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 Textile Evolution

Liz Kettle Artist, Author and Creator of the Stitch Meditation process

Stitch Journeys

Exploring life with needle and thread.

Stabilizer Smabliizer!

I am a big fan of stabilizers.

stabilizer cabinet 1 of 1


They are crucial anytime you want to add stitch to fabric as an embellishment but I often get a blank look when I talk about them in class or at a party. Ok, so I haven’t been asked about stabilizers at any parties recently but I am not good at party small talk so I would really love someone to ask about them as we eat canapes.   

Stabilizers are like a great foundation garment. They give support in all the right places. They aren’t usually needed when you are piecing two fabrics together but if you want to add stitch details on a fabric they will save your sanity.

The most common question I get is what stabilizer to use and when. Of course that is an ‘it depends’ answer…depends on what you are doing, what fabric you are using and if it can stay in or needs to be removed from the final project.

One of my pet peeves is when directions or supply lists indicate you should use Pellon or Vilene stabilizer. I could just scream!!  That is like writing ‘use meat’ in a recipe. What kind of meat? Beef, chicken, elk, sea bass, goat? You will get very different results if you aren’t using the right one.

Don’t make me guess. Tell me exactly what type of stabilizer I need!!

A stabilizer’s main purpose is to add stability to fabrics…the fusible aspect of any stabilizer is simply to make it easier to apply the stabilizer to the fabric. Extra stability allows you to add dense stitching without distorting the fabric. The more stitches you want to add to the fabric the heavier a stabilizer you need.

stabilizer images for blog post 2 of 2

There are about a bazillion different stabilizers on the market and a little time getting to know them will serve you well.  You don’t need to know them all. That would take quite a while. There isn’t any one best, right or perfect stabilizer. While there are many stabilizer brands there are only a few stabilizer manufacturers. It is more important to become familiar with the ones you can easily purchase.

Try my stabilizer sampler exercise to help you learn about them.

Make some Stabilizer Samples!

This works great as a stitch party…everyone brings a different stabilizer and you all swap around.

 stabilizer images for blog post 1 of 2

my stabilizer sample ring-be sure to use the same fabric on each so you can compare weights easily

For this exercise, gather an assortment of interfacings, fusible, tear away and cut away as well as heavy weight stabilizers. Grab some fabrics-pick weights and fibers you use the most often. Cut small sample squares (or circles or rectangles). Apply the stabilizer to the fabric.

If it is a sew-in stabilizer, sew it on.

 If it is a fusible stabilizer, fuse it on.

Write on the back of the stabilizer the brand name and item code so you can easily purchase it again.

stabilizer samples small

stabilzer samples from my book: Threads: the Basics and Beyond


Now, stitch a decorative stitch on the edge. The lighter the stabilizer the more open the decorative stitch should be. With a heavy stabilizer you can add a detailed stitch. If your stabilizer isn’t stable enough for the stitch you selected it will distort the fabric. DON’T throw that away. The samples that don’t work are really more valuable than the ones that do work.

Put them on a ring or a string or in a book so you have a reference for the future.

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Thread Misinformation Getting Me Down!

Thread Misinformation Getting Me Down!

I have been mulling over this blog post for months! I get so frustrated by the misinformation about thread that is out there and when it comes from someone trying to sell me a product I get really peeved! Add to the fact that he was talking about metallic threads which already give folks problems I just had to speak my mind. 




For those of you who want to learn even more about thread check out my Threads: The Basics class now on-line! 


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Perfect Paper Piecing ~ Choose the right thread



Paper Piecing! I spent the last weekend finishing this quilt top and table runner. Starr Design Fabrics created the pattern and fabric kit. This project has been in the works for 13 years! I know some of you can relate. I purchased it on my 40th birthday so I know exactly how long it has been hanging around. One reason it has taken so long to finish is that I discovered after oh...about...the second star that I really don't like paper piecing. (gasp!)


Fortunately, I have a great friend who doesn't mind paper piecing and she helped me get through these blocks. Truth be told she made most of them. :-)


One benefit to working on a project like this for so long is that it has a bit of my personal thread history in it. I started this quilt before I had embarked on my mission to undercover all the mysteries of thread. So, it is a bit of an experiment on what threads work best with paper piecing.


