Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cottage Creek Quilts Wool Applique Pincushion: Part I (Hand Blanket Stitch)

Project: Cottage Creek Quilts Wool Pincushion "Three Squares Pattern"
Finished Size: About 3" x 7 1/2"

Skill Level: Everyone
  • Assorted 100% hand-dyed wool pieces for background and applique
  • Backing: a scrap of flannel, wool, or homespun of your choice
  • Lining: a scrap of muslin or other good quality tightly woven cotton
  • Stuffing: play sand or crushed walnut shells (found in the "bird aisle" at well stocked pet stores)
  • Steam A Seam II Lite (Click here to purchase at
  • "Wool Pincushions IV" pattern by Cottage Creek Quilts (Available for $8.00 from DCQ. Each pattern includes instructions for (4) different pincushions. There are (6) different patterns to pick from, for a total of (24) unique pincushions

The "Three Squares" pincushion is one of (12) that we'll be making in our new program "DCQ Wool Pincushion of the Month". Click here for complete program details.

In fact, we'll be making every pincushion shown here:

I've been having a lot of fun making the sample pincushions for the program, and have completed (7) of them, using scraps of wool from my stash. But, we ordered beautifully coordinated, hand-dyed wool from Mary Flanagan for our kits, so the colors will be even nicer than my first attempts. We're in the process of cutting kits, and the first shipment will go out in early July.

Let's get started making one of the simpler pincushions: "Three Squares", found in the "Wool Pincushions IV" pattern.

Within each pattern, you'll find full-size applique diagrams, useful for tracing all of the different shapes. Trace (3) large squares & (3) small squares onto Steam-A Seam II light fusible web. Peel the paper backing from the fusible web, and fuse it to the wool.

Cut out the applique shapes, using the most appropriate method. I cut these squares with a ruler and rotary cutter. For many of the other pincushions, the applique shapes are curved, or have cut-outs, and require sharp scissors to cut them out.

Peel the backing off the fusible web, then align the cut-outs on the background wool. Using an up and down motion with the iron, gently fuse the shapes in place.

Choose the thread of your choice for the hand-applique blanket stitch. I've used Aurifil Lana wool thread (12 weight), (2) strands of embroidery floss, or perle cotton. For this project, I used a nice variegated 12 wt Valdani perle cotton in a coordinating blue. I just use an all purpose needle.

I like to bury my thread behind the applique shapes, rather than tie knots. Working from the back, I weave the needle in and out about (3) times, near the spot where I plan to bring the thread to the front. Pull the thread nearly through, but not quite, so the tail is neatly buried in the wool.

Then, take a "backstitch", retracing the final stitch, grasp the tail tightly to keep it from pulling through, and snugly draw the thread completely through. Now, you're ready to bring it to the front side, and start blanket stitching.

Bring the thread up at a corner, or other convenient place. Then, catch both the background fabric and the applique shape in a single stitch. Arrange your thread as shown in the photo, so that a "blanket stitch" is created as you pull the thread through.

The first blanket stitch should look like this. Then, repeat the same stitch over and over. With practice, your stitches will become quicker and more uniform.

When you get to a corner, be sure to tack it down.

When your thread gets short, simply draw the needle to the back, directly behind your last stitch.

With a new strand of thread, bury your tail and take a backstitch behind where you left off. Then, bring the needle to the front, essentially in the same spot you left off.

Start blanket stitching again. And just keep going until all shapes have been neatly stitched into position.

Trim up the edges finished pincushion top, using a ruler & rotary cutter. The dimensions don't really matter... just trim the edges a neat distance from the applique.

Coming soon: I'll show you you to transform the pincushion top into a lovely pincushion, stuff it with walnut shells, and stitch it closed.