Friday, November 11, 2011


I've been playing around with applique a lot lately. Experimenting with new techniques, trying to figure out the best stitch length and density, best iron on interfacing, using fusible fleece, mixing fabrics and combining applique with hand embroidery.

I like the way that applique can elevate a simple t-shirt, blanket, stuffed animal, or pair of overalls to something really special.

Knee pad patches, I'm in love with these for fall and winter! I backed them with fusible fleece.

Here are a couple of things that I've found:

1) Simple shapes are the best. Lines, gradual curves (tiny circles can be on the tricky side)...Simple also tends to come out cleaner and more modern looking. It's amazingly easy to make your own designs and templates. There are great ideas out there on the web and you can adapt them to your own taste. Keep a disappearing marker handy so you can sketch then look at your proportions and adjust!

2) To "apply appliques," I use a zig-zag stitch (I have a Pfaff Expression 2.0) set on about 2.8 stitch length and 0.8 or 1.0 stitch density (0.8 if I'm using a fabric that frays really easily like seersucker or on clothing that will be washed and dried very often , 1.0 is fine for less fussy fabrics or purely decorative items. I have also found that turning my thread tension down to around 3 really helps avoid wrinkles. I'm sure this varies from machine to machine. I have also seen other sewists suggest turning down your presser foot pressure, I haven't done this but it makes a lot of sense. Just depends on the machine, practice on some scrap fabric first!

3) Use fusible interfacing to back each piece of your applique. I generally use a medium weight. This not only keeps your fabric from fraying as you stitch, but helps it to survive the long haul or the laundry! Sometimes I use a fabric gluestick to secure my applique to the background fabric before I start stitching, it's completely water soluble but really helps keep things in place!

4) It's really important that the background fabric does not stretch as you stitch on your applique and maneuver around any curves. Definitely use a stabilizer (either tear away--although be careful using this on things like corduroy because the fibers can stick to it and pull through the fabric...I have done this...ugh...) or a medium to heavy weight fusible interfacing--I usually snip off the excess after I'm done so the garment doesn't feel too stiff.  I find that as I'm maneuvering the layers of fabric through my machine, it's best if I keep my hands flat on top of the applique and be sure that I can always feel that piece of stabilizer behind my background fabric, never tugging just guiding and letting the feed dog do its work! This is especially important on fabrics like jersey.

This square is backed with fusible fleece instead of interfacing. It gave the applique some dimension after I "quilted" the squares in the middle. I used a 1.0 stitch density on this one, but I probably should have done 0.8 so that those stray threads didn't find their way through.

The tee below is done with a 0.8 stitch density, I'm happier with the results.

Just a couple more examples:

I'm loving the woodland animals these days. I'll have a tutorial coming up using these appliqued squares, but I can't tell you what they are yet!

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