The flavour of the month is …….felt

It seems as though the patchwork world has discovered the joys of working with wool felt. Some of us have been doing this for many years, but it is lovely to see this in patchwork items more and more. I have made bags,

Bag with felt flowers and table runners

Christmas tablerunner

and small wall quilts over the years,

camelias and have quite a collection of felts – some hand dyed wool felt, some quite thick, some thinner and some more like wool suitings.

Part of the felt stash

Part of the felt stash

This year I didn’t attend the Australian Quilt Convention in Melbourne, but a friend did – and she had booked into a workshop with Wendy Williams to make a cushion. I had a while ago purchased one Wendy’s colourful cushion patterns, so I decided to start stitching it (is that called living vicariously through a workshop?!!).

Cushion Pattern

Of course, I didn’t choose colours that went with my decor – I wanted to try some new colours and began selecting the basket colours first and using similar backgrounds (black and white) to the original pattern photo.

Fabrics

Then the fun starts – choosing all the gorgeous felted wools to go into the flowers and leaves. I had quite a few at home to choose from, and did buy one or two to add to my felt stash.

I used Wendy’s idea of putting fussy cut floral fabrics or graphic patterns as the centres of the flowers (a good way of making ‘cheddar cheese’ out of fabric!).

Closeup

Having a selection of Ne 12’s and Lana threads to choose from was great – however I found I wanted to purchase some more as I didn’t quite have the ‘right’ colour at times. (a good way of extending my thread collection!).

Aurifil threads

I don’t think you can have just one new cushion – so I am going to make another one, using similar colours (another chance to buy some more fabrics??).

I haven’t got to the quilting stage – but I may hand quilt it in Ne 12 – or – on second thoughts, I may machine quilt it in Ne 28 or 40 to ‘puff’ up the flowers and leaves. The possibilities are endless!!

Nearly finished

I just have to complete the quilting, make a cushion backing, buy an insert and I’m finished!

Potted Lana and a reminder to wash!!

I have always enjoyed working with wool felt and making cushions is usually a quick project. I found the most beautiful wool project pattern in a book called “Summer Gatherings” by Lisa Bonegan from Primitive Gatherings and decided to make a new cushion.

The background fabric looked ideal – part wool and part viscose and in the dark black colour I wanted.  Excitedly I cut out the tiny flowers (80 plus of them) and the rest of the pattern pieces, but when I started to buttonhole the felted wool to the background, I found my fingers changing colour – to a deep black/blue!!  Realising that the fabric may also cause the colour to ‘migrate’ to my chairs or garments, I reluctantly decided I needed to wash the background fabric to get some of the dye out.  And the dye did come out!! I washed and washed and rinsed and rinsed!!

The first pot of blooms was well felted and the little flowers started to curl up – something I didn’t mind as it gave another dimension to the flowers.  I now just have to complete the other pots of flowers and  wash the flowers so that they mimic the first pot – AND give the finished piece a good press with the iron !

Felted blooms

The Lana worked well – it easily ” sinks in”  to the felted wool, and is so great to use from the spool.  I usually work with short lengths and with the extensive range of colours, I can always find a close match to the wool felt I use.

Next on the list is to try embroidering with Lana on a linen background.

How can you substitute Aurifil threads to use for all your embroidery designs?

In the past few months I’ve been asked this question many times so I thought that I would tell you what I have been doing lately with my Aurifil Block of the Month Embroidery.

The February Aurifil Block of the month stitched with Lana wool thread on a felted wool fabric

The February Aurifil Block of the month stitched with Lana wool thread on a felted wool fabric

 I chose to be different (I never can stick to the rules, and must always add my own little twist to my textile projects). So instead of stitching my blocks on cotton with Cotton Mako’ 12, I am working with some lovely soft wool/alpaca blanketing, that I have felted, and embroidering the designs with Lana wool blend thread.