I started out with a medium weight cotton thread. Nice and strong but it made it difficult to get all the many points to meet where I wanted them to meet. Too frustrating for paper piecing these complicated patterns.


Next I tried a couple different ultra-fine threads. I began with InvisaFil and DecoBob both by WonderFil. These ultra fine threads worked great and gave me totally flat seams and the points all behaved nicely and met where they should. But, these particular poly threads are a little stretchy so when I was tearing away the paper the stitching stretched a bit and had to be repaired in a couple places.


My recommendation for paper piecing thread is Coats and Clark Dual Duty Fine. This thread is strong, not as stretchy as the others I used and is fine enough to give you nice flat seams. Don't forget to shorten your stitch  length too.


I have gifted my paper piecing hero with all my add a quarter rulers! I won't be paper piecing in the foreseeable future. I hope to get this quilt top quilted later this fall but have a baby quilt to do first! Another boy grandbaby will be joining us in late Jan. Love those boys!!



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Demystifying Bobbin Case Tension

One of the frequent questions I get at any lecture or class is about that pesky bobbin case tension. It seems to make smart women doubt their skills and abilities. It isn't really very confusing but we have been told to keep our hands off that bobbin case tension screw! We might mess it up. Really? How tragic could it be? It is one screw. Righty tighty lefty loosy. Pretty simple.

for those of you who aren't quite sure why you would need to adjust your bobbin case tension well, I have a few words for you: uber yummy ultra heavy threads!

Farm Fresh Tencel-bobbin work close up sm

I chanllenge you all to make friends with your bobbin case tension! Be brave! There is nothing more staisfying than knowing you can make your machine do what you want.

Today, I am sharing my video that tells you just how to adjust that bobbin case tension.

Now that you have concqured that fear head over to Textile Evolution to create with us in our free on-line book studies. There is one for Fabric Embellishing: the Basics and Beyond and one for Threads: the Basics and Beyond. You do need a copy of the book for the details but the book study is totally FREE. Ask us questions, share your work.

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In Stitches Blog Tour...

Welcome you intrepid In Stitches blog tour followers, welcome to my home on the web! I want to tell you a little bit about my article in this jam packed issue of In Stitches. Conquering metallic thread is the topic...Metallic thread questions are the most frequent ones I get. It is a finicky thread but with a few tips you can easily become a metallic stitch queen! Here are my top metallic thread tips!

1. The thread you use in the bobbin is important. I find that a fine(50-60wt) or ultrafine (70-100wt)polyester thread solves a lot of problems. Metallic threads are wiry and often not smooth so pairing them up with a soft drapey poly thread eliminates a lot of tension problems.

2. Speaking of tension...reduce it! The upper tension dial is one of your best and often underutalized tools on your sewing machine! Reducing the top tension (lower numbers) means less tension on the thread so it will be less likely to break. When I am free motion stitching with metallic threads I set the top tension to zero!

3. The needle...A metallic needle is handy but not necessary. Depending on the type of stitching you are doing a size 90 embroidery (for free motion) or 90 topstitch (programmed and straight stitches) work just as well.

4. Slow down. Sewing fast creates more friction on your thread and friction causes heat and increased force on your threads...causing them to stretch and break. In addition, when you are free motion sewing and moving the fabric fast you are adding stress/tension to the thread. So often in our daily errands we do things in a hurry; slowing down allows us to actually get into the zen of stitching and relax!

5. Thread delivery. Some threads just need a bit more time and space to relax before they hit those tension could go down this philosophical path on how we would all benefit from more time and space before we face our own daily tension...but let's get back to thread! Try using a thread stand or a jar placed behind and away from your machine. Make sure the thread path goes no where near your fly wheel! Also make sure that the thread is coming off a stationary spool. Dragging the spool along as it unwinds adds more tension.

6. Know your stabilizers! Every thread fanatic should have a wide variety of stabilizers at their fingertips! Stabilizers can make your stitch world so much more beautiful and solve so many stitch problems...and you will have younger looking skin as well. Ok, just joking about the skin but seriously...get to know your stabilizers. They are so valuable in the studio!

This ATC was created with metallic threads and free motion stitching on a heavy stabilizer
Metallic thread flag

You will find even more metallic thread info in the current issue of In Stitches and lots of great ideas and inspiration like:

  • Artist Profile with Marianne Burr, including a zoom slideshow with numerous art quilt images

  • A colorful stitched and painted camera strap project with Michelle Allen (perfect for my new camera!)

