The Subtle Sampler

We adore Karen of Redbird Quilt Co. She is kind, caring, and often hilarious. ❤ She is incredibly talented in her home machine quilting skills, something that she shares far and wide across this great country of ours. She has long been a friend to Aurifil and we keep a close eye on her social media accounts, always anxious to see the next piece of art that furthers her glorious quilty journey.

We jumped at the chance to collaborate on a collection with her, to accompany her lectures and classes, to showcase her super quilting style… The Subtle Sampler is just that — a sampler of Aurifil thread weights in fabulously subtle colors (with a few pops here and there). This box could just be the go-to for new Aurifil users looking to try everything out, or even for loyal Aurifil users eager to branch out from their normal 50wt go-tos. With 50wt, 40wt, 28wt, 12wt AND our two shades of monofilament, this box has everything a quilter could possibly need!

Karen has been kind enough to share some of her inspirations with us, including a few fabulous showcase pieces to illustrate how to use multiple thread weights within one piece.

THREAD COLLECTION DETAILS
The Subtle Sampler
12 Large Spools
Threads included:
Clear Monofilament, Smoke Monofilament (1094yds/spool)
12wt: 6722, 6723 (356yds/spool)
28wt: 2430, 2130, 2880 (820yds/spool)
40wt: 2530, 5017, 5006 (1094yds/spool)
50wt: 2312, 2000 (1422yds/spool)

To view this info on our website, click here. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.

THE INTERVIEW
What first drew you to the world of sewing and quilting?
As a teenager I worked in a garment factory in my hometown of Sayre, PA. My mom (the best mom ever!!) raised 5 of us on a single income. I worked to help purchase school clothes and other necessities. Needless to say, once I walked away from sweat-shop sewing I didn’t sew seriously again until my mid 40’s — about 10 years ago. It was then that my sister Janet asked me to join her in a $1 Block of the Month using Thangles™. I learned to piece, put together a table topper, made a few pieced quilts for our cottage, and quickly moved on to learn needle turn and wool applique. Over time I found myself hurrying through the creation of the quilt top so I could Free Motion Quilt it on my home machine. I was addicted! That is the beginning of my story. ☺

When did you first discover Aurifil threads and what do you love most about them?
This one is simple – and I’m so grateful for it. An amazingly talented mentor, Wendy Sheppard of Ivory Spring introduced me to Aurifil thread. Like many quilters trying to save a few dollars, I was taking my 40% off coupon to the local craft store and buying inexpensive thread. My machine wasn’t too unhappy (and I didn’t know any better) so it worked for me for a few years. Once Wendy started using and blogging about Aurifil, I immediately gave it a try. Working with Aurifil completely changed my opinion of thread. The colors, weights, strength, natural (cotton) fibers, and minimal lint sold me on Aurifil. Today I use Aurifil for ALL of my projects — needle turn applique, wool & machine applique, machine quilting, hand embroidery accents, thread accents and so on and so on…  Oh my goodness, I can’t get enough of it!

What inspires you to try new techniques? 
Ohhh… I’m inspired by the craziest things… I take my camera (aka my phone) with me everywhere. I shoot pictures of nature, of birds, doors, floors, ceilings, decorations – everything! If that doesn’t inspire me, falling in love with a fabric line does! Sometimes I’ll combine an inspiring image with an upcoming fabric line. I’ll scratch down a few ideas on paper and begin to play.  Some people design via software – and I’ve had my share of that – but for me, the creative process blossoms when I can sit and PLAY with tangible objects — fabric, tools, thread. Once I start down the path, the ideas begin to flow and take over my brain. Then I play – I play by creating samples and smaller renditions of larger quilts to come. The smaller renditions of my creations make really great table toppers or workshop samples. 😉

