Terry White from Coats & Clark demonstrates how to create beautiful designs using this easy thread painting technique!

October 13, 2016


"Thread painting is a method for creating original embroidery by machine. Beautiful threads turn into gorgeous designs that you create on your sewing machine simply by dropping the feed dogs, then moving the fabric around beneath the machine's needle to create lines, areas of color, and texture by stitches. It's easier than you imagine, especially with the right thread. Hi, I'm Jennifer Keltner with American Patchwork & Quilting here in the sewing lab, and today I have guest Terry White from Coats and Clark. Terry, you're a fiber artist and you're here to show us about thread painting." "Yes. Thread painting has been around since the sewing machine, and it's extremely easy and anybody can do it." "Well, I know you promised us it's super easy, so I'm counting on that. We have a free download with the project that can help you get started, but Terry, show us where we begin." "Okay. I begin with a black-and-white drawing and then I will make copies of it and color it in with color pencils. This helps me decide what color combination I want to use, which thread colors I'll use. So these are several different color combinations, and this is the one that I settled on." "Well, it's a beautiful drawing and I'm sure you have to get started by choosing your threads after you're finished with that?" "That's right." "So what's important to consider there?" "Okay. I like to use Coats and Clark star cottons. These are beautiful. This one is a multicolor. They're multicolors and they're solids, and they're made of Egyptian long staple which is really important. It has a very smooth finish. It's low lint, so you can do lots of stitching and you get beautiful quality of stitching with this thread." "And I imagine low lint is very important as you're stitching a lot of thread on to your project." "Yes." "Alright. Well, it looks fabulous. The colors are beautiful and I can't wait to see how we begin, so let's start." "Okay." "Now that we've got the design drawn and the colors of thread chosen, there's a little bit of prep work to be done before we move to the machine. So, Terry, can you show us what's next?" "Okay. I trace the design on to the fabric with an archival quality pen." "Alright. And you've chosen a linen fabric today. Why is that important?" "Okay. It doesn't have a tight weave. It's open weave and so all of the stitching and all of the thread will fit in here without distortion." Excellent, so you wouldn't want to choose something with a really high thread count like batik for this project." "Correct. It's just too difficult to thread paint through that." "Okay. How do we get started?" "Okay. I have medium-weight stabilizer underneath the fabric and then I need to hoop. So I like to use about a 9-inch hoop and this is a hand-held embroidery hoop. And I put the small ring on top and the large ring on the bottom." "And why is that important?" "Okay, well, you need to have the fabric flush with the bed of the sewing machine." "Okay, so if you hooped it the other way, your fabric would sort of be up in the air. This way your fabric will be flat against the machine bed. Just like we had a little prep work on our piece before we got to the machine, there's a little machine setup information we need to know as well. Terry, how do we get started?" "Okay, the first thing I want to point out is that we put the thread on an upright spool pin. This gives us really good smooth thread delivery, especially on a big spool like this." "Alright, and how about the bobbin thread?" "You don't want a balance of the threads, you want them unbalanced. The top thread needs to be loose and pulled to the back and that bobbin thread has a good grip and it will pull it to the back." "So we've got a sample here where you can see. This is very different from how you'd set up for machine quilting. With thread painting, you want your top thread to come to the backside of the project because you've got a lot of thread laying on the top of that fabric." "That's correct. This is how thread painting should look on the back." Alright. Let's see you do it." "Okay. First thing I've done is brought my bobbin thread up to the top. And I'm stitching with this multicolor thread, back and forth. This is what I call smooth contour stitching. You can see the colors are changing on this great multicolor thread." "It is beautiful. Now, do you know before you start how your colors are going to stitch out?" "No, I do stitch samples to see, because you can look at those spool and really not see what it's going to do. You have to stitch it out. And with multicolor thread, I'm getting this lively change of color and these wonderful effects. What's so cool about this thread, it has this beautiful different colors and it's a surprise. Every time I do this one shade, it will look different." "It really is a work of art." "Thank you. Well, the threads are really the star of the show." "I can see how it would be fun to pick a lot of different colors and see what you get. Now I notice your hands are very relaxed as you're doing this. You're not really pressing on the embroidery hoop at all." "You can do this all day. You're not gripping or pressing down. And by hooping your fabric, you have really good control of what you're doing." "I would have never guessed that you could have gotten all these colors out of one spool of thread. I know. It saves a lot of time. You don't have to change colors, but the other thing is that the mix of these colors are absolutely beautiful." "I could see where you can have a lot of fun using a lot of thread." "This is the most fun you can have with your machine and your thread. It's random, long-color changes which gives you this wonderful liveliness and it keeps you interested in what you're doing, too, because you don't know what you're going to get until you stitch it out." "The results of this project really are stunning and you're right, Terry, it is all about the threads. They're gorgeous. I loved watching you stitch this one out because there's such depth and different colors that stitch out in the leaf; it almost looks like it's sculpted. And here at the bottom where you stitched diagonally, and the colors of this multicolor spool are just amazing." "Yes, and on this one you can see the purple berries with the one multicolor thread and the way this is stitched is circular first and then stitching straight up, and then following contours and there are all these beautiful colors. You know, you don't have to make these color choices. You have them all in one multicolor." "That's amazing. I think perhaps my favorite part of this project, it's kind of like applique You're building up each layer of it as you work along, but the background stitching here really looks like you used dozens of spools of threads and you didn't. "No. I used this one spool of thread. Now, this is where the long random color change shows up where you have short areas, short areas of color and then longer areas of color, and it gives it a depth and a liveliness and a naturalness that is just, you can't do it without a thread like this." "So what you're saying in the random color change is it's not a regular interval. It doesn't' go from orange to green to yellow in 3" increments. It could be small increment, big increment and it's never the same twice." "Yes, this is true. And there are about five colors in the one spool." "Awesome. Well, I know there are dozens of colors to choose from and that might be the hard part for me. But you can also use this thread, I know you used the multicolor thread to do your machine quilting on the background, as well." "Yes, and I also love to use this thread in decorative stitching. It is just gorgeous. So you chose one that maybe has a little bit less variation for the background but it still adds some nice depth to the project. It's awesome. This thread painting project is simply beautiful and I hope you have a good time making it." "Terry, it was great to have you here today." "Thank you Jennifer."