  • Insight from Lyric Kinard on using stitch as a design element

  • Pokey’s studio visit with art quilter Judith Trager, plus more from Judith

  • Tips for making a stitchery workbook with Debbie Bates

  • Ideas for making screen-printed fabric pendants (these are sooo cute!)

  • Deborah Boshert’s approach to using sheers for stitched silhouettes

  • Embroidered silk cuffs by Jackie Cardy (Gotta make some of these!!)

I wasn't sure if I would like an on-line magazine but was totally sold after I got the first issue of In Stitches! I love being able to zoom in on a photo, watch the videos...what a great way to get to know an artist! And, best of all I don't have to buy another book case to house all the back issues and we aren't using up our natural resources to produce them.

GIVE AWAY! Everyone loves a giveaway and I have a wonderful one for you! The winner will receive a copy of Threads: The Basics and Beyond Debbie Bates and myself plus a  packet of stitch goodies...including some metallic thread of course and some fabrics and some surprises! Leave a comment below and I will use a random number generator to pick a winner on Wed March 9th!

Here is the entire blog tour schedule so you can learn more about In Stitchesand these awesome artists! Pssst...a lot of the other artists have give aways too!! I love prizes don't you?

Monday (Feb 28): Jane Davila:
Tuesday: Lynn Krawczyk (March 1):
Wednesday: Jackie Cardy(March 2):
Thursday: Deb Bates (March 3):
Friday: Deborah Boschert (March 4):
Saturday: Michelle Allen (March 5):
Monday: Lyric Kinard (March 7):
Tuesday (March 8): A surprise guest on Lindsey’s blog will be the final stop of this tour
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Lint Mountains

Last week I had the pleasure of give two thread lectures at High Prairie Quilts in Parker CO. I love talking about thread and sewing so giving these talks is always a lot of fun. One topic that always comes up at these lectures is linty thread.  When exactly did lint in the bobbin case become a terrible plague on stitching humanity?  Have we made a mountain out of a molehill?

In the last 5 or so years there have been quite a few thread manufacturers telling us their brand of thread is the best we can buy because it is lint free or as close to lint free as possible. We ooohh and aaahh over this marvelous product and believe that lint free is the way to be. I admit to buying into the lint is bad story myself. But, if you stop a moment to really think about lint and its origins you just might have to accept an alternate reality. We tend to forget one little detail…the fabric we are stitching on supplies our machines with its own bit of lint. If we are stitching on homespun or loose weave fabrics we are rewarded with copious amounts of the evil lint.

I will let you in on a secret…if you take all the lint off of a thread you will cause un-spooling problems because the thread is so slick it just falls off of the spool. The little hairs you see on thread are actually beneficial. Yes, I admit that excess lint in the bobbin case might cause all sorts of problems from skipped stitches to the dreaded bobbin rats nest of tangled thread but how much can we blame the thread and how much our sewing machine hygiene regimen?

It may seem unlikely that my thread lectures include a firm admonishment about appropriate sewing machine hygiene but it is actually one of the more important parts of my lecture. Every time I ask how many attendees clean their machine regularly I am met with embarrassed and yes, even shame filled faces! We are so quick to blame poor defenseless lint for our stitching woes when the hard reality is that we have simply neglected the task of cleaning and oiling our precious machines.

How often should we clean and oil? That depends on how much you sew, the type of machine you have and even the environment you live in. Always refer to your machine’s instruction manual to learn how to clean and oil your particular machine. When I am sewing for most of the day I will clean and oil my machine before I stop for the night. It seriously only takes about 2 minutes. A good guideline is to clean and oil after every 8 hours of sewing. I live in a dry and dusty environment so I try to clean my machine more often. Remember that cleaning out the lint is only one goal. Oiling your machine properly will add years to its life and your machine will thank you.

The bottom line is that there are very few threads on the market today that cause so much lint that it can be problematic. Clean your machine (often), don’t take everything a manufacturer tells us as gospel and let’s let lint dissolve back into the molehill that it really is.

If you have thread questions leave a comment. I am working on some thread FAQs for our forum here since most of my awesome blog readers can’t get to one of my lectures. If you have a photo of a very linty machine send it to me to help illustrate this post…my machine is clean. ;-)
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