My family helped me produce a new video I could never have done on my own for my YouTube channel that is a discussion and trunk show of my experimental quilting. I think you might enjoy seeing it. Here’s the link: video
For years I have thought of much of my work as experimental fabric art, where I try to get certain looks in my quilts and sometimes had to develop a new technique or figure out how to apply a known technique to produce the look I wanted or just to see what something would look like. It has been a bit of a wild ride over the years and so it seemed the thing to produce a show and tell for you all.
Thanks to my family for their help and encouragement both for the videos and the quilting. There are some fun things on the way.
Textured appliques can be derived from using a combination of techniques. Such appliques can add major interest, even take center stage, on an art quilt and I find them really fun to do and a little challenging to figure out what needs to be done. The detail shown in the picture above started off as white basic quilting cotton that I washed and steam pressed. Then I traced the applique outlines on the fabric using my light table, painted with artists water soluble crayons, backed the applique itself with wool batting, quilted (I think of this as “prequilting”), backed with fusible web, cut out closely to the applique, fused it down. Then I and edge stitched it to the top. After the quilt top was completely ready, I sandwiched the quilt with a double bat of wool on top and 80/20 cotton/poly on the bottom and did some more stitching to improve the look of the appliques. I was particularly trying to help show muscles and shapes on the dragon and so I added more paint highlights, this time with iridescent Shiva sticks.
Here’s a little closer picture of the dragon so you can see it better.
That’s just an example, but I have used a lot of other techniques to get textured appliques for my work. I’ll probably do a video on this…maybe within my upcoming tree series. They need a lot of texture.
First of all, I am celebrating today, because my youngest son David just released his latest novel (click on the book to find it)! Congratulations to him.
Setting up for free motion quilting or thread play
While my communiques (blogs, vlogs, and YouTube videos) are intended for everyone who wants to play, regardless of their machines, sometimes I also address some quick specifics for working on Berninas. Please don’t stop reading when you come across those if you are not a Bernina owner, because you might find some of what I say interesting anyway.
I have three Berninas: a Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, a Bernina 880 Plus, and a Bernina 350. I also have a simple older BabyLock serger. I am truly grateful to have this collection of machines I obtained over the years through trade ups, gifts, and so forth. This is a wonderful set of machines for me to play with here in my studio. It’s like playing inside my own wonderland with favorite toys. But it does require practice, sometimes research, testing tools and techniques, and (gasp!) reading my manuals to get the most from this stable of machines. So I want to share what I have learned from this.
Setting Up For Free Motion
The setup for free motion on these machines is relatively simple.
If you don’t have a Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR attachment) or want to work without it, simply put on a darning or quilting foot like foot #73, #24, #29 or #9. Drop your feed dogs.
If you have a Bernina stitch regulator attachment that works on your machine, attach it and set it for your chosen BSR mode. BSR1 runs smoothly and constantly, idling with a little stitching, which is great for smooth free motion quilting and free motion embroidery. The idling allows you to stitch several stitches at the corner of a sharp turn in addition, which makes a nice turn. BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start, so you may prefer this setting. I find with this attachment I have to use a slightly shorter stitch length and not sew too fast for best results.
One of the interesting things you can do with this BSR attachment, is free motion zig zag with stitch regulation, which can’t be done on a sitdown longarm with a stitch regulator. This can provide some unique thread play opportunities and looks.
For most domestic machines you probably won’t need to make any adjustment in tension from the default for normal threads. For specialty threads, however, you may need to lower or raise the top tension to accommodate specialty thread weights and types. It’s a good idea to do a test using similar fabrics and write down your changes before working on your project piece.
When doing free motion it helps a lot to have a slick supporting surface, so I use a silicone mat, such as a Supreme Slider. I tape mine down with that indispensable studio tool blue painters tape because I have ruined more than one mat by stitching it to the back of my project. I have repaired them a bit with clear packing tape if they aren’t too badly torn. Yes, I know the stickiness returns if you rinse the back, but you have to remember to do that periodically and also the heavier and larger your quilt the more likely it is to dis-attach from the table and get caught in the stitching.