Tell us about The Subtle Sampler and how you put it all together.
The Subtle Sampler collection is a dream come true! You see, I’ve been creating with and bragging about Aurifil thread for years – telling everyone I know to TRY IT! At my workshops, I share my open spools of Aurifil and encourage those new to Aurifil to try it on their machines. It never disappoints. In my “Aligning your Free Motion Quilting Stars” lecture, I share the advantages of using various weights of thread during the quilting process. However, as I looked at the collections available at the time, there really wasn’t an Aurifil Collection that contained all of my favorite weights. The opportunity to curate this collection was an honor. With the threads in The Subtle Sampler, I can piece, hand applique, bind, and stitch dense machine quilting with the 50wt.  Using 40wt or 28wt allows the thread to take center stage for free motion quilting, doodle quilting, thread painting, and for machine applique accents. I can top stitch, big stitch quilt and hand stitch wool applique with Aurifil 12wt. And finally, no quilting sampler is complete without monofilament. It provides a perfect way to quilt that “hard to match” print AND works wonderfully for ditch stitching, couching, and invisible machine applique. Each weight has a purpose (actually many purposes – that’s how I justify buying them! 😉 ) Putting them all together in The Subtle Sampler is exciting – it makes me smile.

Do you really use all those thread weights?  In one quilt!?
It’s funny, as I perused my quilt trunk for an upcoming event, I counted the quilts where I used MORE THAN ONE thread weight for the quilting or embellishments. I was astonished at how many I had – too many to share them all here!

That said, I’ve compiled a few of my favorites to highlight today:

Hearts Content Pillow
Design by Karen Miller. Introduced as a pattern & free tutorial on the Moda Bake Shop (2014).  At first glance, you may not notice that I used Aurifil 50wt, 28wt and 12wt threads on this sweet little project.

Let’s look closer.  Notice the beautiful Aurifil 12wt top stitching? It’s a quick and simple way to add a classy little touch on your quilt top. Use a walking or even-feed foot, a 90/14 or 100/16 needle, 40wt or 50wt in the bobbin and reduce your top tension considerably. I also increase my stitch length to enable the thread to take center stage…

On this image, you may notice that around Edyta Sitar’s beautiful fabric, I free motion quilted an accent with Aurifil 28wt.  I love the way it looks – it highlights the fabric perfectly. I used a 90/14 needle and 50wt in the bobbin.

Finally, the remainder of the piece was echo quilted with Aurifil 50wt. I reserve 50wt thread for really dense machine quilting. You’ll never notice the backtracking and the thread blends right into the fabric. I love it. Learn more on my blog by clicking here.

Feather Sampler
Design by Karen Miller.  Inspired by a design that one of my favorite longarm quilters shared years ago. I call the center Feather Galaxy – it was quilted with Aurifil 50wt thread (top and bobbin).  But, around the piecing of the sampler, I used Aurifil 12wt again for some awesome top-stitching. I just LOVE how it looks.

Simply Spring Fleur Quilt
Design by Karen Miller. Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt, 40wt, & 12wt Threads. Fabric is Millie Fleur by BariJ for Art Gallery Fabrics. Click here for more.

Family Estate Quilt
Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt & 40wt Thread + Clear Monofilament in the border. Pattern by Edyta Sitar (Friendship Strips and Scraps, Landauer Publishing, LLC, December 1, 2010.) Click here for more info.

Panels, Panels, Panels!
Are you anxious to learn to Free Motion Quilt but  nervous about ruining a quilt top you spent months (or years) creating? Consider picking up a panel at your local quilt shop and using it for practice. When you’re done stitching you can donate it to a local hospital, charity, or Project Linus organization. Or, maybe there’s a little one in your family who would love to cuddle with a small quilt. Quilting on panels allows you the freedom to learn and grow without the financial or emotional worry of ruining your creation.

Zoe Panel
World of Susybee, Zoe the Giraffe Play Mat. Made using a 1-yard cut, with 2 layers of Quilter’s Dream Wool batting and Susybee’s own cuddly flannel backing. Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt, 40wt, & 28wt threads.  For more info, click here.

Lal the Lamb
Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 40wt & 50wt threads. Panel by World of Susybee. For more info, click here and here.

Flutter the Butterfly
Panel by World of Susybee. Made using a 1-yard cut, with 2 layers of Quilter’s Dream Wool batting. Uses Aurifil 100% Cotton 50wt, 40wt, 28wt, & 12wt Threads. Click here and here for more info.

