Thread Painting: A beginner’s tutorial page 2

Thread Painting: A beginner’s tutorial page 2

Yesterday, we took a look at the supply list for FMQ custom patches. Now, the fun part! Let USE them.

The first step is cutting the Super Solvy and tulle. I like to use a piece that is roughly the size of half of the hoop on all sides of the image I’m going to embroider. It really matters if you’re using an image larger than the hoop.  There’s nothing worse than getting half way through and realizing you don’t have a big enough tulle sandwich to get the right tension in the hoop.  I’ve John Madden’d the following picture. The red line shows the edge of the sulky. The green circles are the diameter of the hoop.



Once I’m happy with the Super Solvy size, I trace the image right on to the top of the Super Solvy with a Sharpie (remember from yesterday, the top of the Solvy has a slightly different texture than the bottom.) I cut two layers of tulle and another piece of Solvy in the same size as my starter piece. I then stack them from the bottom as follows, Solvy (top down), 2 layers of tulle, Solvy (top up).

To hoop it, I put the outside ring on the table at the bottom of the sandwich and push the inside ring into it. I don’t even attempt to do this by holding the hoop away from the table. It gets wonky and doesn’t have the right tension if I do it that way. tullehooped

To get a nice full tension, I work around the ring with both hands. I push down the hoop with my thumbs and pull up on the tulle sandwich with my fingers. Then I tighten the hoop and repeat. l know when I’ve got it when I can thump it and it actually sounds like a drum.

Pro Tip: My hoop doesn’t have a screwdriver option on the screw. Rather than trust my thumb, I’ll use pliers for that last tightening. You can over-do it, but it takes a lot!

Woo hoooooo, now we get to SEW!

Here’s how I set up my machine:


  • Drop the feed dogs
  • Put on my Free motion foot (here I’m using the only one I have that can handle the wide zig zag. The two red guidelines on the front of the plastic part of the foot help a lot. The plastic in the middle of the red lines can get in the way. I’ve seen people cut it out and I need to do the same!
  • Load the bobbin with my neutral thread
  • Set the stitch to zig zag. I usually start with a width of 2.4(ish) and stitch length to zero.
  • Squeeze the hoop under the lifted foot (on my Janome, it was a tight squeeze, but made it if I turned the hoop slightly on its side and kind of scooped it in there.
  • I pull the bobbin thread up  through the tulle sandwich at some point outside of the design.

PROTIP: If you cut your thread from the top rather than using the machine cutter, you will not need to pull the bobbin thread up on color changes.

I make a few small test stitches outside of the design to make sure I don’t have any tension issues and get my mind right for moving forward.

Prepare ship for ludicrous speed!

outlineOne thing I’ve learned from experience is that the patches will warp if you start in a corner and work your way to the other corner. It’s super obvious on round shapes and a bit on the frustrating side. To stop that problem, the first thing I do is outline the patch with a small width zig zag stitch. You’ll notice as I worked my around the red parts of the mushroom, I wasn’t very neat about it. When the line ended on the base of the mushroom, I lifted the foot and moved to the beginning of the next red line. With some patches, I wouldn’t even cut out the thread that strings across. In this case, I think it might shine though the lighter color so I went ahead and nipped it. I don’t want warping on the inside either, so I went ahead and did the outlines for the white  and tan as well.

Now, it’s just like being a kid with a coloring book. This is my absolute favorite part! It’s really fun to fill this things in! With big spaces, the first step I take is making a grid of thread. Honestly, I don’t know if it helps or not but when I was taught this technique the teacher said it would help the integrity of the patch. It’s easy enough to do – so why not? I’ve bumped the width of my zig zag stitch to 3.0 and loosely blocked in a small grid.

FMQpatchThe direction of the thread will make a difference in how it shines (As it turns out, there’s a lot to say about this! I’m going to write a bonus post on thread directions next week because that’s what really makes this technique cool!) I decide which way I want my threads to finish before I start filling it in. On the base of the mushroom, I’m going for finished horizontal lines, so my first pass is vertical! You’ll see this step leaves you with something that looks patchy, there’s lots of uncovered space and small open areas. It’s totally ok!

FMQPatch2Now I come back through in the opposite direction. This is the “finish” layer. I try to be a little neater, pay attention to where the stitches are landing and finish the edges with one last layer of thread. I find that faster is better! My hands almost always get away from my feet when making small movements in multiple directions (more on that early next week). The faster the machine goes, the better I keep up with it. You’ve heard this a million times and I hate to be saying it – It takes practice. My very first project was the tree in this blog post. Take a look at it, there isn’t a lot of room for failure here. Just putting thread in, layering in colors, and experimenting with how it comes together. My best advice here is to Just Do.

FMQPatchNow it is more of the same. I filled in the white spaces with a finished horizontal thread direction then completed the red in a finished vertical direction. I was going to stop here – but it just isn’t a Mario mushroom without the eyes. I went back in and dropped in a simple black zig zag satin stitch.

Here’s a few more tips –

  • The stabilizer and tulle will start to wrinkle on the outside of the patch. Totally OK – you don’t need to adjust the tension of the hooped fabric. This is why we started with the outline.
  • You can cut the thread from the top with no backstitching or lock stitch. It will get tucked in with the other stitches coming through. If it makes you warm and fuzzy, it doesn’t hurt! Back stitch right over the last stitch if you mentally need to.


Read the Full Series!

Thread Painting: A Beginner’s Tutorial, Supplies

Thread Painting: A Beginner’s Tutorial page 2 (you are here)

Thread Painting: A Beginner’s Tutorial, finishing

Here’s some projects that feature thread painting patches:

Morbo Label

Thread Painting Class and inspirations





  1. This is looking great – I’m fast forwarding to the next post!

    • I’m glad it is making sense! I do hope you’ll give it a whirl. 🙂

  2. Love this Susan! I think I might have to try doing this to a towel or two for some gifts this year! Great tutorial 🙂

    • Putting the patch on the towel was kind of a last minute decision. I was going to put it on a camera pack, but decided against it because I didn’t want to damage the padding. So glad I changed my mind, this came out much better than it would have on the camera pack. 🙂

  3. I’m adding this to my to-do list. Maybe next time the boy gets a hole in the knee of his pants I will think of this and make something fun to patch it with instead of the leg tearing off…

    • ooohhh.. that’s a cool idea! I have no idea how they will behave under that type of pressure (wear and washing). I’ve only used them on bags, wall hangings, and a few towels. Let me know how it goes!

  4. Awesome!! I will have to give this a try one day. I know I will make a total mess the first time, but who cares, right?! LOL!!


    • Yes! You will! It is totally OK. The extra great thing about this is the projects are small and the supplies are affordable. You can try it, totally muck it up and learn something and it costs very little. It’s a much smaller learning curve than other things I’ve tried, and, it’s fun! 🙂

  5. You had me at “Prepare for Ludicrous Speed.” 🙂 These are great tutorials – I took a thread-painting class last spring and loved it.

    • hahaha! I’m so funny! My first choice was the dialog… What are you preparing, you’re always preparing, just go! Just go. Yes, sir. I didnt think that one was quite as obvious though. One of my favorite films – ever.

      Thanks for stopping by – these things seem to take a lifetime to write and it is nice to know they make sense. Sometimes I wonder – I get lost in my own words! 🙂

  6. Got it!!

    • Why don’t you ride over here and I’ll show you how to do it?

      ~Signed Roy D. Mercer.



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