You can see here, for the March block, how easy it has been to substitute the wool colours … not least because I had a thread wrapped colour chart for both thread ranges to hand.

The 4 Cotton Mako' colours used in the Aurifil Block of the Month Embroidery

Aurifil lana wool threads

These are the Lana wool colours that I will use for my wool embroidery

In case you haven’t yet caught up with the Aurifil Block of the month, the March block is “Spring if we are lucky” by Victoria Finlay Wolfe. You can read about Victoria, and down load her pattern, from the Auribuzz blog.

You can purchase Cotton Mako’ thread sets for the Embroidery Block of the month from the Always Quilting Online Store.  If you want to be a rebel, like me, and use different colours just go directly to the Cotton Mako’ pages.

The "Spring if we are lucky" embroidery, designed for Aurifil by Victoria Finlay Wolfe

The "Spring if we are lucky" embroidery, designed for Aurifil by Victoria Finlay Wolfe

Now swapping one Aurifil thread range for another is an easy process but what happens if you want to replace another brand of thread with Aurifil?

As people have realised how pretty the Cotton Mako’ & Lana threads are, and how well they work for both hand & machine embroidery, they have set aside their old threads in favour of using threads from the Aurifil range.

The first request for help with a “swap” this year came from one of the Aurifil Retailers, who had a customer ask if there was a conversion chart that would help her convert her hand embroidery pattern from DMC thread, as charted, to Cotton Mako’.

The customer had been using Cotton Mako’ 12 for all her recent work and she loved the appearance, and convenience, so much that she didn’t want to use the specified DMC stranded thread on her new project.

In this case, the embroidery pattern being used didn’t give any indication as to the thread colours, so we had to go to a conversion chart to work out the Cotton Mako’  replacement threads. (see the references below to download your own copy of the conversion chart I found)

However, note that this particular chart is now nearly five years old and both DMC & Aurifil have added new colours in that time that are not included in the conversion.

Another “problem” that arises with the use of a conversion chart is the difference between the “swap” colours and the colours that they are replacing. Every manufacturer uses their own colour/dye recipe so there will never be a truly accurate conversion from one brand to another.

This means that the most appropriate colour is not always the most direct swap, as noted on a conversion chart. You need to look at the new colours to make sure that they will play well together and add a brighter, or mute, version of the colour family if one colour doesn’t please the eye when grouped with the other threads.

When making these decisions also consider how much of the particular thread will appear in the design, and how it works with the fabrics that may be used to frame the embroidery.

See the link below for Dena Crain’s great post about checking the relativity of colour when using a thread conversion chart.

Earlier I commented that the pattern that we were colour swapping did not have any of the colours named. This can be a blessing if the thread brand uses “vanity” names to describe the colours rather than a more direct description such as pink or blue.

At work this week, we were amazed when Judy picked threads for a new embroidery she was about to start.

One thread, described as Aubergine in the original pattern, was converted according to a colour chart and turned out to be a lavender blue colour.

If we had simply relied on the vanity name we would have picked a much darker colour, and yet the softer purple blue worked perfectly with the other threads, and the fabrics. (Watch for Judy’s blog about this sometime in the future.)

So you can see that there is no single rule for swapping threads in a project. You need to choose the colours that work for you!

References:

A printable thread conversion chart for DMC to Aurifil Cotton Mako’

Dena Crain’s Blog post about using colour conversion charts

In the process of searching for online thread colour conversion charts for hand embroidery I also came across links that could be of use for machine embroiderers, to keep their threads, designs and online links organised.

The Easy Organiser Suite

My Thread Box Conversion program

NOTE: I have not downloaded these programs, or tested them in anyway, so use them at your own risk!

I also found an online, interactive, program that converts colours from one brand to another.  It is a little tricky to use but it is a useful starting point.

Needle pointers interactive colour chart conversion program

If you have any hand tips, or links to other thread colour conversion charts we would love to have you comments.