I got home from Phoenix yesterday, safe and sound. I was looking through the mail that had accumulated and what should I discover but the March/April issue of Quiltmaker magazine with my project in it!


I met the magazine’s editors while I was in Salt Lake City last May for Spring Market, and we’ve been working on getting a design of mine into the magazine ever since. It’s finally here!


This was made entirely out of one line of fabric, Memories of Provence by Monique Dillard for Maywood Studio. The fabric line was a pleasure to work with and gave me every single thing I needed to make the quilt. It’s hand appliquéd and machine quilted.

Update: the pattern, now called Climbing Vines, is available at my website.

Until then,
By Kay Mackenzie

Yay! I am NOT the only quilter in the world who does not use the Bernina knee lift! Thank you for letting me know that… I am not alone. If and when I need a new machine, a hover mode feature will definitely be on my wish list.

Awhile back, Jan Louise wrote,

I watched a quilting program in which the guest said she always uses silk threads to do her appliqué. I use DMC threads because I can always find a matching color. What do other stitchers use, what do you recommend, and why?

Hi Jan Louise! There’s a long answer and a short answer, Being the over-achiever that I am, I’ll start with the long answer :).

I’m also a DMC user. We’re talking about DMC 50-weight cotton machine-embroidery thread. I got started with it because it’s available at my LQS and like you say, comes in lots of beautiful colors. I have a whole library of it, and I use it for both hand and machine appliqué. I’ve stayed with it because 1) I like it, and 2) I don’t want to start a whole new collection.


The entire line is available online at Sharla Hicks’ Soft Expressions.

Everything else I know about thread comes under the category of hearsay. Being an avid quilter and appliquér for about 20 years now, I’ve kept my eyes and ears open. I’m happy to pass along what I’ve learned, with the caveat that what I say from here on is not through direct experience.


I tried out Superior’s MasterPiece Thread in an earlier post. MasterPiece is a fine cotton thread favored by the Piece o’ Cake gals and Alex Anderson.

Mettler’s Silk Finish is widely available at quilting and sewing stores and can be used for appliqué. It’s not silk, it’s cotton, but has a smooth finish, which is why they liken it to silk. It’s also a 50-weight thread, but it’s 3-ply, which effectively makes it a little thicker. You’ll notice I have a few spools of it on the bottom row of my thread rack, and there are a few more in the drawer. I use it sometimes for machine appliqué when I want a little bit heavier edge finish.

Mettler also makes a cotton 60-weight 2-ply that my pal Pam uses. It’s also the thread of choice for Karen Kay Buckley, who offers collections of it on her website.

Pat Sloan likes Aurifil 50-weight thread. You’ll see her on the web page. Pat does machine appliqué, but according to the website this thread is thin and a good choice for hand appliqué as well.


Lots of appliquérs swear by silk thread. It’s extremely fine, like 100 weight, and sinks beautifully into the fabric edge, effectively disappearing. I’ve heard it said that you don’t need as many colors, because it blends very well and you can get away with just a few basics. YLI and Superior are two brands that I know of.

I’ve also heard that silk thread is so fine and slippery that you tend to lose it out of the needle, and there’s some sort of way of tying a knot on the end to keep it from doing so.

There’s also some urban legend in the appliqué world that silk is stronger than cotton, and over the years will outlast the cotton and chew through it. Bob Purcell addresses this issue in the Silk Thread FAQs on the Superior Threads website.


Libby Lehman’s The Bottom Line is the thread of choice for many appliquérs. It’s very fine and comes in lots of colors. Again with the urban legend about matching the fiber content of the thread to the fiber content of the fabric. Check out Bob’s Poly Thread FAQ.


There are many more thread companies and probably types of thread suitable for hand appliqué that I have no knowledge of. If you do, please chime in! If you use Robison-Anton, Presencia, Madera, or another kind, please let us know!

Now for the Short Answer, a quote from my book Inspired by Tradition:

I use 50-weight 2-ply cotton machine-embroidery thread. Others use 50-weight 3-ply or 60-weight thread, and still others swear by very fine silk thread. All of these are good choices for hand appliqué. Use what you can find conveniently.

That’s what it comes down to for me.

Jan Louise, I hope this has helped. Thanks for reading the blog!!

I’m off to Phoenix tomorrow. See you in a week!

By Kay Mackenzie

P.S. Since I showed you my thread library, I thought I’d show you a small portion of my fabric stash, filmed by the DH.

Pursuant to our recent discussions about wool, I thought I’d give a link over to the Bunny Hill Blog. Anne just put up a post showing the most luscious wool. Go feast your eyes!

Another fascinating thing I saw was a video at The Quilt Show by the Bernina educators. Apparently, some new Berninas have what’s called “hover mode.” Oooh, when you’re doing machine appliqué and you need to stop and pivot, if you set the machine on this mode, it’ll automatically raise the presser foot for you! What a concept! I may be the only quilter in the world who has a Bernina with a knee lever, who doesn’t use it. I could really get the wants for the hover mode.

new-crazy-hearts-detailCould’ve used it on this project, that’s for sure!

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

The Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival at the Arizona State Fairgrounds is next week. If you’re in that area, I hope to see you there!

Awhile ago, Daniquilter wrote:

I really need to see a step-by-step tutorial of you working through difficult parts of appliqué: inner curves, outer curves, points, what to do when a curve is pointy rather than curvy, etc. In other tutorials I see the beginning and then the end of a piece without the process in between. Love your blog!!

