Answers from 2014

Mom's Answers 2014

Repurposed Wool-Dry Clean or Washing Machine?
Dear Mom,

I purchased some old wool blazers to cut up for wool projects. Do they have to be dry cleaned or can I clean them in the washer?
Thanks, Deb

Dear Deb,
Several years ago, I used to accompany my daughter Jeni to secondhand stores in the area and watch her pick out 100% wool items, take them home, and wash them in the washing machine. However, if she planned to dye the wool, she didn’t wash it first since the dyeing process takes care of the cleaning and felting. I would imagine dry cleaning would negate any savings on old wool blazers. Good thing machine-washing and drying is all you need to do!

Good luck with your wool projects!


New to Wool
Dear Mom,

I’m a long-time quilter and hand embroiderer with many wool projects to work on, but I don’t know how to begin when it comes to the latter. I’m a bit intimidated by wool even though I’ve heard it’s great to work with and that you can even mix it with cotton in projects. How do I get started working on the 1,000 wool projects awaiting me? Do I need to pre-treat the wool before I work with it?
Thank you, Chris

Dear Chris,
I had to chuckle when I read how many wool projects await you. I, too, have many projects waiting to get done! I hope the wool you have is in kits. If so, pick the smallest one, even if it’s  not your favorite. Before you start working with the wool, read the entire instructions so you’ll be familiar with the project, then do the first step. Do a little at a time. Each time you complete a step, you’ll feel a little bolder. It won’t take long before you’ll be an expert at working with wool.

Mixing wool and cotton is a snap. Just imagine a small wall hanging with wool stems and leaves or a flowering vine in the border. Voila! You have mixed wool with cotton. My daughter, Jeni, works with wool all the time and loves to mix it with cotton prints. For example, she incorporates wool appliqué vines, leaves, and flowers into a border. It is very easy to appliqué wool on cotton because you don’t have to turn under the edges of the appliqué pieces; you can just whipstitch the wool pieces to the cotton background.

As for pre-treating the wool, if you purchased a kit, you most likely don’t need to since the wool has probably already been washed. If you simply purchased some wool, you may need to wash it first to felt it so the edges won’t fray. Jeni washes it with a gentle soap and dries it in the dryer with a softener sheet.

Happy quilting,

Aged Muslin

Hi Mom,
I love the look of aged muslin that was used in the Latte Gone Wrong quilt in your Summer 2013 issue. What is the best way to get that look? Do you dye the fabric yourself or purchase it that way?
Thank you, Leslie

Dear Leslie,
The fabric you asked about is from the Aged Muslin collection by Marcus Fabrics. You can also get a similar look by dyeing muslin yourself with a strong instant coffee and water mixture.

Happy quilting,

Lightweight Batting
Dear Mom,
I want to hand-quilt a flannel lap quilt with appliqué that I am making. Do you have any suggestions for a lightweight batting I can use? I tried Hobbs 80/20, but it is too heavy for my 14-inch hoop that I use for my hand-quilting.

Thanks, Shirley

Dear Shirley,
I am also a hand quilter and have used many different bats. While researching an answer to your question, I remembered getting a number of 18"-square sample bats from the Hobbs booth at a quilt show. I sifted through my crates of them and found one I thought would be great for your purpose. Here is a description of it from its packaging:

“Thermore® Ultra Thin Polyester. Thermore®  was designed for clothing and miniatures but is very versatile and should be used where thin batting is needed or preferred. Our Thermore® is made with 100% polyester and is surfaced-treated with our unique process, creating a polyester batting that is guaranteed not to beard or migrate. May be quilted up to 8" apart and will not shrink.”

This bat is so thin it’s hard to believe unless you hold it in your hands. Check with your quilt shop and see if they can get it for you. If that doesn’t work, you can also mail-order it from websites.

Happy quilting,

Crazy Quilt
Dear Mom,
I pieced a crazy quilt top and want to add embroidery and embellishments to it. How do I apply the embroidery? Do I need to add a muslin lining before I begin embroidering?
Thank you, Patty

Dear Patty,
I am impressed that you have the top all put together! Crazy quilts are a beautiful adornment for the home. Early on, they were used for decoration rather than for purely practical reasons like lending comfort on a cold night. They were often showcased over a grand piano or a chair. Early quilters embellished their tops with items such as lace, buttons, beads, and fancy threads before adding the backing. One of the most familiar embellishments of crazy quilts is the fancy stitching on and around the seams.

You can find lots of books on crazy-quilt embellishments such as those fancy stitches and how to make them. Many websites also abound with ideas for beautiful embroidery and beading work.

Early crazy quilts were very lightweight with a backing but no batting. Instead of being quilted, they were tied with heavier thread such as perle cotton or fancy decorative threads. The tying was done from the top, needle-down, through the backing, then up again about 1/8" through the top, down again in the same place as before, up again, tied in a knot, then cut off to leave about ½"–1" showing. At a quilt show, I saw a crazy quilt where the knots were spaced all over so that you could place your palm between four knots. If you want to incorporate a batting into your quilt, try a thin one like Hobbs Thermore, which can be purchased from quilt shops.

Some crazy quilts were hand-quilted while others were machine-quilted. Both can produce magnificent results. As my sister, Martha, used to say, “It’s your quilt, so you should do it however you want to!” I did just that by machine-quilting a king-size appliquéd quilt many years ago. It made the borders sturdier and the quilt wear better.

Happy quilting,

Stitch for Wool Appliqué
Dear Mom,

What stitch should I used to appliqué wool? When appliquéing wool, I have tried regular thread, embroidery floss, and perle cotton. My problem is that the wool frays and the edges look straggly. I don’t like to use glue or fusible.
Thank you, Erin

Dear Erin,
I asked our resident wool expert, my daughter Jeni, your question and here are her suggestions:

If you are having trouble with your wool fraying, it may not be felted enough or it might be a  blend of materials, not 100% wool. There are many types of wool that are textured, and while they may be 100% wool, they may still fray a bit. To prevent that, you can apply some Fray Check to the edges of the wool or use a fusible web product. I know you mentioned you don’t care for fusible products but some will not leave that papery feeling under your wool. I don’t mind a little fraying. When appliquéing wool, I use a thin needle and wool thread. This kind of thread sits right on top of the wool instead of cutting through it like a thin cotton or polyester thread. I prefer a whipstitch rather than a blanket stitch because it has a less finished look, which lends itself well to primitive- style projects, and doesn’t disturb the edge of the wool as much as a blanket stitch. If the fraying bothers you, consider a hand-dyed solid wool, which will lay nice and won’t fray. Let us know if any of these tips help you.

Happy stitching!