Time to Reposition the Embroidery Hoop

Gold Dust Day Gecko Thread Painting, Part 2

I’ve spent many hours doing fine detail quilting this week, and as a result I have made great progress bringing Iggy to life. For more on the backstory, check out my post from Monday, Gold Dust Day Gecko Thread Painting, Part 1, if you haven’t seen that already.

Fair warning: this is going to be a pretty photo heavy post!

First Color Detail

First Color Detail

Over the weekend I was able to get some initial outlining work done and Iggy’s eye completed, but I was really looking forward to starting to add color to Iggy on Monday. Those first few additional colors were certainly exciting to see come together! However, I wasn’t entirely happy with how the blue definition over Iggy’s foreground eye looked. I began with a layer of darker blue outline, but when I added in the lighter blue fill, the contrast between the two blue threads was too close and that additional definition was not clear. As a result, I decided to go back and add an even darker blue thread on top to help accentuate the detail.

Thread Tails and Backside of Thread Painting

Thread Tails and Backside of Thread Painting

In the photo above, which is a photograph of the back side of the thread painting, you can see I’ve just completed the additional dark blue outlining. I also wanted to show this process photograph to share how I’m handling the thread tails. When I’m free motion quilting, I will pull the bobbin thread up to the top of the thread painting, and at the end, I also pull the bobbin thread up. I then tie the top and bobbin threads together into a square knot. Once the ends are knotted, I then move the thread to the back of the thread painting and I snip the thread tails off. Because this particular thread painting is going to be densely covered in thread, I can leave the tails a bit long to be tucked under the next layer of thread. I also know that this particular piece is meant strictly as a wall hanging / art piece, so I’m happy with this method of handling my thread tails without truly burying them in the quilt sandwich (which will get harder and harder as more thread is added).

First Layer of Green Thread

First Layers of Green Thread

I was then really excited to get started adding the first few layers of green thread to Iggy. As he is mostly green, having several colors and values of green and layering them is hopefully going to provide the depth and detail needed to bring him to life. I started with a lime green and colored in the underside of the tip of his nose and mouth, then I came in with a light green to complete the area around his mouth. Above, you can see that at the same time I was also working on details around his foreground eye.

Adding Main Green

Adding Main Green

From there, I used Iggy’s main green color to fill in the rest of the pre-outlined areas. That sounds simple and straightforward, but when I started adding in Iggy’s main color of green, I also made sure to drop down to add a bit of the darker green into some of the other areas to help give more texture and depth to the larger areas on Iggy’s face. If I left all of the larger areas a single color, Iggy would appear a lot more flat. Going in and adding slight highlights (like the very little bits of light yellow on top of the orange) or layers of green can make a big difference in how the final piece will read, especially from a distance. Our eyes and brains are so very good at picking up on subtleties!

I want to pause to note here that the inside diameter of the hoop I am using is 7.5″. I use a 7.5″ hoop because it pairs very well with the throat space of my machine, a Juki TL-2200 QVP Mini, which has a throat space of approximately 8¾” wide by 5¾” tall. Hopefully that helps give you some context for how small some of the detail in Iggy’s face is; the pebbles around his eye are especially tiny. As a result of the tiny sizes and the dense build up of thread (which can be hard on a needle), I quilt very, very slowly. I’ll share a video later in this post to give you an idea of how I sometimes need to operate one stitch at a time – I operate a lot based on the way my machine is sounding. Even though I am quilting very slowly, if I can hear my needle struggling, I know I need to immediately slow down or stop to evaluate what is going on.

Additional Under Skin Bump Detail

Additional Under Skin Bump Detail

My next task was to consider where else I wanted to outline with dark gray. As I mentioned on Monday, I want to use the dark gray to help with the in focus portions of Iggy. My plan for the areas that are unquilted is to come back in with a dark green for the under skin bump detail. By making the value transition smaller in that area, my hope is that it will give the appearance of Iggy going a bit out of focus.

Green Skin Detail Added

Green Skin Detail Added

After another day’s worth of quilting that added more fill of Iggy’s main color of green, I went in and finished the skin outline definition using my darkest shade of green. At this point, knowing that my goal was to finish Iggy this week (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen) or over the weekend (I hope!!), I was starting to question my sanity and if I would have enough time to get it done! ha!

All The Thread... So Far

All The Thread… So Far

When piecing a quilt, we keep all of our tools at hand, and when thread painting, I do the same. The tools just happen to be lots of different spools of thread! I also keep a print out of the inspiration photograph so I can study it and think about my next steps when I’m pausing to rest and stretch my shoulders, hands, and fingers.

