Studio, Thrift Shop Adventures

The Backstitch and the End of Tangled Floss

Inviting the Backstitch into my Repertoire

Continuing my theme of cleaning out the old UFOs (unfinished projects) from yesterday’s post, this weekend I also worked on an appliqué project that I began in a wonderful class a over year ago (Adventures in Appliqué). 

I made progress on this piece while attending the annual retreat with my Quilting Sisters in May 2017 (Quilt Retreat Inspiration and Projects):


To finish this wallhanging size quilt top, I needed to embroider the words that go with the image using a “backstitch”:

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” – Lao Tzu

Hopefully it is obvious (fingers crossed) that my wallhanging contains an acorn which eventually becomes a large oak tree in time.

The concept of the wallhanging is based on the African Themed Bible Verses appliqué quilt that students had the option of making in the class.

Bible Verses Quilt by Ugandan Women, Sisters of the Heart Foundation, Sisters Coffee House during the 2016 Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

I being the rebel, decided to use the words of an ancient Chinese philosopher as inspiration for my piece (also a rebel, I decided to make a smaller wallhanging with one block instead of a quilt with multiple blocks).

Although I have allegedly been quilting for 17+ years, sometimes I feel like a brand new quilter when I discover something else I do not know how to do: in order to stitch on the words, I needed to learn how to do the backstitch.

The wonderful instructor, Janet Storten (who is the Director of Sisters of the Heart Foundation) kindly offered to give me a refresher on the backstitch as she did cover it in her class (and I swear I did pay attention in class). I was tempted but I thought I would take a chance and try to learn the backstitch from YouTube.

YouTube is filled with awesome instructional crafting videos (and I have lost hours of time watching one right after the other). I discovered one by the talented crafter Lauren Fairweather:

As Janet had instructed in her appliqué class, I first lightly drew words in pencil on my fabric (see I did remember something). Following the video above, I slowly did my first backstitch letters!

This is another hand sewing meditative experience (slowing down and focusing appears good for the soul!)

In time I know I will get better, but here are photos of my progress so far (I had to put my work in a hoop to stabilize it until I get more experienced):


So Tierney, you stitch on TWO letters and then post photos? Why yes, I am very proud of those two letters – ha! Of course when the whole top is finished I will post an updated photo.

A Tale of Tangled Threads

Actually a tale of tangled embroidery floss, but the words “embroidery floss” did not not provide the alliteration that “threads” did in the header to this section!

Last May when I took Janet’s class on Appliqué I discovered embroidery floss cards (Tierney – have you been quilting under a rock all these years, why do you not know about basic crafting items?!?!) Janet was kind enough to share some of her huge collection of embroidery floss cards with her students. She gave me this one that coordinated with my piece:


I did not know such magical cards existed! I thought that she had discovered a mysterious and secret fountain of embroidery floss!

You see I have always purchased embroidery floss this way:

Photo credit: Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts

And turned these nice little packages of embroidery floss into TANGLED MESSES.

Prior to learning to stitch with them, I used embroidery floss in various colors as the “string” to hold the chopstick on the miniature kimonos I make so they can become a wallhanging.

Miniature Kimono by tierneycreates with red embroidery floss

Other crafters will likely cringe at this but I would just cut in the middle of a new package of embroidery floss in order to access a length of it for hanging the kimono. Then I would put the rest of the floss away in a small bag and it would turn into a tangled mess.

I would untangle the mess to try and cut more floss out for another kimono as needed.

Are you cringing, I mean really cringing? Do you want my “Crafter Card” revoked at this point?

Not able to find embroidery floss on these mysterious spool like cards, I just kept doing what I was doing until I discovered a large package of embroidery cards with floss and some EMPTY CARDS for $1.50 a couple of weeks ago at a thrift shop.


So…you buy the cards and then you wind your embroidery floss onto the cards!

This weekend I sorted my thrift shop find into an old small plastic container with dividers and wound all my floss packages onto their own spool cards!

I went from this (note the tangled floss in small packages):


To this:


When I ran out of the cards I got from the thrift store bag, I used one of them as a template and created my own with some recycled cardboard.

Just think how much more basic quilting/crafting stuff I will learn in my next 17 years of quilting!

18 thoughts on “The Backstitch and the End of Tangled Floss”

  1. Tierny I am so proud of my “honor” student. As a teacher we always hope a student learns something in class. You get an A plus. I have extra thread cards and would be happy to share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so awesome Janet and so kind! Not sure if I qualify as an honor student when it is over a year for me to finish “one” block 🙂
      Thanks so much for the offer of the floss cards – they are like gold (are they possibly a currency?!?!? lol) I will stop by your area at the SOQS this year to say hi (it is just in a couple weeks!)


  2. Rats — now I’m totally regretting the thrift shop donation I made a couple of years ago of a giant organizer with cards and flosses (although I hadn’t used it in 15 years). Love where this project is going!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you made some crafter VERY HAPPY! We cannot do all crafts all the time so if you had not done it in 15 years you were right to send it to a good home. Look how happy someone’s donation made me 🙂 (and I learned where Floss Cards come from…and it’s not the Floss Card Fairy, lol)


  3. Years ago, when there were actual (in fact, multiple) needle craft shops to be found I found a soft vinyl binder with stiff cardboard pages with holes that you could wind embroidery floss around, complete with tag with color number. It took me almost 2 days to organize the floss, which included time spent admiring my stash. Back then I was doing embroidery, crewel, and needlepoint–what a good way to amass a great stash. A few years later I took what was called a triple threat class–first week make a small crazy quilt piece, 2nd week embroider/embellish it, 3rd week ribbon embroidery, another collection to add to my stash. If I finished a project every day for the rest of my life, I would still die with an impressive stash

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy thanks so much for your awesome comments and I got quite the smile out of your statement: “It took me almost 2 days to organize the floss, which included time spent admiring my stash.” That triple threat class series sounds intense but I like the idea! Well get crafting since you have to finish TWO projects every day the rest of your life 🙂


  4. Back stitch is one of my favorites. Looks like you are a quick learner. Way to go! Oh and, GASP! You did what????? I would have never thought of cutting floss that way. Oh well. You can keep your card. :o)

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