A queen sized Supreme Slider taped down with blue painters tape at my old Bernina 830 LE (I traded it for my 880 Plus last year). This works well and is easy to remove when you need to.
Setting Up the Q20 and the Q16 sitdown longarms
These machines are built for free motion quilting and free motion thread work and truly you can dive right in just as they are. But there are a few things that are helpful to know to make your free motion stitching work better. Note that I have had my Q20 now for nearly five years and I love it.
Free motion is always better when the supporting base is slick and the fabric can slide easily. There are some very large silicone mats available for these machines, where you cut the square carefully around the BSR/Bobbin square area (whatever do you call that?!!!).
Some people like using these extra large silicone mats with their sitdowns, I don’t have one. I spray the table before each project with Sullivan’s silicone spray, and wipe it fully dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. But before I spray it, I cover the BSR/Bobbin area under the needle and the vent area at the back of the machine with blue painter’s tape to prevent the spray from going down into the machine works. Alternatively, you can spray into the cloth and wipe the table but I think you get a little less silicone on the table that way (not scientific, just an opinion). From personal experience I know the spray works very well.
These machines have two BSRs built in which provide excellent stitch regulation.
BSR1 constantly runs and has a speed setting to make it cruise along easily at the pace you like. I use it for most of my free motion quilting and all of my free motion embroidery. I like to start off with a relatively slow “idle” speed of 250 to 300 and will raise that if I need to. The machine will run very fast if you want it to.
BSR2 stops when you stop and starts when you start. I use this mostly for ruler work.
BSR3 is a basting stitch with multiple stitch lengths to choose from. I use it a lot for larger quilts. I will spray baste the sandwich and then do some large segments of thread basting. This is especially good for your masterpiece or show quilting that will take a long time just to keep everything in good placement.
Then there is manual setting that does not engage the BSR, of course, but it does have a speed control on it so you can set it at a comfortable pace for you. I like this for micro-quilting, but I don’t use it for much else. It is smooth running and quieter and makes it easy to do those tiny bubbles for instance, but I still prefer the BSRs for most of my quilting. It’s a personal preference. Some people prefer this mode for everything, but if you are new to the machine, I urge you to try the BSRs first. They are wonderful.
I often get the question about what thread will the Berninas use. All my Berninas will work well with almost any good quality thread. I just have to be sure I have the right needle, tensions, stitch length, and the speeds set up right for that.
Keeping notes on how you set things up is always helpful, but these machines have four savable programs for various thread settings, which is really nice. Once you set it all up like you like it, you can save it and even tell it what thread and needle it is for in the naming of the programs.
I like to use the kickstart feature, which allows me to free motion stitch/quilt with a very steady power feed. This helps me relax while stitching and eliminates most stitch skips and the like, without my foot on the pedal. This is because the pedal is basically on/off and if you don’t keep your foot fully down it might skip a stitch, though not usually.
For using the kickstart, get your BSR mode chosen and make sure you are all set up, then kick the pedal at the heel and the machine will sew until you press the pedal at the front to stop it. I love it. You don’t have to concentrate on anything other then where you place your stitching once you get used to it. Here’s a youtube with cute fluffy slippers on using it:
And last, but not least be sure to set your bobbin tension to match your thread in the bobbin. I use mostly Superior Bottom Line in my bobbin…even mostly their prewound M sized bobbins, which are Bottom Line…and set my tension to 180 using the Towa Guage that comes with the machine. The Bernina default setting is 220, but I find you really need to adjust per thread size. If you somehow didn’t get one, be sure your dealer gives you one. It’s not like a domestic…it’s a real longarm.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio. I hope you found this helpful. I will be posting my next video probably this weekend. Cheers.
Wool sampler prototype piece part one. Embellishment will be presented in part two and quilting and finishing in part three.
Wool applique and embellishment is a great tool in a fabric artist’s quiver. There’s nothing else that provides the rich, warm, depth that real wool fiber does. It can make all the difference in achieving the artistic look you want. In my artist’s eye it compares to working with thick oil paints while cotton or silk is like watercolors. Both are beautiful but achieve totally different looks. Both require different techniques to get the best results.
