Not long ago I fell in love with a brilliantly embroidered and quilted tapestry wall hanging at the Husqvarna Viking Convention. I was drawn to the eye-popping contrast of variegated threads on black fabric. As I examined it closer, I discovered that the black background had been quilted FIRST, and then embroidered. I had to make one!
This multi-faceted project has extra steps to construct, but the results are so worth the effort I decided to document what I learned along the way in this week’s tip.
Wool Batting and Free Motion Quilting
I used two layers of Quilters Dream wool batting sandwiched between black quilters sateen from RJR for the background, and machine quilting techniques learned at Diane Gaudynski’s workshop. It was very relaxing to machine quilt an entire whole piece cloth with the same pattern. I choose Diane’s version of headbands, a very free stitching pattern that meanders easily over wide open spaces. Two layers of wool batting, which has a high loft, with the thread sinking deep into the wool batting creates a trapunto-like look.
I selected black Bottomline thread to use in both the needle and the bobbin to create the intricate quilted detail. The Bottomline thread by Superior Threads is very fine and wonderful to use for the bobbin for any project. This thread is so fine that the bobbin holds closer to 200 yards instead of only 80 yards with regular cotton thread, so the bobbin lasts much longer.
While machine quilting with black thread on black fabric (often in the evening hours), I quickly realized that I could not have done this on just any sewing machine. Only the top newer generation models offer the true-color sewing light needed to see where I was going and where I had already stitched. I dedicate a huge part of this project’s success to having this particular light!
A stitch regulator keeps all the stitches the same length no matter how fast or slow you move the fabric. The stitch length can be adjusted, and was reduced to 1.4mm, the perfect length for smaller detail areas.
It is important to realize how much the total size of a quilt will be reduced with very heavy quilting. In preparing the original black fabric for quilting, I know I had allowed PLENTY of extra fabric on all sides. After it was quilted, most of the extra width was no where to be found! I was within inches of the finished size I needed! The fabric was lost in all the hills and valleys created by the loft of the two layers of wool batting.
Rainbow Superior Threads
The collection of Rainbow variegated threads from Superior Threads offers the widest variety of colors to make the embroidery designs stand out. These 40 weight threads have a very short color repeat offering a brilliant array of colors throughout the tapestry designs. Most of the designs use only 2 or 3 colors, but the threads make it look like more were used. A total of 25 different color ways were used on this project.
Positioning of the Embroidery Designs
Templates of each design were printed from a computer, and then pinned in place on the background before embroidering the designs. A design wall made it easier to see the whole project and make placement adjustments as needed.
Vines and Tendrils
Plan A was to use the new Bernina free motion couching foot to add cording to connect all the embroidery designs. After testing, the cording looked too heavy and would have over-powered the embroidery designs. Plan B was to wind YLI Pearl Crown rayon on the bobbin and stitch the vines and tendrils from the back side of the quilt. Since the embroidery designs could be seen on the back side, it was very easy to use a Clover white fabric marker to draw the vine and tendril lines, and it was easy to sew following the lines. The tails of the threads where buried in the quilt using a tapestry needle.
The tapestry designs are available for all brands of embroidery machines on a multi-format design CD by Husqvarna Viking.
To reserve your Thread Art Tapestry CD collection, contact Heirloom Creations at 605-332-4435. Stop by the store to see this tapestry collection up close.
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