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Thread Painting with Nancy Prince

Nancy Prince is an award-winning quilter and thread painting enthusiast. She is a familiar face to Road to California as she was the 2015 winner of the Marie White Masterpiece Award, the second highest award given (after Best of Show) at the Road to California Quilt Contest.

Thread Painting

In 2021, Nancy shared her passion and expertise for thread painting during Road@Home’s Roundabout 2.0 and during the classes she taught. Nancy says that thread painting is not difficult—in fact, “it is a lot of fun!”

What is Thread Painting?

Thread painting, or free-motion machine embroidery, is a unique way of embellishing quilts by “painting” the images on the quilt top. With thread painting, the thread becomes the paint and fabric is the canvas. Only straight and zigzag stitches are used so no special sewing machine is required.

The design to be painted with thread is traced onto a piece of clear water-soluble stabilizer so there is always a drawing to guide the technique with no guessing as to where the thread goes next.  

thread painting

Nancy says that painting with thread is very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways to enhance figures, printed fabric, and quilt designs.

Tips for the Technique

To begin with, Nancy says, “A key is using the best quality size 14 needle you can buy.”  Other tips include:

  • Stitch length is determined by how fast or slow the needle is moved in the hoop.
  • A good stitch width when using zig zag stiches is 2 – 2.4
  • Drop the feed dogs when stitching.
  • Use a 40-weight rayon or polyester thread for best results.
  • A 6” regular embroidery hoop secures the stabilizer and the stitch movement.
  • Thread paint the design the way it grows in nature. Stitch back and forth until the desired dimension is achieved.
thread painting

Teaching during Road@Home

Nancy has great “enthusiasm” for teaching this technique, particularly since it is “very simple” to do and no advanced skills are necessary. It just takes some practicing.

One of Nancy’s students during Road@Home was Sherry Cowley. Of the Simple Threadpainting Class, Sherry commented, “I took the class to learn how to thread paint using Nancy’s technique. Her instructions were very thorough. Nancy had us do some “homework” ahead of class, which made me more familiar with wat we would be doing. The homework didn’t take very long and was simple to do.  Nancy is a very kind, patient and generous teacher and her class was very informative.” Sherry added that most of the students were able to finish their projects during the class. Sherry needed to make a few more stitches after class and didn’t hesitate to finish it later because Nancy had given her the confidence needed to complete it.

thread painting

“That’s how good Nancy’s instructions were.” Sherry said she can’t wait to take another class with Nancy!!    

To learn more about Nancy Prince and her thread painting technique, please visit her website.  

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