A long time ago I was an ordinary quilter. Like many other quilters, I pieced projects, put them together and then either quilted them on my own or had them quilted. Then you decided if you were going to keep it, give it or enter it in a show. When that was done, it was back to the internet, books, patterns, magazines - whatever I could find to come up with the next quilt. We all LOVE quilting. We love the elusive search for the 'perfect' pattern, the agony of fabric selection, the cutting, piecing and how we would have it quilted. We all used the same thread day after day without a thought; we all cut the same way, and searched for the same fabric in different patterns and shades (being very careful never to mix different fabrics). But. . . there was something missing. I couldn't say what it was. . . just something was flat.
I was teaching the same beginner class the same way, year after year. Using the same fabric and the same thread. Soon, I noticed the students changing and with that came more and different questions than I ever had before. It wasn't easy to answer why we always used 'such and such' thread and never, never, never used the 'other' thread found in fabric and quilt stores. They all had them, so why were they there? Who used them and why? Why so many? I guess I just figured garment sewers used all those threads, though they were very pretty.
Since my education was a history major, I knew how to research, so I did what came natural to me, I researched. I read everything I could find about threads (and let me tell you, a LOT of it was BORING!), but I read and read and talked to manufacturers at quilt shows, Quilt Market, and as many excellent quilters as would listen to me. The result after 4 or 5 years of doing this and all the new information I acquired, I noticed everything was still status quo in quilting. While I found I knew a lot about threads and why we used the thread we used, no one cared much about thread. I tried to add a little thread knowledge to my quilt classes (too many other things to learn), but everyone just wanted to know what thread to quilt with and they stayed with it. Over and over and over again. No matter what they sewed, what class they took, there was the same spool of quilting thread they used for their beginning class.
When I started talking about the importance of thread as it relates to how a sewing machine performs, a few started listening to me and asking questions. Soon I was lecturing to quilt guilds on the importance of how to use thread and how improper use of thread was making their machines misbehave and their projects were up to the level they expected. That is when sewers started paying attention about the lowly thread they stuffed on their machine and just by the mere action of putting a new or different thread through their needle, expected perfection. I learned more about sewing machines and how they worked (Even took one apart all the way down to the skeleton and put it back together. Note: Never let me take your machine apart no matter what I say!).
Then I met a dear, dear friend, Bob Purcell, who with his wife, Heather, are the owners of Superior Threads. He was the only person I had ever met who enjoyed talking about threads as much as I did. I found that he too, knew as much about threads as I (well, yes, probably a lot more) and he LOVED talking about them and sharing what he knew about them. Wow! Nirvana! He invited me to attend his first "Threadology" class at Superior Threads headquarters in St. George, Utah, and I accepted the challenge. What could he possibly tell me about thread I didn't already know? I went to classes expecting to be bored to death. He took all my thread knowledge and elevated it. I still speak about those classes to many of my students.
So, you ask, what does a quilter, teacher, educator, lecturer do with all this information about thread? I tried to convince a small group of friends to let me start teaching them about thread once a month for a couple of months. I promised the class would be FUN, they would get some thread and I would give them a couple of my patterns free. Right! How do you teach seasoned quilters about thread every month and make it fun? Just the thought scared me to death. I told them I could do it if they would just give it a try. That was more than two years ago and we are in our third year of 'thread class' once a month. Same original group and I have allowed a few more in as long as the class size stays small (running from machine to machine for 4-5 hours is hard enough without making it a marathon of 20 or more machines).
Each month I teach a 'skill' using one or more Superior Threads concluding with a project I wrote. The goal is to teach a skill about an element of the sewing machine and how to make any machine sew any thread. The class also teaches sewers how to 'fix' common problems we all have. I teach that 95% of all machine problems can be fixed by the sewer if they only knew how. That's it! That's how Thrilling Threads came to be. I needed something to do with all this thread stuff rattling around in my head, I needed to start getting my very clever patterns used, and I wanted to tell everyone that you can make your machine behave with any thread (if only I had know this years ago).
The fun hasn't stopped. The group of ladies in Thrilling Threads are each exceptional. Each sewer has a different reason for coming and a different skill set. We laugh, we ask stupid questions, we share projects and mistakes (mostly I am the one showing the mistakes). We help each other and we all leave each class having learned something every time, including me. I have my lesson plans made, the kits cut out, thread on hand, and I never know where this group will take me!
What is the object of all this? Thrilling Threads class opens doors to quilting never before imagined. Besides learning how to make a machine sew thread properly, we discover threads are not just for keeping in a drawer - but a stairway for our imagination.
Whew! Now I am really tired! I will try to keep you all posted on what we do and how this wild group is one of a kind. Stayed tuned and you can see how this crazy, wild, opinionated, artistic, wonderful group does! Ta Ta For Now - Shawnee