A Quilter’s Doodle Quilt
Design by Karen Miller, featuring Aurifil 100% Cotton 28wt and 12wt threads and Grunge Fabrics by Basic Grey for Moda. Learn more about A Quilter’s Doodles on the Aurifil Facebook Live video recorded in May of this year by clicking here.

 

Where else can we find you this year?
Sometimes I have to stop and pinch myself! I’m so grateful to make a living doing what I love. I travel, lecture, and teach quilty workshops at shops, guilds, and private groups nationally.  One day soon I hope to do the same internationally.  I’m very blessed.

Later this month, you can find me at International Quilt Market, helping out in the World of Susybee booth (#537), and presenting two demos at Aurifil’s booth (#900) — Saturday at 2:30pm & Sunday at 11:30am. If you can’t make Market, the demos will be broadcast live on Facebook or recorded and shared on Aurifil’s YouTube account following Market.

In addition to a wide variety of Guild Programs booked for 2018,  I’m teaching at two really great national events in February.

Join me for 3 days of progressive domestic machine quilting at the ever-so-popular Birds of A Feather event in Herndon, VA. The great folks at The Longarm Network host the event and bring in amazingly talented longarm & domestic machine quilters, fiber artists, creators, and designers. This year I’m honored to share the docket with folks like Jamie Wallen, Bethanne Nemesh, and Teresa Silva (just to name a few!) It’s going to be an awesome event. Learn more by clicking here.

A bit later in February, I’ll be teaching 5 full days of domestic machine quilting Workshops at the Ohio Lake MetroParks FarmPark Quilt Show.  This show features breathtaking works from internationally acclaimed featured artists known for their works, writings, and workshops. I would love to meet you there! The course catalog will be available soon, so stay tuned to http://www.lakemetroparks.com for the announcement.

Lastly, maybe you’d rather we meet in Florida?  I’ll be certain to capture your interest in Free Motion Quilting at Flash Sew and Quilt in Naples.  I’ll be there for 2 days, March 9th and 10th.  I can’t wait!!

GIVEAWAY

To enter-to-win Karen’s The Subtle Sampler thread collection, click here to head to the Rafflecopter entry page, or simply click on the image above. You do not have to complete all the options to be entered but the more options you choose, the more entries you have!  Entries will be accepted from now through 11:59pm Eastern Time on Saturday, November 4! Winner will be randomly selected and announced here on Monday, November 6. Good luck!

FREE PDF & ADDITIONAL GIVEAWAY!
Karen has created a super handy printable pdf overview of the threads in The Subtle Sampler. Click here or on the image below for more information. And finally… Karen has a fabulous giveaway running over on her blog as well — so many fun chances to win! Click here to check out Karen’s post and enter to win.


ABOUT KAREN
Website — FacebookInstagramTwitterYouTubeModa Bake Shop

Karen L. Miller is the owner of Redbird Quilt Co., launched to share her love of wool and cotton applique and to demonstrate how free motion quilting (on a home machine) can bring fabric to life!  At Redbird Quilt Co., the Northern Cardinal takes center stage in many of the designs.  The entire Miller family enjoys feeding, observing, and photographing the many Songbirds that grace the North East USA landscape and therefore Songbirds are often found in Karen’s designs.

Karen lives in the Finger Lakes Region of New York where there is a fantastic array of forests, lakes, farmland, and families.  She and her husband share their home with one crazy Yellow Nape Amazon “Cayman”.  Their children are grown and they are blessed with 8 special little grandchildren of which the 3 girls LOVE to sew with “Gramma Karen”.

** Images, biographical text and interview text by Karen Miller.

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148 thoughts on “The Subtle Sampler

  1. I love that fmq can enhance and totally change a quilt top. Last week I was lucky enough to attend lectures by David Taylor and Kimberly Einimo at my guild. Their quilts were brought to another level with fmq.

  2. what a great interview. I am still practicing free motion quilting. but what intrigues me the most is the many designs that are possible, making the project so much more lovely and come alive

  3. I just love bringing a project to life with my quilting. I’m always trying new designs & trying to get better at it. I do mostly scrappy quilts or panels. I like detailing the panels & then I can get to the free motion quilting faster! 🙂

  4. For me it is hard, but keep trying. FMQ is giving a beautiful finish look for the quilts, so many variations that you can try.

