Hi all y’all. Do you enjoy applique or do you only use it when there is absolutely no other way to get the look you want? I was surprised several years ago when I attended a major quilter’s class and she introduced me as an applique-er. After thinking about it, I think she is mostly right. I thoroughly enjoy applique of several artistic techniques. I select the technique by their complexity, the kinds of fabrics I am using, and the style I want to show. These include:=
- fused or glued stitched raw edge
- placed and held in place by veiling and then free motion stitched down.
- turned edge glued and blind stitched by machine
- In-the-hoop applique
For complex edges, especially, my favorite technique is stitched raw edge applique. This is where I fuse it down and stitch along the edge using either a narrow vari-overlock stitch (like a hem stitch but it has fewer stitches between the zig-zag stitch) with a Superior monopoly thread or a 100 weight polyester or silk matching thread so it basically disappears. Narrow blanket stitch also works well. I don’t particularly like zig zag for this, but I know some who do. I also found I cannot get a good result for complex appliques without some kind of adhesive use along the edges.
The Announcer, the Horse, and Bird appliques From Canterbury Knight are all stitched fused edge appliques hand painted by me.
To show off the edges I very much like the blanket stitch using decorative thread picked to show. I don’t see a difference when doing this using raw edge or turned edge appliques, because the edge is covered with the thread. The blanket stitch may be either a double blanket stitch if you REALLY want to see it, or a single using a heavier 12 weight thread so it highlights the edges. This is a particularly good approach if you are having problems with your applique not showing up well because you chose to use fabrics that are close in value or color. Sometimes I have found it very difficult to carry out the design I have in my head with a clear value difference between the applique and the background. I also can fix this problem with a hidden edge applique technique combined with a straight stitch outline stitched along the edge in a contrasting color decorative thread.
Dad’s House Plan. The house and roof of this quilt were turned edge machine stitched appliqued in most places.
For less complex shapes, I have found the turned edge with the vari-overlock narrow stitch with monopoly or matching 100 weight thread looks very close to turned edge hand stitched applique. In my case, the machine stitched looks much better. haha. If you don’t have a vari-overlock stitch on your machine, it is very similar to the blind hem stitch that nearly all today’s machines have in their utility stitch set, it just has more straight stitches between the zigs or zags, so making the stitches shorter overcomes that problem. I start by turning the edges around either a piece of lightweight interfacing that is going to stay in place, or a freezer paper shape ironed to the back. I usually find that just grocery store starch I paint on with a small stencil brush works well to hold the turn in place, and then remove the freezer paper before gluing it in place to the background. One can glue it however, with washable glue sticks, and a lot of applique-ers do that.
Here we have a complex edge that I have starched the turn over with starch onto freezer paper. The next step would be to remove the freezer paper, turn it over and stitch it in place onto the background fabric. You might want to iron the turn down a little more after removing the paper.
When I am making one of my deep space quilts, I make the “gas cloud” that surrounds and plays throughout a galaxy from hot fix angelina fibers. These fibers only stick to themselves and flatten out into a sort of fabric so they don’t stick to the background fabric. You can’t use a fusible web with it because it shows, nor can you use glue because even if it dries clear you can still see it through the clouds. So I cover it with black nylon veil and just free motion stitch it into place. I may pin it a few times, but I don’t even like to do that, because the holes remain if you happen to hit it just wrong. So I just have to hold it in place and stabilize it with a little of the stitching before I do the free motion embroidery-like quilting. I think this method would work well for a net or lacy applique also.
Sky Horse photographed by Ken Tatum
And then for piecing together areas like adding mountains or suns or other large parts of a pictorial quilt, there is applipiece (Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s term) or piecelique (Sharon Schamber’s term) where the piecing is done using turned edge applque stitched (as described above under “less complex shapes”) from the top by machine usually using monopoly or very light weight thread and the vari-overlock or blanket stitch and then cutting the area joined from the back down to a little less than a quarter inch seam. The complex edges require snipping into the edge periodically to facilitate the turning around the shapes). This is one of my favorite methods when creating a pictorial or other free style design background.
The Storyteller, a Hoffman Challenge piece where the entire background was applipieced/pieceliqued together.
In the hoop applique requires “a whole nother” set of activities and skills beginning with digitizing your design in software or purchasing a commercial embroidery design. I use this occasionally, but not often. It usually uses satin edge stitch to sew down the appliques, though it sometimes uses blanket stitch. If I am going to use satin edge I try to do this in the hoop because the satin stitch can then be digitized to have beautiful miters and properly angled stitching, which is really difficult just using the satin stitch outside the hoop. It is possible to get a nice satin stitched edge for simple shapes with care in regular nonhoop stitching though. Then you can add additional decorative stitching in-the-hoop for nice results.
5″ x 5″ fabric greeting card or mug rug in the hoop
You can read more about this method in my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.
That pretty much covers the methods I use for applique. I am using stitched raw edge applique that has been attached with Steam-a-Seam 2 for my wool applique by machine. First I am stitching it down with monopoly and then I am doing the decorative stitching around the edges and inside the appliques. This means I can use the decorative stitches to make the look I want without worrying about whether or not the stitch catches the edge of the wool applique, which I find a big advantage.
Detail showing some of the stitching on my practice wool piece
Sew happy everyone! Put on some good music or an audiobook and start with a small applique project. It is fun, but it does require some time to get it right. Still, by machine is faster, or at least less problematic for arthritic hands than by hand, however beautiful it is.