Thursday, June 21, 2012

Improving Applique Techniques -- Thin Fabrics, Blind Stitch, Whip Stitch and Machine Stitch

Improving Applique Techniques -- You Can Create Quality Quilting or Crafts Applique

Appliqué pillows, quilt blocks or craft pieces available for purchase at crafts fairs and thrift stores are sometimes inferior quality. The crafter has done a nice job, but has used fabrics or techniques that make the work look less than professional. Here’s a blue background with white flower petals and a yellow center. The crafter has spent hours on the handwork, but it has several “issues” that you’ll want to avoid. 

Appliqué of a flower on blue background. White petals show through yellow center.
Thin Fabric Affects the Appearance

Fabric Too Thin

When you’re choosing fabrics to appliqué, pick heavy cottons or fabrics that won’t show the background through. If the crafter had used the blue for petals on a white background, the design would be more attractive. The white wouldn’t show through the blue petals the same way the blue background shows through the white petals. Then, there’s the center. The yellow fabric is polyester and cotton, too thin for the appliqué. As a result, the white petal parts show through the yellow center. 

REMEDY: You can speed up your appliqué process and keep the background from showing through by using double layers of fabric for the petals. Cut two of each and match fabric front to fabric front. Stitch around the petal, leaving an opening for turning. The easy way to stitch this is with the sewing machine. Turn the petal and press around the edge. Attach the doubled fabric petal in place and whip stitch, blind stitch or machine stitch in place. You don’t have to turn edges as you go, you have a double layer of fabric and your finished product looks professional.

Double applique technique with lace edge used for pocket here
Double Fabric Applique with Lace Edge
Double applique with lace edge easy to make and attach
Sew Applique Right Sides Together and Turn
Another “fix” for the yellow center that shows background fabric through like this is to use batting to “stuff” it like you would for a biscuit quilt. Open one edge and use a knitting needle to push the batting into the center. Once you make a puffy center, you’ve covered the background fabric as well as made your appliqué look 3-dimensional.

Use Blind Stitch for Whip Stitch

Whipstitch is an acceptable stitch for appliqué, but the blind stitch is more attractive. 

applique techniques blind stitch for attaching applique
Blind Stitch Doesn't Show Like Whipstitch
REMEDY: If you aren’t familiar with the blind stitch, you can learn it in a jiffy and use it for your next appliqué. With an appliqué placed on the background fabric, start the blind stitch by pulling the threaded needle through the appliqué edge at the fold. Take a tiny stitch to anchor the thread, and another tiny stitch to catch the back fabric. Bring the needle through the back fabric and slide it through the folded edge of the appliqué for about 1/4 inch. Catch the background fabric again and bring the needle forward to the appliqué, slide it through the folded edge, and you’re making fast tracks with the blind stitch.

Alternative Stitches

sewing machine zigzag stitch for applique
Machine ZigZag Works for Applique, Too
If you want to machine stitch your appliqué, you can work with a small zigzag stitch. This Dresden plate block shows how easy it is to use the sewing machine to finish the edge of the appliqué. This one doesn’t have the edge turned under before zigzagging. It lies flat and is easy to sew, but after many washings, the fabric will fray along the edge. If you want to make your appliqué last, double fabric and turn as discussed or turn all raw edges under before stitching.

Quilting and Applique

You don’t have to be a perfectionist to have fun crafting, but you’ll want to avoid major goofs. Polyester and cotton fabrics are often too thin for appliqué or other quilting projects because the seams show through. One-hundred percent cotton has been the choice of quilters for years because it looks best and it’s easier to quilt. That brings us to another way you can improve your quilting and appliqué. Don’t use polyester and cotton sheeting fabric for anything to do with your crafts. It’s very difficult to quilt or hand-sew sheeting fabric I learned in high school. I took two sheets and made a coverlet for a 4-H project, with a diamond design overall. It was some of the most difficult handwork I’ve ever done. It wasn’t worth it, even for a blue ribbon -- but once I had it started, I couldn’t start over. Learn from my mistakes.

See you soon!