So using a small project in wool applique I am finally launching my first video set in my YouTube channel. Here is the link to the new video. I have plans for multiple videos on my channel this year, and have just revamped my studio to include the things I need for producing them. So I would love you to subscribe to my channel and enjoy my videos just as a matter of interest or especially to join me in working through the projects you like. See the handout and pattern pdfs on my Aids and Links page here on this site for you to download and print out. Then go to my YouTube video here.
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Here is a list of the supplies with links that I will be using in this first project to which I have added links to help you in your shopping for the supplies:
1 yard of background fabric. I am using all wool Melton, which I had in my stash. Since the price of wool has skyrocketed since I filled my stash with it, I suggest using a melton wool blend for this, which is less expensive and still has a lot of the same characteristics and depth of beauty. Here’s another link at B. Black tailoring supplies, which is a fabulous store that has things that are difficult to find elsewhere. A solid color quilting fabric would also work but will not provide the same deep sense of richness.
There is another option. Use wool clothing that is no longer worn, or that you find in a thrift store, or use pure wool fabrics you have stashed under your bed in those storage boxes you put your clothing fabrics in. You may have had it for a decade and still haven’t made that garment you bought it for, like me. Cut the clothing so you get the largest pieces from them and wash your wool in hot water with some detergent in your washing machine and dry it in your dryer. This provides some amount of felting and cleans the fabric. It is also possible to dye this. It requires all three elements…hot water, agitation, and detergent, to make it do a bit of felting the fibers together. It does need to be pure wool for this to work well. The resulting fabric is also easy to dye in your washer.
One package of lightweight woven fusible interfacing sufficient to cover the yard of background fabric, such as Pellon SF101 Shapeflex
One pack of precut melton wool felt pieces in a variety of colors for flower heads and a pack of a variety of green pieces for stems and leaves. You will probably have enough felt pieces for a couple of small wall hangings or other wool applique projects. Be sure to save all the leftovers for small applique uses elsewhere. Please don’t use craft felt not made with any wool. The comparison is like using paper to fabric. You can use wool blend felt, but pure wool really makes a big difference in how this looks.
Aurifil 12 weight wool blend thread (small spool collection) or (large spool collection..the best value by the yard) or three or four colors of the large spools. If you prefer to use a 12 weight cotton as a slightly cheaper alternative I recommend Sulky 12 weight cotton, for this project, it will still look beautiful, just different and not quite as close to hand done that the wool thread will provide. I have even successfully used 40 weight all poly embroidery threads, and I sometimes have mixed them across a project in order to get particular looks or colors. The wool adds a depth of beauty and is probably what most hand stitchers would use. You should do some testing to see how they look.
universal 80/12 needles if you choose to use monopoly thread for your appliques. I found the Schmetz super non stick needles really helps with dealing with the fluff from wool combined with the fusible web.
1 piece of backing fabric about 25 x 25 inches (for the back of this small quilt) This is a good thing to pull from your existing stash.
Small piece of lower loft batting about 25 x 25 inches. I am using 80/20. This is a good place to use leftover batting from a larger quilt project.
And whenever I use fusibles, I like to have on hand this effective iron cleaning kit good for multiple cleanings that I have successfully used for years: Rowenta Iron cleaning kit
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While you can print the pattern out and use it to cut out your appliques, I did cut all my appliques using my Accuquilt Go! machine, which I really like for such projects. I have had mine for some years, collecting dies a bit at a time, and use it a lot for circles, rectangles, strips, bindings and borders and projects such as this. In my opinion, it is well worth the investment required. I can cut out a simple snuggle lap or crib quilt of squares and a border (prestarched) with a few fun appliques to snazz it up (backed with steam-a-seam 2) in ten minutes (after the fabric is pressed with starch) and make the quilt top all in the same day. Everything is nice and accurate too, very unlike it looks if I do my own cutting. Hahaha.