  5. I belong to one of Karen’s Facebook quilts, and it is through her that I discovered Aurifil. She is such a wealth of information, and Karen shares her talents graciously!

  6. Panels never appealed to me until I saw what Karen did to transform them into beautiful quilts. Wow, she does amazing quilting to make them come to life. I will now look at panels in a much different way.

  7. I recently found Karen on Youtube and fell in love with her easygoing style of videos – not to mention her extraordinary quilting! I learned through this interview that Karen was mentored by Wendy Sheppard. I’ve been following Wendy’s blog for a few years now. Two lovely ladies in the quilty world. I’d love to meet her — maybe when I get back to New York in May! 🙂

  8. I use Aurofil 50W most of the time. Our local quilt shop recently started carrying the 80W and recommend it for piecing. I picked some up, but haven’t tried it yet.

  9. Free motion quilting is of interest because it allows so many different textures upon a quilt. This really enhances the beauty of the work.

  10. I love how fmq can enhance an otherwise boring or plain area of a quilt. It intrigues me in how to decide what design to use in that area.

  11. I love the look of FMQ and need to learn to master it on my home machine. I want to use the designs I really prefer and not be limited to what someone else can provide. Love your work and thanks for the chance to win!

  12. I love knowing that I have made the entire quilt by myself, from picking out fabrics, to piecing, and quilting. Right now I am intrigued by quilting with rulers on my domestic machine. I love learning new techniques.

  13. I am most intrigued by the beauty of using different weight threads to enhance the design of FMQ. I am so inspired by this post…such gorgeous projects! duchick at mchsi dot com

  14. I’m a beginner FMQ’er. I am so fascinated with the art that can be created with the different use of thread colors and weights. I am inspired and awestruck by the work Karen does. I appreciate that she is so willing to teach and help others learn!

  15. I love not only the look that FMQ gives a quilt – also how the thread colors enhance one! I love the look of straight line quilting, but the curves & waves of FMQ add a look to a quilt that cannot be surpassed – whether lightly quilted or densely quilted, FMQ makes any quilt a magnificent creation to be cherished!

  16. Such a good idea to put different weights into one collection and I love the colors. You inspire me to try FMQ as you made those panels look great. Thanks for the chance to win.

  17. I am getting braver with my FMQ. I follow Karen everywhere she truly loves and shares what she creates. She also gives quilting tips, and ideas to help everyone in the quilting world. I bet she is so giddy about being part of your industry. Congratulations to both of you!

  18. The more I practice my FMQ the better I’m getting, one day I hope to be comfortable doing it, right now it’s a bit stressful but I am determined!

  19. Your quilting is phenomenal! Thanks for the tutorial for the pillow also. Love your thread collection. Just gorgeous work! I haven’t done much fmq but have started a Christmas panel to practice on. Great idea!

  20. Love your quilting and color/thread choices. You make FMQ look so simple! I know its all about practice, practice, practice, but I don’t think I ever get the timing of my hands and foot petal going at the same pace as my eyes/brain. And I’m always backing myself into a corner.

  21. The thing with FMQ is just to get the nerve to try it out, you have to set your mind to it and be brave and jump into it with both feet. And then practice, practice and practice… You can achieve anything you set your mind to!

  22. It’s amazing how stitching can change a quilt! I used to see the same thing when I cross-stitched: when I would do outline stitching, the image would come alive.

  23. I am just amazed at what you can do with thread when you free motion quilt. Anything you can do with a pencil, you can do with thread on a quilt. That’s what I’ve seen and am awed with. My quilting needs lots more practice, but one of these days I will surprise even myself.

  24. Karen has inspired me to practice FMQ on panels. So I have done a few baby quilts. Aurifil thread is wonderful and I would love to try the different weights. Thanks for sharing all about the delightful quilting by Karen
    djcutting2(at)gmail(dot)com

  25. I love that you can make any design you want, anywhere on the quilt. That you are drawing or doodling on fabric, but with needle and thread. So much freedom and so much fun!

