s a lightweight poly, and is a perfect match for their metallic thread.  Use Bottom Line in the bobbin when sewing with monofilament too.

upright thread stand5. Know when to use your upright thread spool holder.

It may be easy to think this one can be overlooked, but you would be surprised what a difference it makes.  If your thread is straight wound, as this one is, make sure it’s on the upright holder.  If it’s cross-wound, as many other metallics are, you should be OK on the horizontal spool holder.

To learn a little more about horizontal vs. vertical spool holders, click here.

Metallic thread looks so gorgeous during the holidays–on linens, home decor accents, even on apparel…especially on apparel.

Work through your fear and try it!

Chicago Botanic Garden

flowers1This week I went to Chicago Botanic Gardens.  It was on my list of things to do this summer and I’m just squeezing it in under the wire before school starts.  I went alone.

And what a joy.

Can you find the hummingbird?

Can you see the hummingbird?


How did I live here all my life and not spend time in these gardens?  Actually, I was here  once before about 20 years ago.  I was managing a photo shoot and was overwhelmed by the work.  Were the models on time?  Was the photographer happy?  (Because there’s nothing like a photo shoot with an unhappy, temperamental, egocentric photographer.)  Was the merchandise correctly displayed?  Were we on time and on budget? Would the weather hold? I can barely remember the scenery.

But this time was a different story.  I strolled.  I took pictures.  I contemplated. I noticed.

It was lovely.

A few pictures to share.

A Place at the Table

IMG_1772These placemats are almost ready for a fall table.  The fabric is fused, they are quilted, and I just need to trim them up and add the binding made from some yummy pumpkin fabric.

IMG_1773I’m sure you’ve seen these Craf-Tex Placemat craft packs at your local quilt store, (if not, ask them to bring them in!)  but I am using them for the first time and they are just a dream!  They are so easy to work with, and before you know it, you have beautiful custom placemats for your dining room or kitchen. The fabric fuses on both sides easily without any steam, machine quilting is smooth, and in no time I just add a binding and  have custom placemats for my fall table!  Of course, I could have done some piecing, but I just love this fall fabric, so I didn’t want to cut it up any further…just enjoy it as is!


For us, these will simply become our everyday mats, as they will carry us through the holidays (they have pine cones in the mix)  A set of four placemats like this sews so quickly and would make a terrific custom-made gift!

I still have to trim them up and add the binding but really…sew simple!!  Find yourself some rich, luscious, yummy fabric and whip these up in no time.

Gaining Perspective


My husband is an astrophotographer.  This photo of Andromeda was taken August 11 in the early morning hours.

Taking pictures of extraterrestial objects is far more difficult than it looks.  Timed exposures of the sky have to account for the crazy, spinning, wobbling rotation of the earth.  And the more I learn about that, the more grateful I am for gravity which keeps us all from being thrown wildly off into space. So you have to program a camera to turn at the exact same speed as the rotation of the earth or your pics are fuzzy.  Micrometers matter.  Milliseconds matter.

They do make telescope mounts that can be programmed, but let me tell you…they are not cheap or easy to use.  It helps to have some technical background and the persistence to experiment , fail, and try again. And again. And again.

Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away.  Reminder:   One light year, for those of us who need a refresher in middle school science, is the distance light travels in one year.  The speed of light is 186,000 miles a second.


The numbers are mind-blowing and therefore add some perspective to our pitiful existence.  We are minutiae in the universe.  A petri dish in the back of God’s refrigerator.

And let’s not even get into the idea of quantum physics–in which case, our viewing of Andromeda may cause it to change properties.

So, once in awhile I step back and contemplate the universe.  My problems look so small.  And yet, I’m here to look.  I’m here to observe, to draw conclusions and to appreciate what I see.  I don’t ever expect to understand the mystery of all this.  But the older I get, the more comfortable I am with mystery.

I don’t know.  You don’t know.  No one knows.

And I guess that puts us all on even footing–on one small planet at the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.







O the Weather Outside is Frightful

Table runner

Table runner with text on a path, applique, free standing lace and an embroidery from the new collection Urban Doodles:  Lilies with Spheres.

Not really.  The weather outside is not frightful at all.  In fact it’s quite delightful.

However, in the world of quilting and embroidery, we’re already thinking ahead to fall and winter and gearing up for the holidays.  If I waited to start my fall quilting projects until it’s really fall, I’d never get them finished on time.  So, we quilters and embroiderers start getting excited about new holiday fabric right about now.

This particular project involved embroidery text set on a path. This month in the August Software Sampler, Amanda Whitlatch will cover all of this in detail and much more, so be sure to visit Sew Generously or your local Bernina dealer to attend or find out more.

Using V6 embroidery software, go into Art Canvas and set up a vector shape for the text to follow.  See below. You don’t have to use a spiral, you can create a freehand line, or use a rectangle or another shape.  I just had some fun with the spiral.


Next, click the text icon on the left, then go to the text menu and click “Fit Text to Path” .  Type in your text.  Select all.  Then click the icon on the left that says “Convert text to embroidery.”  This will open embroidery canvas, and your text will be converted.



Be sure to check your text to make sure it is large enough to stitch out properly.  You can always increase the size, but at this point it will be treated as a graphic and not as text.


I want to create a couple of mug rugs to match the table runner using this text below.


Have a little fun with this, and be sure to visit your local quilt shops soon.

The Northern Illinois Quilt Shop Hop is still on until the end of August.

You can still enter drawings, get 15% off your purchases, and best of all, most of the shops now have the newest holiday fabrics in store!  So start planning your projects–  because as soon as the kids are back in school and that first North Wind begins to blow, we both know you’ll be itching to get behind that sewing machine!

Pour It On


We had a garage session yesterday.  And when we were done we had art.

evasive green



green puddle

Here’s all it takes.  Some unstretched canvas.  We got ours at the Art Box in Geneva.

Side note: The owner is very talented.  I love the direction his art is taking lately.  His shop is both a studio and art supply store. I believe he also teaches. Ironically, his shop is right across from the Egg Harbor Cafe.  So many good things are located near an Egg Harbor Cafe!!

Anyway, you’ll need unstretched canvas and Golden liquid acrylics (which can be purchased at Blick’s in Wheaton.)

That’s it.  And water.

I want to give a shout out to Alyce from Fine Line Creative in St. Charles.  I took a class with her and learned this technique and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning to do poured paintings.  She is a lovely woman, and has the patience of a saint.

As you can see, kids love this technique.  It’s very freeing.  Here’s the dialogue running through my son’s head:  “Oh that is so cool.  I see an angel, with people all around. Wow, look at that, now I see a witch and spooky clouds.  This is so COOL!”


Adults, here’s the dialogue that runs through our head: “That is so cool.  Oh but we’re wasting a lot of canvas, and look that expensive paint is just running down and we’ll have to throw it out, and oh maybe I shouldn’t put that here and what if I ruin it? Maybe the purple is too dark and where do I start and what if I just make a mess.”

I remember a woman in the class who was paralyzed by the blank sheet.  She stood holding her paint over it for what seemed like hours, trying to talk herself into letting go.  She didn’t know where to begin.

The beauty of this process is that the artist is not entirely responsible for what is created.  The paint plays a role which you absolutely cannot control or predict.

That takes a huge burden off of us. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be perfect.  Paint does what it does.  I can’t control it, I don’t want to control it. If it’s beautiful, then, look what happened?  If it’s ugly, then, eew, look what happened.

I love this technique and invite you to try it sometime.  No pressure.  Just art.

old tree