I used the following three dies for this project and it only took a few minutes for all the shapes I needed with some leftovers:
Go Circle (1 1/2″ to 2 1/2″) it’s so hard to hand cut good circles. These are beautiful. If you can only get one dye set for this project, this might be it.
I love quilted fabric art pieces, in case you haven’t figured that out yet, They can be as artistic as any great painting and can warm the home and office with their beauty. The texture can approach three dimensional with different finishes and dents and poufs, and they make you want to go and touch them. There are so many directions they can take.
I also love using the power of my great machines and my computer to work well beyond my own talents and abilities even as my hands age and can do less. There is much there to take advantage of for creating and enjoying and the additions continue. I even recently bought a new Bernina foot and my dealer kindly mailed it to me.
Learning the techniques, and taking advantage of the various attachments and feet is an important and interesting part of this.
Understanding how the machines respond to fabrics, threads, and quilt sandwiches is a key aspect to getting the maximum advantages out of the machines.
Trying not to get too frustrated when things don’t go well, but instead working through various steps to see what can be done to solve problems is equally important, and perhaps the hardest thing to do.
Learning how to better use various helpful software also adds to how far one can go.
These are the goals for me to continue to reach for this year even after all these years of sewing and quilting using these great tools. I have concluded there is always more to learn. And then I also want to get better adding surface design in the form of in-the-hoop embroidery, paints, beads, and crystals to move even further just adds to the enjoyment. I feel almost like I am just beyond a beginner in this aspect.
Sew even though it is unclear where we will land in our quilting/sewing world after The Great Upheaval, my own name for the pandemic and actions taken, there will always be much to do and learn. This makes me excited even as I still hang out safely in my studio. Truth be told, even after we all get through this thing and I can go out more, I will be spending the majority of my time in my studio because I love these activities. Yes, I will have my friends in finally and go see them, and I will go to brick and mortar fabric stores that may be left, and will delight as I see the rebirth of the industry across the nation. I hope to go back to shows eventually. I think we still have some months before this happens.
So I will be making some smaller projects in 2021 but still plan on doing them to quilt show quality even if they never go to a show. It is the standard that I don’t want to leave. I will, of course, also make some cuddle quilts and a few clothes this year.
This Week’s Featured Quilt
Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015 Sashiko designs stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on Peppered Cotton. I digitally painted the individual flower appliques and printed them on cotton, and then arranged them in a close approximation of arranging Ikebana with real flowers. The vase is made from some hand dyed silk I had on hand. I then appliqued them with Monopoly. This is the perfect example of what I was just talking about. I did take a hand Sashiko class from the great Pepper Cory and I loved it, but I have a very hard time hand stitching Sashiko now. But here I used digitized Sashiko, some of which I digitized myself, and picked threads and fabrics close to what I knew were very Japanese in nature. Decades ago, I lived in Kanazawa for three years and had some wonderful helpful friends. This quilt was created while thinking about this time in my life. You can see a better image of this on my website gallery. I am still waiting my coming new computer after the great computer crash a week ago, so I must use what is available here on my laptop. Here’s the link to the gallery page where you can find this.
Sew happy everyone! Join me in advancing our understanding of what we can do with the machines we have. Cheers everyone.
I hand stitched this little crewel scene using wool threads years ago. It has a special meaning for me because I stitched it during my frequent visits with my mother in the months that lead up to her death in 1998. My youngest son took it and had it framed in a museum quality acid free framing to protect it.
I love both hand and machine stitched fabric art. I do most, or nearly all my stitching by machine now, but that was not always the case. I have done some rather beautiful, even if I do say so myself, embroidery, cross stitching, and crewel work by hand. I used to d0 a lot of hand stitching when I made wedding dresses and couture tailored garments decades ago. But I am now in my 70s and my hands get really tired in short order when I am doing hand stitching.
Besides that, I have wonderful Berninas that can help me do some remarkable things and I love exploring all they can do. It seems to me possible to not only get an exquisite handmade look for some fabric art using my machines, but also to do some equally exquisite stitching that is clearly done by machine.
“Canterbury Silk”. This quilt won several ribbons in national competitions. All the stitching in this quilt is by machine.