First of all, thank you so much Daniquilter for your nice words about the blog! I enjoy writing it.

It looks like you’re looking for information on hand stitching. It’s all here already! Here’s a roundup of past posts that address these very issues:

Clipping of inner and outer curves

Stitching smooth curves



Remember that you can always use the Categories and Keyword Search function to find information about topics in appliqué. If you’re subscribed by email, you’ll need to click over to the blog itself, so that you can see and use the sidebars.

My next quilt show is in Phoenix, Arizona, January 26-28. It’s the Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival at the Arizona State Fairgrounds! If you’re in that area, I hope to see you there!

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Heather came up the winner in the draw for Pennies From Heaven. Congratulations Heather! She says she is particularly attracted to the valance since she has been toying with the idea of making one. Enjoy the book!

Every year the DH Dana puts some fat quarters in my stocking. (Yes, he’s a very good quilt husband.) This year, as I mentioned, he was in Oslo on a business trip in mid-December, so what should I pull out of my stocking but these beautiful things!



The apple fabric turned out to be an Alexander Henry, which he was bitterly disappointed to learn is a California fabric company LOL! I didn’t care, I love it!

He did better on the other two. I consulted Dr. Google and found that the Tilda fabric is designed by adorable Oslo native Tone Finnanger. Isn’t it gorgeous? Tone has a whole line of things that she has designed and it’s all to drool over.

Dana didn’t remember the name of the shop where he found the fabric, describing it as “sort of a craft store.” Luckily the label on the fabric enabled me to track it down to being Panduro Hobby in downtown Oslo.

And here’s what else I got for Christmas. You remember the Cavalcade of Kittens? And how I said there was a followup? You remember the very last batch, the ones with the sneezy noses?


A few days before Christmas I started getting a queasy feeling… queasy because I was terrified by it but still it was there… of thinking that maybe Max would stay. (He’s the one in the middle with the smush-face.) I brought it up with Dana and he was delighted! He was all for it, but understood my fear of commitment. After losing Willie and before that, three aged cats one by one, I felt like a widow enjoying the dating scene but not ready for a long-term relationship.

But truly, Max had all the qualities we would want in a cat, so I kept thinking about it. On Christmas Eve we turned out the lights at about 11:30 p.m. and Max came and draped himself purring over my neck and laid his face on my cheek for a pillow, and suddenly my heart opened up and the fear washed away, and I knew that he was a keeper. It had to be about midnight on Christmas morning.

Dana named him for his favorite childhood TV character Maxwell Smart. Max is a velvety soft, squishy, floppy five-month-old who loves to be picked up, held, hugged, kissed, turned upside down, draped over the shoulder, etc., purring all the while. He’s ours now, all officially adopted through the shelter, and fits in here like peas and carrots.

This cat knows how to relax.

This cat knows how to relax.

Did I mention that he's floppy?

Did I mention that he's floppy?

Under my ironing board.

Under my ironing board.

Willie used to sleep at the base of my stash.


Max has chosen his spot, about four feet higher.

Face plant in the batiks.

Face plant in the batiks.

To quote Dr. Seuss (and Anne Sutton, who recently told us the heartwarming story of Bitsy Button Sutton), “It came without ribbons.” I didn’t want a kitty for Christmas, but it’s the very best present I got.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

P.S. BTW the other two kitties recovered well from their colds and I took them back to the shelter. Within 10 minutes of getting them set up and settled in the adoptable area, one of them was already requested for a meet-and-greet. Out the door he went with his new family. About 45 minutes later, the other one went! That’s gotta be a new world’s record, even for the Kitten Flipper (as they call me at the shelter)!

And we have a great book as our featured selection to start things off right!

Pennies From Heaven: Celebrated Quilt and Companion Projects by Gretchen Gibbons.


The title of the book and cover quilt comes from the old term “penny rug,” so called because of the circles, usually wool, that are blanket-stitched onto a base in decorative patterns. As Gretchen says, this style is “primitive, colorful, and funky all at the same time.”

Gretchen enjoys working with wool, and calls it the easiest appliqué technique, for several reasons:

• There are no edges to turn.
• There’s no right or wrong side, so you don’t have to reverse patterns.
• You don’t have to use fusible web (though you can if you want to).
• Cutting on the straight of grain or on the bias works equally well.
• The blanket stitching can be done by hand or machine.
• Hand-dyed wools come in yummy colors.

The book starts out with instructions for felting wool, which is the process that shrinks it, mats the fibers together, and eliminates raveling. Then there are complete instructions for wool appliqué, a color guide for the motifs used in the book’s projects, and information on needles, threads, and beads, and embroidery. There’s good advice on batting, mixing cottons and wools within a project, quilting considerations, and attaching a hanging sleeve.

Besides the cover quilt with its 10 beautiful blocks, there are instructions for eight more smaller projects, each one cuter than the last.

Enchanted Pennies

Enchanted Pennies

Joyful Pillow

Joyful Pillow

Pennies Window Valance

Pennies Window Valance

Circle of Life Table Mat

Circle of Life Table Mat

I just love their primitive, folksy look. If you admire it too, and would like a chance to win this book, please leave a comment here on this post before 7:00 p.m. California time on Thursday, January 5. Contest open to U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only, and remember to click over to the blog itself instead of replying to your email feed.

Thank you, That Patchwork Place, for providing the book!

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie