Where’s Your Appli-Happy Place?
Applique: ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric are sewn or stuck onto another piece of fabric to form pictures or patterns.
Applique can take many forms. Depending on what you read or hear, you can find numerous methods or ‘must do’ techniques. Some of these might excite your sewing muse, while others elicit little more than ‘meh.’ Some folks adore hand stitched needle turn applique, while others crank up their irons and fuse their next masterpiece. The key to appli-happiness? Try out different ideas until you find one that you like.
Making a Sampler
For today’s bite of the apple, we look at a few of the ways to stitch fused applique motifs. There are a
variety of fusing products out there (ie: Steam-A-Seam 2, Wonder Under or MistyFuse.) Follow the fusing directions of your product of choice. Once that is done – we are ready for some stitching! Add to the layer of base fabric with a layer of batting or stabilizer to avoid puckering. (For more tips on fused applique, visit Quilting Daily.)
There are a few decisions to make when setting out to stitch applique edges:
– Do I want thread to show? A little? A lot? Not at all?
– Do I want the applique edges to be raw or totally encased in stitching?
– Do I want a neat and tidy finish or something a little more whimsical or organic?
Different threads serve different purposes. Material composition, lustre and thread weight, in different combinations, make up the wide variety of threads available on the market today. For color, you can choose a subtle, blending color, a contrasting stand-out, or a dynamic variegated color range. This brief description of thread weight from Schmetz Needles provides good information as well as a guide for selecting the right needle to go with your thread choice.
HIDDEN STITCHES: Ultra-fine threads are a great choice for when you want your stitches to be less visible. Sixty to 100 weight polyester threads are very fine. If stitched in a color that matches the fabric, they can all but disappear. A similar choice is invisible style, clear or smoke tinted thread.
DESIGN PARTNERS: “Average” threads in cotton or polyester, 40 or 50 weight will show nicely, but not over-power the applique. Cotton will have a matte finish, while polyester will have a bit of shine
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STITCH:Heavyweight threads or specialty threads like wools or metallics will draw attention to the stitches and edges of each applique piece. These can add texture or sparkle to a design.
BOBBIN NOTES: Be sure to choose a compatible thread for the bobbin (a matching color in the bobbin, a strong enough thread to secure heavier weight upper thread stitches, etc.) Also be mindful of adjusting tension to suit thread types, top and bobbin. Heavier threads may require lower tension(more open tension discs), while ultra fine threads will need the tension to be set a bit higher.
Consult your machine’s manual for a stitches’ recommended accessory foot. In general, a straight stitch works well with a Janome A foot, while decorative stitches and/or heavier threads work best with the Janome F or F2 (open-toe) craft feet. There are a variety of options for free-motion sewing. The open toe darning foot is a good choice for seeing the stitches and the sewing path ahead.
We all have our favourite ‘go-to’ needle, but with the applique’s focus on it’s surrounding stitches, isn’t it is worth considering a minor needle type adjustment as dictated by the project? Fusing can sometimes make needle holes more obvious in a fabric. For ultra fine thread, a smaller needle size is appropriate. It will create a less noticeable whole in the applique fabric as well as manage the finer thread. A larger eye needle is required for a heavier thread to avoid breakage.
The tendency is to think of a few tried-and-true stitches for applique. In reality, just about any stitch is a candidate for applique.
From Zig Zag to Satin Stitch
Just about any machine offers a zig zag stitch with some degree of width and length adjustment. As the stitch length shortens, the stitch line becomes a more solid, satin stitch. This encases the raw edges of the applique. To prevent ‘whiskers’ of frayed fabric poking through the stitching try pre-spray-starching it or applying a fray stop product to the raw edge first. Some folks will repeat the satin stitch for a second round at a slightly wider setting to be extra sure of sealing the edges.
TIP: PIVOTING IS YOUR FRIEND! Stitch applique with the needle set for a needle-down stop. This allows quick, easy pivoting around a curved motif. “Listening” to the rhythm of a stitch pattern will also give you a good idea of when to pivot (IE: you will recognize when a blanket stitch has completed it’s back-stitch.)
The Invisible Stitch
The blind hem stitch is a very unobtrusive applique stitch.Most of the stitches will run along the outside edge of the motif, with the occasional ‘bite’ into the applique. Using a narrower stitch width than in the photo will also minimize stitch viability. Ultra-fine or “invisible” thread is often used in this case
The Blanket Stitch
A traditional favourite for applique. Many Janome machines offer several versions of this stitch to choose from. Can lend a folk-art feel with flannel fabric or wool thread.
Many decorative stitches sit sad and un-used on machines. Why not try them out for applique? They add an unexpected design touch.
Free Motion Stitching
Whether echoing the outline of a motif in a straight stitch or doodling around the edges, free-motion can be a quick and playful means to applique. When the machine is set up for free motion, it is easy to drop in additional details (like the stem, leaf or highlight on the apple.)
Put it in Reverse!
One more quick option: Give reverse applique a try. Rather than applying a shaped fabric to the TOP of the base fabric, an over-sized patch of the fabric is layered BELOW the base fabric. The motif outline is straight-stitched through both layers and then the top layer is carefully cut away, revealing the lower fabric. Stitching can stop with the motif outline, or the raw edge can be finished to a degree of choice.At least some additional stitching is recommended to secure the seam. Once completed, cut away the excess patch of applique fabric from below to avoid the shadowed outline of the patch.
Apologies if these apples look a tad like cherries! : )