Pulling Strings

November 19, 2021

Each year the Modern Quilt Guild issues a fabric challenge for their annual show, QuiltCon. Every year I say I’m going to participate, and sometimes I actually manage to complete something! This year the MQG teamed up with Windham Fabrics to use their Artisan cottons.

The challenge included four fabrics, of which we were required to use at least three, and a set of optional neutrals. I wasn’t initially sure what I wanted to do, but I ordered the challenge fabrics and a black neutral to start with. The challenge fabric is woven with one color in the warp of the weave and another color in the weft. The weave is slightly looser than most quilting cottons, which could be considered a challenge, but I quickly decided I would attempt to make this an advantage.

The selvage was the first thing I noticed about the fabric because that soft edge appeared at first glance to be a very different color than the fabric due to the different colors in the weave. Incorporating these edges became a priority. I was rather sorry that there weren’t more selvage edges, so I started considering other ways to create a similar effect. Strategically pulling threads from the fabric seemed to have potential.

I cut the fabric into strips and started pulling. And pulling. And pulling some more.

In the end, each fabric could create four different looks: the original fabric, two different color stripes, and a plaid.

With a design focus on texture, I eventually decided that improv would allow the beautiful irregularities to shine.

Since I was basically deconstructing the fabric, I wanted to make sure the quilting helped ensure the project was structurally sound. I machine quilted the quilt on the longarm using a mix of straight line and free motion quilting. For the batting I used two layers, my go-to Hobbs 80/20, and a layer of quilting cotton just under the quilt top to ensure the batting wouldn’t peek out from the stripes I created in the fabric.

To enhance the textural aspects of the design, I added some hand stitching and ties to the quilting.

This quilt was entered into QuiltCon 2022 in the Fabric Challenge Category.

Quilt Stats

Title: Pulling Strings

Size: 32″x32″

Techniques: Fabric Modification: Pulled Threads, Improvisation, Foundation Paper Piecing

Quilting: Ruler and free motion quilting on an A-1 Longarm, large stitch hand quilting and ties

Fabric: Windham Artisan Cotton

Batting: Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend and a layer of quilting cotton

Thread: Aurifil 50 and 12 weight

Binding: Scraps from the quilt top


  • Reply
    Tanya Mace
    November 19, 2021 at 11:22 am

    Wow! That is an incredible amount of creativity and work! I love how you deconstructed the fabric, pretty ingenious! You definitely added interest to the actual fabric! Thank you for writing and sharing your process, I love your design and the overall presentation.

  • Reply
    Rochelle Summers
    November 19, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Very visually pleasing. I love the effect of the pulled threads, making more selvages and leaving patterns in the fabric. A lot of work. The quilting and hand stitching really adds to the texture. Good luck.

  • Reply
    gayle m coots
    November 19, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Beautiful design, great effect, brillant!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Strong
    November 30, 2021 at 12:33 pm


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