Making FMQ patches with a zig zag and a smile

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Making FMQ patches with a zig zag and a smile

FMQpatchDun Duh! The day is finally here! We’re going to take a look at FMQ patches using the spider on my recent Halloween Trick or Treat bag finish. Before I showed you the technique, I wanted to do a little research on it and just how long it had been around. I found it really difficult to find any information about it until I tried a magic google search string: “zig zag hoop thread painting tulle”. Pay dirt!

As it turns out, there are some fantastic resources for the technique that will explain it FAR better than I had intended to. Because I love you guys and want you to have the best information possible, I’m going to link you to the references at the end of this post. Worry you not, I’ve got a few little tips I’ve picked up via practice and some product recommendations, but for the technical how to, I’m referring you out!

You’ve seen this technique show up a few times on my site. There’s the Mario Minimalist piece with seven patches, the hungry caterpillar bag with one giant patch and most recently the spider for this trick or treat bag. Here’s one you haven’t seen.

This was from a weekend class with a local thread artist, Chris Eichner. She showed us the technique and we made the big trees and birdhouse with the “tulle sandwich” thread painting technique.

The Tulle Sandwich


You’ll soon be reading all about the tulle sandwich, but before you do let me offer these tips:

  • Use water soluble stabilizer on the top and bottom of the sandwich. I like Sulky Super Solvy Stabilizer.
  • Make sure your tulle and stabilizer extend well beyond your hoop. Keeping it taught and even is key to success.
  • Wrap twill tape around the inside hoop, its another way to work towards that nice even taught tulle sandwich.
  • Use a tulle color that matches the lightest thread in your patch or is a neutral color.


The Patch Design


For my patch, I put a piece of tracing paper over where I wanted him to go and just sketched him out. He’s a really simple shape and it was pretty easy to do. For more complex shapes, you could google search “spider coloring book” or “spider line art” and print the outline in the size you want to use. Remember – your design does NOT have to fit directly in the hoop! You can thread paint part of it, move the hoop and complete the painting on the other part.

Things I’ve learned along the way

I’ve found ways to be more effective and successful with my design.

  • The first stitch I do is a satin stitch (close FMQ zig zag) all the way around the edge of the design. This help prevent warping when the thread gets thick and change the shape the tulle.
  • Immediately following, I make cross hatch thread lines roughly one inch apart through the patch (see the first image on this post for an example)
  • The direction of the threads affects the way the piece looks. Since I usually make two passes to fill in the design, I think about how I want the threads to finish and fill in the shape in the OPPOSITE direction first.
  • After washing out the stabilizer and cutting the tulle as close as possible, there are occasionally bits of tulle that you can see poking out of the edges. To get rid of them, I lightly (and quickly!) touch them with a hot wood burner.

 Now, the technical details!

Here’s the best article I found on the technique: HGTV Thread Painting

Craftsy has a nice article and related class (I haven’t tried so I cant say if it is awesome or not).

A little eye candy to further inspire you to give it a try!

From Artist Kathy Carney:

Kathy Carney Heron HeadFrom Artist Cayce Zavaglia (OMG. Amazing, right?)


 So, you going to try it? For those of us that aren’t realist painters, there’s a ton of applications for this technique. Patches can go anywhere from jeans to quilts. What about custom labels? oh oh, ornaments! If you do give it a whirl, be sure to stop by and show me. You know it makes my day!

UPDATE! Based on feedback, I realize all this is a bit overwhelming if you’ve not seen it done before. It has the opposite effect that I intended! I wrote a tutorial!


  1. I love how you try everything with no fear!! The example you give at the end are breathtaking, that portrait, amazing!

  2. This is amazing! Your piece is brilliant and the face – well words fail me! This is something I’m going to have to look into 🙂 Thank you so much for the intro and for sharing your tips and resources 🙂

  3. Oh, no – I didn’t find this overwhelming. It looks so enticing! I’m bookmarking because I will definitely be giving this a try when I can fit it in to my crowded lineup. Thank you for taking the time to share your own findings along with the educational links. Sure appreciate it!

  4. I would love to see a simple, beginner post on this. May I humbly suggest the Mario mushroom as a subject? I anything easy would work. Can you please also explain tulle, stabilizer, twill etc and suggest some popular brands? Looking forward to more, thanks

  5. Hello Susan,

    The snowy landscape picture is really great – it must have been a wonderful class.

    Love, Muv

  6. wow, Susan! this is so cool! I love the ornament idea. I think I would have to start small for sure!

    Thanks for linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday!

    🙂 Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

  7. Cool! The process of making patches looks less difficult thank I originally thought. I’m impressed that the tulle and stabilizer still manage to give the piece some structure after getting poked so full of tiny holes. I am putting this on my to-try list.

  8. This is awesome I have always wanted to try this. I saw this done using a confetti method where you shred fabric into little scrap sprinkle them on a quilt pin tulle over it and then thread paint. Thanks for sharing I love what you have done!

  9. Hi, first of all, I am so glad I found you and your blog! (and I can’t remember how I got there in the first place… You are full of such good ideas and you’re funny and quirky. Two qualities that I think describe me. At least I hope they do. Now, I am curious about the spider. We’re just talking regular sewing machine/sewing, right? I would love to have an embroidery machine, but don’t have one yet, and so I’m hoping the answer is, “why yes, Linda, it’s just regular sewing on a regular sewing machine!” 😎 I can’t wait for your next project.

    xo Linda

  10. Wow those examples are amazing! I’ve been thinking/planning a thread painting portrait of the friend of mine that died last year. I’m not there yet though. Thanks for all the resources!


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