I am not sure how much faster it is to do the stitching by machine, though I am sure it is a little bit. This is especially the case when I am trying to embellish with specialty threads and decorative stitching. To do that well, I often need to stitch slowly. I imagine that there are some of you who can stitch more rapidly with super results, but I totally enjoy the slow stitching around appliques, for instance, or embellishing parts of an especially nice quilted wall art piece. It is as enjoyable to me as the hand stitching ever was.
Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015 Sashiko designs machine stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton on to Peppered Cottons. Appliqued with Monopoly. I love how the Sashiko came out on this piece.
High end machine work requires planning, testing, practice, and a fair amount of knowledge, but it is sometimes thought to be less artistic 0r less appreciated somehow than hand done work. While I love hand work, I disagree with this point of view. I think both are important and can be exquisite and admired as something special. I also think it is wonderful what can be accomplished by machine.
Sew happy everyone! Have a delightful Merry Christmas!
I have been having fun in my studio this past few days while I worked on my wool applique sampler. I got all the pieces appliqued and have started the fun part of adding decorative stitches to turn them from simple shapes into interesting flowers.
Here is the same applique after I added some decorative stitching using wool blend 12 weight Aurifil thread.
I may decide to add more stitching to this particular flower. It was helpful to me to see it in the photograph. Somehow pictures of my work gives me a different perspective. I may decide, instead, however, to use some free motion quilting to add more details to this flower.
Here is a little closer view of the flower heads and flower stem that I also embroidered with some decorative stitching.
Sew it is a layered process, and while I have a general idea of what it will look like when finished in my mind’s eye, I make adjustments and changes from my original concept as I go.
In any case, I find this phase of the project really fun as each addition changes the appliques and I see my original concept emerge into reality. The last thing I will do before sandwiching and quilting it is to add some patches of grass and maybe a bug or animal around in the grass. The quilting should also make its own addition to the overall interest of this little wall hanging. I am considering how to finish the edge. Should I bind it in cotton or edge stitch it with some heavy weight specialty thread, or even try out that yarn couched edging that Nina McVeigh demonstrated in one of the Bernina videos on The Quilt Show?
One of the useful little bits I learned in the process was how well the Schmetz Super non stick needles helped solve the problem I was having with the wool felt that I had fused on with Steam-a-Seam 2 sticking to the needle. It was getting balls of felt fuzz climbing up the needle until I switched needles. Then I had no more problem with that so far. I was rather astonished.
I’m not sure you can really see the various stitches in this picture, but you can see how I added the numbers of the stitches just above each stitchout.
I made a little test piece to help me decide which decorative stitches I want to use. I also tested the way I stitched them out. For this I used the machine automatic knot it will stitch out if you ask it to both at the beginning and the end. I also stitched them with a specific number of repeats and then just stitched using a slow set of the speed and the start button, rather than the foot pedal. This allows for the machine to stitch out a very even pace, which makes decorative stitches more beautiful.
So when I set it up to go around those circles, I set it to stitch one repeat without turning (basically hands off), and then turn the fabric before doing the next repeat. It makes for a very nice embroidered stitch, almost like good hand embroidery, especially when using a nice thick thread like Aurifil Lana wool blend 12 weight thread.
One thing I learned about working with all this wool and wool thread is that I need to clean my machine a lot more often because both the fabric and the thread produce lint down in the bobbin area of the machine. It is well worth it though, because it is lovely.
I have a long ways to go before I finish this sampler, but I am really having fun with it. I am also video taping here and there as I go.
Sew happy everyone. I encourage you to try your hand at wool applique by machine. In just a few weeks I will come out with my three part video class on YouTube that will use this very sampler and the techniques I am talking about here. I will have a free downloadable handout here to go with it. That effort is progressing nicely finally. I decided to produce all three videos before I posted the first one. Cheers everyone. Happy Advent!
I digitized this olive tree from a non copyrighted photograph and stitched it out on black nylon tulle with wash away stabilizers. I then removed the stabilizers and tore away the visible tulle. What you see here is the tree ready to applique to my quilt Noel. It would have produced a great deal of thread pull had I stitched it directly to the quilt top.
