I think I might have found my solution -- hand spun yarn. It has a softness and energy that reminds me of childhood. Also, I like the silver thread instead of white and the beads instead of washers. I'm so happy that this is coming together! Now to let it sit for a while .
I also moved the circles around for my Busy Busy Busy quilt. I am really loving this quilt! The colors are so fun and full of life.