There are many reasons I choose to use 50wt Aurifil thread for my thread painting. One is that I have a very big stash of 50wt Aurifil thread a this point, and I’m a big proponent of using what you have in your stash. Another reason I like 50wt thread is that I have found that 50wt creates less bulk on the backside of my quilt sandwich than thicker / heavier thread weights. I do occasionally also use 40wt or 28wt thread when I am lacking a color that I really need (again, use what you have!), but when I’m doing so much thread work, I want the bulk to be as minimal as possible to keep the quilt sandwich moving as freely as possible under my needle. I don’t need to be worrying about my thread building up to the point that it might get stuck in the throat plate.

My tagline, “Sewing at the Speed of Sound” may make you think that I am a very fast piecer and quilter. In fact, I often tell my students, that we ALL sew at the speed of sound; sometimes it sounds faster than others. I’ve actually never stitched with the speed setting as fast as it will go on my Juki!

I’m sharing this actual speed video of me working on a thread painting to illustrate how important it is to listen to your machine and slow down when it is asking for it. Because thread painting often means that there are lots of layers of thread to pass through, the needle is working harder and it is best to honor how things are sounding and take things slower to avoid breaking a needle or doing any potential damage to your machine.

As you watch the above video, note that when I hear my needle really stick as it is passing through the layers of the quilt sandwich and thread, that I start to quilt in a more “one stitch at a time” manner until I move to another, less densely quilted area where I can speed up a bit again.

The video also demonstrates how wonderful the embroidery hoop acts as a frame for my hands to use to guide the quilt under my needle. And I purposefully left a bit of my shoulder visible in the field of view so you can see that even when manipulating these small distances, my full body is engaged and focused at the task at hand. Making it very important for me to pause, hydrate, and stretch frequently.

Time to Reposition the Embroidery Hoop

Time to Reposition the Embroidery Hoop

Once the main detail of Iggy’s face was filled in and complete to my satisfaction, it was time to take a deep breath and reposition the embroidery hoop. I can promise you that I have made good progress on Iggy since I moved the hoop, but I still have a lot of work to go. I should have a finish to share with you on Monday, but I need to get back to quilting to make that happen.

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you have a long weekend and are celebrating Labor Day, I hope you get some fun quilting time in and stay safe!

16 thoughts on “Gold Dust Day Gecko Thread Painting, Part 2

  1. Joanne H says:

    This is looking great! Thank you for sharing your process in such detail, including the video. You truly are a patient person to do this; but more importantly, you are very talented!

  2. Cindy Pieters says:

    I’m enjoying watching Iggy come to live, he looks amazing!

  3. Oh, my, Iggy is coming alive on your project. Your shading is perfect.

  4. KDiamond says:

    I love reading your thoughts about process and color….I really appreciate you writing about these things. The still pictures help me better understand how you are painting this image. But this morning at almost 9am EST, I can’t find a link to the video you mentioned. Am I missing something? Thank you

    1. Thank you. If you were reading about this in your email, it never embeds the YouTube links/video. You can see the video on my blog or directly from YouTube:


      Have a great weekend!

  5. Cocoa Quilts says:

    Your process is amazing. The patience to detail really shows up in each small section. I can’g imagine how your shoulders feels!!! Go stretch!!

  6. Debra G Best says:

    That is so amazing! You go girl!

  7. Thanks for the video, Yvonne, it is helpful to see how slowly and meticulously you work! Someday I’d like to try thread painting, although I’m not sure what I would use as a subject – probably not Iggy, for my beginning effort!

  8. Debbie says:

    I’m in awe. Such detailed work. Iggy is coming along great!

  9. Shaughna Kloster says:

    Thanks so much for showing your process and progress. Iggy looks great. I’d love to see a video of your process for burying your thread. Thanks.

    1. I am actually *not* buying my thread tails for this project as the thread makes the quilt sandwich too dense. Instead, I am using a needle to move the thread tails to the back of the quilt sandwich and then I cut them off, leaving about 1/4″ – 1/2″ of length that will be captured by the next pass of thread as I quilt.

  10. I’m really enjoying seeing Iggy’s transformation. Those teeny tiny pebbles—oh my goodness! I’m totally in awe!

  11. Suzanne says:

    OH WOW! It’s amazing, another masterpiece by Yvonne.
    Your “sometimes it sounds faster than others.” bit cracked me up – loved it and I know Iggy’s portrait will be beautiful when done.
    I have used an upside down hoop under my machine. Even when not doing something as precise as Iggy, It really does take focus and concentration. I learned the hard way that breaks and stretches are a must!
    I’ll be looking forward to your new post.

  12. Oh, Iggy is really looking fabulous. I love all the details about your process. It does take a lot of time when the circles are so small. Can’t wait to check out the video.

    1. I can see you slow down when you get that “thunk”!

  13. Rochelle Summers says:

    I love the way Iggy is developing. He really does look life like. His eye is so beautiful. I have heard that “thunk” on my machine before and know I have to stop and figure out what is going on….And I’m not thread painting. How often are you changing your needle? How frequent are your breaks? Are there any special exercises you do for your hands and shoulders? I’m looking forward to your next post.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)