Kauai Road, continued…

Kauai Road

Working with only a rough sketch and no pattern shapes is very different for me. In my applique life, I have drawn patterns that many of you have sewn. The pieces are specific, and numbered. You trace around the templates to make a shape that fits the pattern.

I have also worked in the manner of Ruth McDowell, where I started with a photo and generated a pattern on freezer paper. In this kind of quilt, you may hunt for the right fabric for a shape, but you have a pattern for that shape.


As I work on Kauai Road, I’m thinking about so many things at once: What color do I need? What fabric do I have? What size or shape should each piece be? And on and on…A person can only make so many decisions before her brain has had enough. Even though this is fun, it’s a challenge. So why am I working this way?

I want to construct Kauai Road more in the manner of Edrica Huws. I have mentioned her work before, on this blog post. There’s not much documentation on her sewing methods, but in looking at her work I surmised that she was not strictly bound by a drawing, and that she cut shapes more or less intuitively, by hand, with scissors.


I am learning new things as I work this way, and it’s invigorating!

Which thread should you use?

Specifically, which thread is best to use on wool? The answer depends on how much, or how little, you want the thread to show. It also depends on whether you are going to stick to something simple like a blanket stitch, or whether you are going to add embroidery.

I use a blanket stitch on wool most of the time because it looks nice and it’s fast. I change the look of the stitch by using different kinds, and weights, of thread. (FYI: I fuse my wool applique shapes in place with Soft Fuse before I begin stitching. It works, and it really is ‘soft’.)


This thread from In The Patch is a wool blend. It is strong, thin, and a little fuzzy so that it blends well with the wool. Use it when you don’t want your stitches to show much. You can add embroidery stitches on top of these nearly-invisible stitches if you want to.


I carry 5 different weights of Prescencia Perle cotton, #16 is the finest. It is very similar to the wool thread, but it is not fuzzy. The cotton has a tiny bit of shine and the plies are tightly twisted—both of these qualities make this a slightly more visible, yet still fine, thread.

You can use #16 perle cotton in your sewing machine with a large needle.


Perle cotton sizes range from #3 (thickest) to #16 (finest). Even though the differences between them may be subtle, I find that there are uses for each weight. That is especially true when you use these threads on cotton fabric.

Prescencia Perle cotton #12 (right) is the next thickest thread.The #5 thread on the left is two steps in size away from #12 and it shows.


#8 Prescencia Perle cotton is the mid-weight. It can look either thick or thin, depending on how you use it. Compare it to the thinner wool thread on the far left and the thick #3 Painter’s Pearl cotton in the center and you can easily see the differences between them.

(More on the Painter’s Pearl cottons in a bit.)


Prescencia Perle #5 is a thick thread and the Prescencia Perle #3 is the thickest. You will need to use a big chenille needle with these threads and even then, you are likely to feel some resistance as you pull them through your fabric.

I’ve shown this chart before but it’s a good one so here it is again:



Next up is Sea Grass thread, on the right. Sea Grass cotton thread is flat, and a little stiff when you first thread your needle. It softens up as you sew with it. It looks like it has plies, but they don’t separate. Sea Grass is similar to a #3 perle in size.


I find myself using Sea Grass often.


Painter’s Pearl cotton thread is a wonderful, variegated thread. It is made in Germany and must be hand dyed and painted because the changes in color are very random. When sewing with most variegated thread, a color pattern quickly forms. That doesn’t happen with these threads. I love them!

I have Painter’s Pearls in sizes #8, #5, and #3. The dye lots vary, a lot. Rather than letting that bother me, I’m embracing the differences!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this thread tour! You can find out more about wool applique in our book, Wool Applique the Piece O’ Cake Way. And if you are interested in embroidery, you might also enjoy Creative Stitches by Sue Spargo.

And even though the focus in this post has been on wool applique, I want you to know that I use all of these threads with cotton fabric as well.

Stuck in place…

My photo assignment this week is ‘stuck in place’. This is an exercise where you pick one spot and stay in it for an hour taking photos. I went to the Austin College campus and planted myself here:


I took nearly 300 photos! I have to choose my top 3 images (excluding the image above) to turn in late Saturday. I’ve narrowed it down to 11 images. I think that this photo will make the cut:

cropped, minor edits

Click here if you’d like to see my other photos and leave a comment on the blog to tell me which ones you like the best!

Figuring it out…

When designing a quilt from a photo, you have to figure out where to start. I opened my photo in Photoshop and cropped in to focus attention on the part of the photo that I liked best.


I usually work in Adobe Illustrator where I can make layers and trace over a photo to make a pattern. But there’s a cool filter in Photoshop called Find Edges. I used it to generate this almost-drawing:


I am not going to fuse or glue this quilt. The pieces will be pinned, then basted on a light fabric base. I projected the image onto a 60″ x 60″ piece of thin, prewashed, white muslin on my design wall. I used a soft pencil to draw a stylized version of the image onto the fabric.

I decided to work loosely, cutting fabric to fill in the different areas without making templates or pattern pieces. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the drawing needed to be on an overlay so that I could still see it as I added fabric to the wall. I cut a great big piece of upholstery vinyl, pinned it over the muslin, and traced the lines with a regular Sharpie marker—the kind that comes to a blunt point.


I’m not aiming for photo realism here. Instead, I’m working in a looser, slightly more impressionistic fashion. It is both scary and fun!

Honey Pecan Pie, with or without the crust…

Pie crusts are tasty, but you don’t always have the time or inclination to make one. When that’s the case, just say no to the crust and skip to the good part!


I made these two crust-less Honey Pecan pies recently and posted the photo on Instagram. At least one person asked for the recipe. Here you go:

Honey Pecan Pie, adapted from allrecipes.com and beefolks.com

  • 1 cup honey
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9” single pie crust (or not)


  • Measure out the ingredients so that you can add them quickly.
  • Prepare the pie pans with either a crust or by spraying with non-stick oil.
  • Beat the eggs well with a fork, in a small bowl.
  • Bring the honey to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  • Quickly whisk in the eggs. Sometimes I leave the heat on low, sometimes I don’t. I’m not sure that that matters.
  • Add the butter, stir until melted.
  • Add the vanilla, nuts, and nutmeg. Blend and pour into pie plate.
  • Back at 325° F (165° C) for 25 minutes or until set.

Update: To keep the eggs from cooking up when they are added to the honey, bring the honey to a boil over medium-low heat and don’t bring it to a rolling boil. Be sure to really whisk the eggs both beforehand, in the bowl, and quickly, once they are in the honey.

Side note: When I make a crust-less fruit pie, I add crumbles on top made from flour, sugar, and butter and sometimes cinnamon. That adds a crust-like flavor without the bother of making a real crust.

Day to night…

I just watched Stephen Wilkes’ TED Talk. He is a photographer with a vision—and some exceptionally cool equipment.

My Photo Class assignment for the week is ‘stuck in place.’ We have to pick a spot and stay in it for an hour, taking pictures. I had the same assignment last year and really enjoyed it. I’m glad to have seen this video before I set out with my camera :-).