Heavy machine stitching always pulls the fabric and if done directly on a project can leave the surrounding fabric unacceptably ruffled. Some of this can be dealt with on shrinkable natural fabrics, such as cotton or wool but not so much silk, by steaming the area upside down on a wool ironing mat or a thick pad of towels. Polyester fabrics will not respond to steam shrinking attempts and is possible to damaged it with the amount of steam one might try to use. Really heavily stitched motifs are almost impossible to steam out regardless of fabrics except wool, but it may be possible to “quilt that out” in some cases though it is not easily accomplished and doing this is very stressful in any case.
Such headaches and fails can be avoided by stitching off-project and appliqueing the finished motif on to the project background. If you do it right, it is most often very difficult to tell that it is an applique and not directly stitched, but even if you can tell, it is preferable to the pull.
So there are several ways to approach this that usually involve machine work inside a hoop and wash away stabilizer. I have a relatively large collection of embroidery hoops I collected over the years. I found most of them can work for machine work, but some are just too wide to easily get under the presser foot. There are hoops that are designed for working with a machine, and can be used for hand embroidery. I find a 7 or 8 inch hoop works well. Here are a couple of models I like:
three plastic spring hoop set I have had a set similar to this for years, and this may be the same set. I don’t know for sure, but it works well for free motion embroidery and is thin enough to slide under the foot. It is also easy to adjust the area in the hoop when you need to without taking it out from under the foot of the machine.
three wood traditional style set. This is .6 inches high, I think this will happily slide under the foot if you angle it a bit. I do not have this set myself although I do use a couple of very old wood hoops that I have had around for a while and they are .5 inches wide and work ok with the machine.
Here is the setup for free motion embroidery. I do also add the Super Slider on the machine to make it work really smoothly when I am using my domestic machine. I find I really don’t need the slider when I do the embroidery on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm, which I find I prefer now that I have that option.
Here I am stitching a horse’s tail for my quilt Canterbury Knight using the method described herein.
Here is the tail on the horse on the quilt. There is not enough contrast to see it well, but after it was quilted it showed up fairly well.
Horse with newly groomed tail
And the final finished quilt that has won several nice ribbons.
Surprisingly, I found when working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm that the heavily weighted gripper rings designed for quilting work wonderfully as hoops for free motion embroidery when using that wonderful machine. I don’t have a link for that, but they are available probably for order at a Bernina dealership. I balked at the price, but waited for a really good sale and I really really like them. I know you can get a cheaper black set without the open space on the rings for sliding on, but I love the lovely red of the rings as well as the little open spaces. For these, you just put the layers together and the first thing you do is stitch around the layers well away from your design to hold them together much as you would do for a quilt sandwich. These would probably not work well on a domestic machine, even the machines with larger harps, but they are divine on my sitdown longarm for both quilting and embroidery.
So I set up my motif build with a layer of heavy clear washaway stabilizer, such as OESD badge master, or Sulky Super Solvy on the bottom, on which I have lightly marked the design guidelines with a Crayola Fine Line Washable Marker. On top is a layer of nylon tulle to hold everything together even if it isn’t a stand-alone design. I find when it is finished and I soak away the stabilizer, the tulle can be gently torn along the edge of the stitched motif and not seen at all once appliqued.
If the motif also includes a fill of applique fabrics, I cut the shape and glue them to the tulle with washable glue stick and that is the first thing I stitch around to hold them in place before beginning. Then I hoop the whole thing together with the inside hoop on top so the fabric/stabilizer bundle is flat on the bottom.
Now I use the same kind of sandwich if I am doing digitized in-the-hoop machine embroidery motifs. Here’s one I made that way that also went on Noel.
I digitized this star and then embroidered it off the quilt using the method described herein.
