Today on the Pretty in Pink Quilt Along, we are going to talk about applique. Many of you have asked about the method that I use – it’s called raw edge fusible machine applique, but feel free to substitute your own method.
For my method, the first thing you need to do is prepare your applique shapes. The fusible product that I use for this process is called Heat’n’Bond Lite. The key word here being Lite. Do not get the ultra – you will have a really tough time getting your needle through it and it will make your applique feel stiff as cardboard.
I like Heat’n’Bond Lite for several reasons –
1. It is lightweight
2. It’s very user-friendly. There are two sides to the product – a paper side and an obvious glue side. Several products have multiple layers, making them confusing to work with. Or you can’t tell what the glue side is until it is stuck to your iron.
3. It is locally available
What I don’t like about it?
1. You must follow the manufacturer’s instructions when ironing it to the fabric. If the instructions say 2 seconds, it means 2 seconds. If you over iron this product, the bonding agent in the glue no longer works. That’s quite a bummer when you have dozens of applique shapes cut and prepared, but they won’t stick to your quilt.
2. It is affected by age, heat and humidity, so don’t store it in your car and only buy the amount that you will use in a timely manner (not in 5 years).
There are many similar products on the market and I will be the first to admit that I don’t know that much about all of them. Do you have a favorite fusible? Please share in the comments, so we can all learn about them🙂
Once you have selected your fusible product, trace the applique shapes onto the paper side and fuse them to the back side of the appropriate color fabrics – see the flower petals below.
To save time, I only trace half the number of shapes needed, then cut a blank piece the same size (see the top of the above photo). Then, when I am cutting, I layer the two pieces together and cut. Double the shapes, in half the time!
My favorite scissors for cutting out applique shapes is this scissors by Elan (and sold by Moda/United Notions). The short blade makes for easy maneuvering when cutting appliqué shapes or threads.
I also love it because it is so comfortable in my hands. See why? Have you ever seen a scissors with a bendable handle? Love it!
My second favorite tool for cutting out applique shapes is a miniature rotary cutter. It doesn’t work for every applique shape, but it works great for the leaves on our project.
It also works great if you want to trim the glue out of the center of your applique shape. This helps reduce the stiffness that the fusible product adds. My goal is to have my applique feel and look like it’s hand-done, and if you are layering multiple applique shapes, then trimming out the glue will help keep your quilt nice and soft. Please note that the trimming must be done before you iron it to the back side of your fabric, as there is no way to get the glue out after it’s been fused to the fabric. You only need to leave about 1/4″ of glue, as it just need to the hold that applique shape to the quilt until you get the stitching done. For our project today, the applique is quite small and we aren’t doing any layering, so this step isn’t necessary.
Next, position the applique onto your pieced background (referring to the pattern cover for placement) and fuse in place. This is also the time that I add my ric rac and pin in place. That way I can make sure everything looks right.
Now we are ready to get our machines set up.
First, grab your open toe foot, if you have one. This foot has no bridge, so you will easily be able to see where you are going, how your stitches are aligning, and it will make those inside and outside points easily visible.
Secondly, find the thread that you want to use for your applique. I use a combination of two stitches and two different types of thread. In the photo below, you see the two stitches – a small zig zag and a blanket stitch.
I use regular weight, matching color thread for the zig zag. For the blanket, I use “Heavy” thread, made by Dual Duty. (It used to be called topstitching thread.)
It comes in several colors, but if they don’t have the color that you want, you can always use two strands of regular weight thread and thread them both through the machine at the same time. Like this:
You can also use a matching color thread as shown. This is great if you are new to applique and don’t want every little wobble to show.
There are several reasons why I like this heavier thread:
1 – It comes in several different colors – though I usually use black or dark brown. For today’s project I used navy.
2 – It’s heavier than regular thread so you applique looks like it’s been done by hand.
3 – The thickness of the thread makes it more forgiving. I find that when I applique with a lighter weight thread I have to be so careful not to get little Vs in my stitching – as shown in the photo below. The thicker thread just seems to fill them in.
You will also need the right needles to applique. You will need a #9 or #10 to do the small zig zag. This will help reduce the frayed edge that can sometimes happen when you machine applique around curved.
For the blanket stitch, you will need to use a larger needle to accommodate the heavier thread – a size #14 will do it. Usually, if you have skipped stitches or thread not going through the fabric nicely, you need to try a larger needle. You may also have crunchy happening down in the bobbin case as the threads gets caught up and a larger needle will help with that also.
Lastly , you will need to adjust your top tension. On my machine, the tension dial is right in the front and I loosen the top tension slightly – just enough so that the top thread is pulled slightly to the back side of the block. Just remember “Looser is a Lower number”, when it comes to tension. BTW – I do not touch the bobbin thread. There is no handy dial with numbers on the bobbine case, so unless you know how to adjust and fix it, I think it is best (and easiest) just to adjust the top tension.
That covers having your machine set up and your applique shapes prepared. When I come back, we will talk about how to applique by machine – such as maneuvering the inside and outside points. I will give you a few days to gather up the correct thread, needles, etc.
If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments and check back to see my answer.
Here are a few more shots of quilts that show a mix of the two stitches and thread color ideas.