  26. I first learned about Aurifil 50wt thread for quilting in a FMQ class at least 7 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. My favorite blend in color is #2370 I piece with the 50 wt. and I quilt with the 50wt. I have far fewer tension problems when doing FMQ with the 50wt. Aurifil. For my hand applique I now use Aurifil 80wt, which curls far less than the silk I was using. Your quilts are gorgeous. My machine quilting skills are not quite to the level you show in your quilts, but my level looks better, because I use Aurifil.

  27. LOVE the entire challenge of FMQing; also the freedom of expression as loose+beautiful or traced + very intricate. Thanks for sharing

  28. Karen visited our guild, York County Quilting Guild, York, SC. We loved her class and want more. I can’t wait to try The Subtle Sampler!

  29. I love the movement and dimension that quilting gives a quilt. I’ve only done a little basic quilting (stitch in the ditch, circles, cross hatch), so I never even thought of using different thread weights. I thrilled that I bought Aurifil 50 wt. thread, after hearing so much about it, it’s all true!! Best quilting purchase ever! Toni Anne ;->

  30. If I could fmq like Karen I wouldn’t have a box of quilts to be finished. I’m in awe. But what I do like about my fmq is that I get to finish my own quilt; I like that it’s all done by me.

  31. Wow, those are some beautiful quilts. I love FMQ because it is the last touch to add to a quilt and can really enhance it. Karens work is just gorgeous!

  32. Great collection, especially the variety of weights. I love FMQ because it lets me add my own touch to a quilt. It allows me to finish larger quilts, too.

  33. I was fortunate enough to participate in a workshop by Karen Miller a few months ago. Her work is so beautiful in person. I am intrigued by machine quilting because I want to create by myself!

  34. I’m not great at FMQ, but I’m trying. I’m in awe of the people who can make beautiful designs on domestic machines. The balance between pedal speed, the speed and smoothness of moving the quilt around, and knowing what design to use where. It’s tricky.

  35. I love the designs other people make when free motion quilting. They are so beautiful. Right now I am happy just learning how to piece a quilt and maybe in the future I’ll try FMQ. I’ve taken a very brief class and my monofilament thread got all tangled up and so I was off to a bad start. It is in my bucket list to learn. I would love to win this thread collection! Thank you.

  36. Just learning how to FM quilt. Another way to express our image of what we see. Love. And what a great way to try weights other than the 50 which is all I have. I have a long way to go, have followed Karen blog & IG for a few years. Would love to take a class with her!

  37. WoW! What awesome quilting! I haven’t mastered the “free” part of free motion quilting, hehe. I’ve done simple designs and the basic stitch in he ditch but would love to learn more.

    Super giveaway!

    usairdoll (at) gmail (dot) com

  38. Oh my gosh! She does sush AWESOME quilting! I would love to learn more FMQ… I am intrigued by the flow & freedom to follow what you “see” as you go. Thank you for chance to win your Give-a-way too! 😀

  39. Karen is a fabulous quilter!!! I am amazed at the texture and loft she achieved on those panels! I love to experiment with FMQ when I’m not hand quilting, though shoving huge queen size quilts through my home sewing machine is a challenge. Still, I love the versatility of FMQ and have used Aurifil 50 and 40 wt in the machine. I use 28 wt. for regular hand quilting and 12 wt. for my big stitch work.

  40. I love the way free motion quilting turns a nice looking quilt into a star. The quilting doesn’t just hold the three layers together. It makes it look like a piece of art. Of course, it requires patience and lots of practice and knowing when to stop for air. Thank you for introducing me to Karen.

  41. I love how a design can completely transform a project when you FMQ. Although free motion quilting scares me to death, I will never give up practicing. Amazing interview and what a talent Karen has.

  42. What intrigues me about free motion quilting is how really good some people are at it. When I look at their even stitches and patterns it gives me hope that when I keep practicing I can be that good at it also

  43. I think what fascinates me most about free motion quilting is the way it flows over the quilt and enhances the quilt pattern, giving it texture and beauty. Thanks!

  44. I started using Aurifil for piecing based on Wendy Sheppard’s advice a few years ago. I have trouble finding it in my very rural area—thank God for online shopping! I have only used the 50 weight but it’s absolutely perfect for piecing and pressing—-so very fine. What impresses me most is the lack of lint buildup in my 25 year old Bernina sewing machine. Thank you for a great product and a chance to win. This looks like a wonderful collection.

