Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Steps in Quilting: Embellishments

Whether you embellish before or after quilting depends on what you're using as embellishments.

Paint may be used either before quilting to add highlights, define a face, etc. or after quilting to add color within a quilted area or as a wash over the quilted surface which adds interesting texture (but is really scary to do!).

Beads, charms, buttons and other hard embellishments are obviously much happier when you add them after quilting. I have a vest I call the Seven Needle Vest because that's how many sewing machine needles I broke while finishing the edges of the vest.

When attaching beads, buttons, etc. you may use regular sewing thread, but you will be much happier if you use a heavier thread. I like Nymo thread for my beads. It comes in a variety of colors and you should try to match the color to the background fabric. Buttonhole thread and even dental floss may be used for really heavy embellishments. You can even color unwaxed dental floss using a permanent marker, but don't forget to wait until it has dried and I wouldn't try washing it since it's very difficult to heat set.

Obviously you don't want to look at the back of your quilt and see the thread so I recommend the following technique. Make a knot in the thread and pop it through the top layer only of your quilt as you would when starting hand quilting. Come up where you want the first bead. Take 3 tiny stitches through the top fabric in that location to further secure the thread. * Then add a bead, stitch through the top fabric only, another tiny stitch, go through the bead again (going through each bead twice makes the bead stand up so the color shows nicely), then down into the fabric and travel between the layers to the position of your next bead. Repeat from *. To finish the thread take 3 tiny stitches under the last bead sewn, make a small knot, travel between the layers and pop the knot inside. Trim off the end of the thread. (Again this is the technique used to secure a line of hand quilting stitches.)

Soft embellishments that are meant to hang free such as prairie points, lace, etc. are obviously added during the top assembly, before quilting. The problem comes deciding what to do with them while quilting. If you don't mind having them quilted down in places, but want to make sure they don't flip the wrong way you may stitch them down using wash-away thread or tack them in place using some washable glue. If you want them free and you're quilting it yourself I recommend hand tacking them out of the way. If it's a large piece it can be rolled up tightly and tacked. If someone else is quilting it for you then it's best to ask them how they'd like you to handle it.

Have fun adding embellishments to your quilts and wearables.


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