Have You Tried Sketching with Thread?

As a new quilter I, like many others, focused on building my fabric stash and honing my piecing skills. I took classes, bought a new machine, and joined a critique group. I made some progress and created some beautiful traditional and art quilts along the way. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to Susan Brubaker Knapp’s quilts that I learned about the depth of artistry that can only be achieved with thread. Susan’s thread sketching technique opened a whole new world of possibilities.

Susan on the set of Quilting Arts TV teaching thread sketching.

What is thread sketching?

Let’s let Susan explain.

“When I use the term thread sketching, I am referring to a technique in which thread is free-motion stitched on the surface of an art quilt. Thread sketching is not quilting, which has the primary purpose of holding the layers of the quilt sandwich together while adding texture. Thread sketching happens before the quilting, but after the fabric base of the quilt top has been constructed.

Thread sketching is fun, and it is an effective way to add color, line, texture, dimension, pattern, and movement to your quilts.”

“Wool Yarn” by Susan Brubaker Knapp

Think about the possibilities!

This technique is so versatile: It can add color and sparkle to a pale composition. It can direct the viewer’s eye across the quilt with subtle lines. It can add texture and detail that are impossible to recreate on fabric with paint or piecing. And, it is fun! No matter where you are on your art quilting journey, learning this skill will move your artwork to an entirely new plane.

Fun fact: Susan’s artistry stems from lots of practice and research. “My interest in drawing painting, and embroidery came after working as a traditional quilter. I designed patterns for years before moving into art quilting. I have no formal education as an artist; the last art classes I took were in high school. So once I decided to delve into art quilting, I worked to learn the skills I needed to make the kind of work I could see in my mind’s eye.” The key to her success? She read lots of books and blogs, watched videos, and took classes. But most important of all: she practiced.

Susan’s hard work paid off, and so can yours.

"Postcard from Glacier National Park: Avalanche Lake" by Susan Brubaker Knapp

“Postcard from Glacier National Park: Avalanche Lake” by Susan Brubaker Knapp

Do you want to give it a try?

We’ve compiled six of Susan’s articles on thread sketching into one easy to download eBook. They include essential tips about stabilizing your work, choosing the right threads, and overcoming the fear of perfection. In addition, there are exercises and patterns for creating your own thread sketched works of art.

Want to learn more in depth about thread art?

This online course from our friends at Sulky might be just up your alley. Artistry with thread is a growing interest for quilters. Take your love of quilting and sewing and turn it into a business. Not only will you learn new skills like thread sketching, machine quilting, and applique, you’ll also learn about turning your passion into a career.


The image featured at the beginning of this post is a detail of “Snow Squall” by Susan Brubaker Knapp.

Try your hand at thread sketching with the help of these must-have resources!



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