  45. Thank you Aurifil, this has been a great read…. Karen is one popular Quilter. I have learned a lot from Karen over the past 2-3 years and it’s because of Karen that I first heard about Aurifil thread. I have only used the 50wt and would love to win this collection to try out the different weights.

  46. FMQ is one of those challenging skills that once you get the feel for it can make the quilting of your projects another chance to add a design element to your finish. I’ve worked with 50 and 60 wt and Lana Wool thread so would love a chance to win the sampler to try the others!

  47. I love that fmq is only limited by the imagination of the quilter and how a pattern can be altered a little yet look very different.

  48. I do most of my quilting with a walking foot. I would really like to be better at FMQ, but I am so intimidated by it. I love your idea of using a panel to practice. Your thread collection is lovely. Thank you for the opportunity to win it. Aurifil is my favorite thread for both piecing and quilting.

  49. I’m using 50 wt for English paper piecing right now, also I have some 12 wt for embroidery ! I enjoy FMQ and am trying to get better at feathers.

  50. I love the motion that FMQ brings to quilts and I love this box with all of the different weights plus the monofilament!!!! So Awesome!

  51. To be perfectly honest, free motion quilting intimidates me! But motivated to learn – I need to do something more creative than just cross-hatching my quilts.

  52. When I see free motion quilting I am amazed and intrigued by the depth of design that the quilter is able to achieve. And after seeing Karen’s work I am blown away by the colors and the way she uses them!

  53. I am amazed by the things that some people can do with FMQ, seems like the possibilities are unlimited. I’m not to that point yet, but I’m working on it.

  54. Beautiful FMQ!! Wow! I haven’t mastered the technique anywhere near to that… but I’m practicing!! I prefer to hand quilt and feel that’s more my speed! Lol

  55. Versatility is the best facet of FMQ. You can change directions, designs and threads with relative ease. It’s also sooo much faster than other quilting methods that require lots of marking. sjvonfumetti at yahoo dot com

  56. I finally took the plunge and tried free motion quilting. I’m not very good at it, but I’m enjoying it so I will continue to work on improving. The first quilt I tried was a panel, and I simply outlined the figures. Very simple, but it was cute and went to a sweet baby in a NICU. I can see now, how having a variety of thread size and colors could seriously enhance projects, but alas my thread stash is very limited. It will grow, just as the fabric stash has.

  57. I often use Aurifil threads for the top thread in longarm quilting, plus it is my go-to for longarm bobbin threads. It is absolutely the best thread for piecing, and I am also constantly extolling its virtues to anyone that sews or quilts. Love them, pick me, LOL!!

  58. My home machine will only do meander FMQ as the throat space is not enough to make intricate designs. But I love Meander anyway! I have been branching out and finding ways ot make loops and curls and circles etc to create my own patterN!

  59. Love the colours in Karen’s collection!! Not mention the different weights – great way to add dimension to our projects! Thank you Aurifil and Karen!!

  60. FMQ allows me the freedom to quilt my own quilts in any way, shape, or form that I want and certainly is a lot more affordable than quilting by check.

  61. I think the “Art” of quilting in itself is the most intriguing. Quilting can really make or break a quilt. I have followed Karen for years on instagram and just Admire her skills so much!!

  62. I am so excited to have Karen come to Cleveland Ohio area this winter and take some classes from her. I’ve been using 50 wt for many years now and I’m excited to discover the other weights as well.

  63. I love to FMQ because of the freedom it gives me. I’ve been following Karen for years and have been inspired by her quilting. I also use Aurifil 50 wt. To quilt with and love it

  64. Oh, FMQ is totally my jam! I love the playfulness and freedom it gives me and just enjoy doing it. Karen’s work is so amazing and truly inspirational – something I am striving towards.
    Also – I REALLY love this collection!! Three different weights and mono filament – just awesome!

  65. Thank you Karen Miller for introducing me to the world to Aurifil. I can’t wait to use the amazing colors in this collection. Exquisit!

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