After I soak off the washaways and let it almost dry but is still a little damp, I will press it upside down on my wool ironing pad with a light weight cotton ironing cloth over it. It then can be basted down in place on your project and attached with a narrow zig-zag or free motion off and on the motif using the same thread you used at the edge of the motif. I usually also stitch inside the motif just a little where appropriate to give it some concept of having been stitched directly in place and highlight some of the shaping. It doesn’t take much stithing to make it wonderful.
You would be amazed what you can do with this method by just adding that little bit of tulle and over=stitching a tiny bit after placement on the main background. Then you won’t have the ruffles. You can also use this method to make some interesting trapunto designs.
Video Update: My oldest son decided he needed to provide some significant help for my video making and asked me to pull the original video on Wool Applique by Machine. Don’t worry folks, if you were interested in my videos, they will happen and will be far better than they would have without his assistance. I will certainly announce the videos when they are available. This should not be very long from now…maybe a week or two for the first one, but I will let you know. I have a long list of vlogs and video classes I am planning.
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
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
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.
Sew earlier this week I got everything ready to make my first video and then discovered I was missing a cord to connect the little monitor I need to my Sony Handicam camera. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think identifying cords needed in the computer world is the easiest thing to do, Thank GOODNESS I have my own family geek squad. Hahaha. My son David helped me to identify what I needed and looked through our huge collection of cords, but we didn’t have the right one. So I ordered it and it is supposed to come today. If it comes, I hope then to get my first video on YouTube sometime next week. I don’t know how long this whole video making and editing will take me, but my tentative plan is to put one up a week at first.
Sew I got all ready to make the first item for my book/video wool project. It is called “Simple Shapes” and it is a small wall hanging, and I really invite you to join me in making one yourself. I will be providing all kinds of help here and even videos demonstrating it.
For several years now I have had an Accuquilt Go! cutter, and have, over the years, collected a fair number of their dies. I find the dies are wonderful for this particular kind of project, and also I cut all my bindings and borders on it. It’s much more accurate than I am…LOL.
I also use it to cut my 8 inch blocks I use for cuddle quilts. I used it when I work with my grandson, who made a couple of simple quilts with my help several years ago, and he was able to cut his own quilt pieces safely. It’s just a very helpful tool in my studio. Yesterday it took me only about half an hour to cut out all the pieces I need for this, and most of that time was because I am backing them with Steam-a-Seam fusible before I cut them, and I had to get that ironed on. This makes the wool feed through the cutter so nicely and hold the pieces nicely in place. I have other methods to do this too, but this one is my favorite.
However, if you don’t have a cutting machine and don’t want to buy one right now but want to follow along with me and try your own hand at wool applique by machine, I have made a pdf pattern with simple shapes that you can download and use. You can find the pdf file on my Aids and Links page on this blog (see the links at the top of this blog). I know you could draw your own, but why bother, since I have them all put together in the free pattern. They are not necessarily the same as those on my dies, but close enough.
Sew I cut out a bunch of shapes from fun several colors of the wool felt I talked about in my last blog. As I promised, I also looked around and found you can get satisfactory quality sets from Amazon if you want to make one of these wall hangings yourself. I would love to see you join me in this fun project. I recommend you get four sets and you will have enough for several projects. Just click on the links below.
I also found a melton wool blend in black that would make a nice background, or you can use a nice solid color quilting cotton for the background. If you get a single yard the wool, it is large enough to make two or even three small wool projects, because these are small little jewels of projects and the yard is 58 inches wide. These would make nice Christmas or other celebration presents.
Sew now that I have all these simple shapes cut out I will arrange them in a flower arrangement of some sort. Follow this blog in the future to see what to do. Note that I also cut some stems and vines about 1/4 inches wide and some leasves shaped from the felt that are not on my pdf but I did use the stems and leaves die on the Accuquilt site also.
I will talk more about what to do with all these shapes in future blogs, but you might guess if you look again at my last blog where I show a lot of the test piece I did. I will be demonstrating this on my video, assuming I am successful in getting that done. LOL I will be linking to my video in my next blog probably.
Test and practice piece
Sew happy everyone! Teach someone to sew or quilt or at least encourage sewists and other fabric wizards you know. Even the most advanced folks need encouragement. Sending you all hugs!