Most people who know me know that I love working with wool! This isn't a new thing in my life ... as a teenager I competed in the Make It Yourself With Wool contest regularly ... and I even raised sheep for 4-H ... even though we had no other animals at our home. My store is known as a source for hand dyed wool and unique kits. For five years, we had a club called the Muddy Sheep Wool Club! It was packed with quilters who loved wool, too. For my part in the Minnesota Quilt Designers blog hop, I thought I'd show you how easy ... and fun ... it is to work with wool.
Many people associate wool applique with traditional penny rugs. Circles ... often the size of coins ... are stacked and stitched and then sewn to a background or along an edge of a mat. Initially made to keep the floor warm in colonial homes, as Americans became more successful, they began to take on a more decorative look as they were embellished with flowers, leaves, and animals.
The supplies needed to begin wool applique are things that most quilters already have in their sewing kit ... a pair of small, sharp scissors, applique and fork pins, water based glue, needles ... especially #9 embroidery, #22 tapestry and straw (for stringing beads) ... and floss. Some people like to use perle cotton but I like floss because of the huge range of colors available and the texture of the thread. Freezer paper is needed too ... does anyone really use it to wrap food anymore?
I like the feeling of hand dyed wool for my projects. I'm really lucky to have a great group of dyers in my area ... all of the wool I use is from women owned businesses in the Midwest.
Our wool is felted in the dying process but if you come across a beautiful piece and want to use it in a project, it's really easy to felt on your own. Toss it in the washer with the hottest water you have ... add a tablespoon of detergent and a little softener if you wish ... let it agitate and spin out ... then throw it in a hot dryer. It's that simple! I stand by the dryer for a little bit and check the lint trap. Safety precaution.
Make freezer paper templates to cut your shapes. Trace the design on to the paper side of freezer paper then press the waxy side to the wool. Cut out the shape on the line and remove the paper. The templates can be reused several times.
Applique pins and fork pins (Clover) are great ways to hold the shapes in place because they don't catch on your threads as you stitch. A stapler will hold larger pieces together, too. But my all time favorite is Roxanne's Glue Baste ... I have it stashed in all my cubbies!
I prefer one strand of floss and a whip stitch to hold down most of my pieces.
A blanket or buttonhole stitch gives a more decorative edge ... this is a loop stitch and the one thing you need to remember is that the needle needs to cross the thread to complete the stitch.
I use the backstitch and running stitch, too. If I run them down the center of a leaf I'll tug the threads a bit to make the shape gather up a little ... gives it a 3D look. There are no rules to what kind of stitch to use ... play around and have fun!
French knots are perfect for holding berries in place ... cross stitches add texture. Because the pieces I design are mostly decorative, I leave a lot of loose edges for dimension. (This basket is the November page in the 2010 American Patchwork and Quilting calendar!)
There's no rule that says wool must only be used with wool. Piece a background and embellish it with wool shapes. It's washable by hand ... great for table coverings and purses and even full sized quilts. Did you know you can piece with it too? For our wool club one year we made a pieced and appliqued quilt ... its amazing what traditional blocks look like when they're pieced with wool instead of cottons!
Any applique pattern can be adapted ... you probably have some in your pattern stash that would be perfect. Put them to a new use! If you want to try your hand at wool applique, check out some of my designs on the American Patchwork and Quilting web site. We also have precut kits you can order on our Rosebud's Cottage site.
Ok ... so you know the rules ... there are prizes during the blog hop! Today, I'll pick two winners from those who comment on my blog. It's strawberry season in Minnesota ... the prize is our very popular strawberry needle keeper! We've been keeping busy making more kits so if you aren't lucky enough to win one, we'll have some for you to order.
Thanks for taking part in the blog hop ... we're so lucky in Minnesota to have over 30 of the best designers in the industry living practically in our backyards! I hope you get the opportunity to experience all they have to offer.