Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Machine Applique Class - Part One

I am not an expert. I repeat, I am NOT AN EXPERT. I've done a good amount of appliqué; I've learned a lot from mistakes I've made, I’m sharing what I know.

Throw your ideas out the window of starting in with a project right away. We're going to discuss a few things and then practice a few things before really beginning. Just read along and don’t start anything yet.

Choose a pattern based on your skill level. A good example of this would be starting with something from Art to Heart instead of McKenna Ryan.


Do you see on the Art to Heart book cover all of the projects have larger pieces and on the McKenna Ryan pattern there are multiple layers and teeny tiny pieces? There will be time to work up to the super detailed stuff of McKenna Ryan later on. Don’t start with something with a million and one pieces; doing so would just be setting yourself up to hate appliqué.

I'm sure everyone has an appliqué pattern of some kind in their stash. Pull it out and let's take a look at a few things.

Is your pattern drawn backwards or do you need to reverse the image first? This is especially important with words and logos. I made myself a pattern a few years back; it was the Milwaukee Brewers Retro Logo. I had just finished tracing all 12 logos - 6 pieces for each one. Even had it ironed onto my fabric and quite a few of them cut out when I realized I never flipped my template over. Everything was going to be backwards when I went to iron it down. If your pattern looks the same as if you were looking at the finished product then you need to reverse the image first.

I would need to trace my pattern backwards like this:

To get this result:

Wait trace onto what??? What is she talking about?!?!

You are going to need to transfer your appliqué pattern onto a paper backed fusible web. I'm talking about Heat and Bond Light, Steam a Seam (Light, 2 or Regular), Wonder Under, something of that nature. There are different kinds on the market; new types are coming out all the time. Don't be afraid to try a new product.

For years I only used Heat and Bond Light because it was all that I knew about. It wasn't until recently that I started using some of the Steam a Seam products. Honestly you need to try them all little by little and decide what is going to work best FOR YOU, for the project that you're working on, for the time frame that you're working in, for what is available in your neck of the woods; etc. I could tell you what I like or dislike about each one but all that would accomplish would be you saying you're only going to use XYZ because some blog lady told you to. You need to develop your own tastes ladies.

The fusible that you choose needs to be one that you can sew through. For example, Heat and Bond has Ultra Hold in a red package or bolt end and Heat and Bond Light in a purple package or bolt end. The Red packaging is not meant to be sewn through. It's meant for ironing down; leaving it be, putting paint around it; etc. Don't decide that you're just going to try using it with your sewing machine because it's all you have. Seriously...don't do it. It's not meant for the machine. It's not worth it for your sanity sake or for your pocket book.

I typically just trace onto my fusible web by placing the pattern underneath it, I can generally see it well enough. I like using a mechanical pencil. If you can't see it well you might want to use a light box. I use the phrase Light Box rather loosely because there are tons of methods to use to go about this without having to spend any money. You can kill your shoulders by trying to trace while it's on your window. If you have a table that opens up to add leaves to it, you can make your own light box by pulling the table apart, popping one of your acrylic rulers on top and a lamp underneath. Get Cre8tive!

Once my designs are traced onto the fusible I break out a paper scissors and I rough cut around the designs. If I’m working on something with multiple colors I’ll group those together and then iron them onto the fabric using the least amount of fabric possible. I then rough cut around the pieces that I’ve ironed down so that I have a more manageable piece to cut out.

Be careful when you're ironing your fabric to your fusible. One slip of the iron and it's into your fusible and next thing you know you've got gunk on the bottom of your iron and you're dragging it all over your project, your next project, your ironing board cover. Spend a few bucks; they sell hot iron cleaner in the stores in a tube. Have it on hand; that stuff is a lifesaver. Also, don't crank your iron up as high as it can go when working with fusible. You're going to want to actually read the directions to see what temperature you should be working with. For example, with Heat and Bond if your iron is too hot the fusible web actually melts into your fabric becoming hard and difficult if not impossible to appliqué around. I once spent 8 hours trying to go around Santa's beard...I speak from experience here. After you have a few of these mishaps it might just be worth it to buy a cheap $10 iron and use it just for fusible projects. Notice that I didn't say use an old iron? Yeah, I did that...but the temperature was way off, it became too hot and there was no controlling it. That was part of the problem with Santa's Beard and why it took me 8 hours to appliqué down.

If you really want to avoid gunking up your iron you can use an appliqué pressing sheet. It has a few different uses. You can put it over your fabric and fusible web to iron them together. You can later assemble your pieces on the sheet and then peel them off as one larger unit to iron down to your fabric. If you get any fusible on the sheet, once it cools you just wipe it off.

Once you cut your appliqué pieces out, iron them onto your backing fabric. I typically cut my backing fabric to be about an inch larger than the finished project. I cut my background down to size once I am finished appliquéing.

Stabilizer - Is it really necessary? If you're saying probably not then I'd bet you haven't dabbled too far into the arena of appliqué. I'm a firm believer in it. What kind you're going to need to use depends on the depth of your project. When I did the phrases for Ethan's nursery there were so many letters so I needed to go with a more heavy duty stabilizer than I normally use. I had no idea what to use so I showed Julie the problem I was having and she recommended Sulky's Totally Stable instead of the Stitch and Tear that I had been using. How do you know what to use? A lot of it is going to be trial and error. I can use stitch and tear for most projects. It just keeps your stitches looking nice and even and if you're satin stitching you won't get the horrible tunneling effect. Don't have any stabilizer on hand? Get cre8tive. Pull out a coffee filter, use a sheet of copy paper, a paper towel the ideas are endless. It’s worthwhile to spend a bit of time on the Sulky web site just learning what is out there.

Needles – Most people don’t give their sewing machine needles any thought at all. If you’re in that camp, it’s ok to stay there until you begin having problems. Don’t go out and buy a load of needles just because XYZ blog lady told you to. However, I do have a few recommendations.

  • Topstitch needles – Similar to Sharps in their point but has an extra large eye and a large groove to accommodate thicker topstitch thread. Helps prevent loops from forming on the underside of fabric or shredding and breaking of the thread. You’re not just sewing through two layers of fabric like when you’re piecing a top; you’re going through 2 or more layers of fabric AND glue.

  • Metallic needles – Also a sharp point, also a larger eye and a longer scarf (the groove above the eye.

  • Embroidery needles – have a special design in the scarf and eye to prevent shredding and breakage common to fine decorative threads.

Bobbin Thread – You’re going to want to use a bobbin thread that is strong and thin. While I’ve used Bottom Line by Superior in my bobbin for quilting it never dawned on me until recently to use it with applique. It’s fabulous!! If you don’t have any Bottom Line just use a thread that is the same weight or thinner than the top thread.

Top Thread – Honestly, you can use whatever works for you. Over the years I have accumulated a very wide variety of threads in all different types. Cotton, Polyester, Rayon, Metallic, Wool, Viscose. I typically choose based off of what color looks best and then I may hunt through my stash until I find a lighter weight version of it. That being said, I prefer to use Polyester or Cotton for Applique. I recently tried Bottom Line thread for the top and that works fabulously too. If it’s a thread that you’ve never appliquéd with before you might want to take some practice stitches, not only on fabric but on a fabric/fusible web combo. If it turns out to be problematic, ditch it for that project sooner than later. Don’t torture yourself. Keep in mind that thread is wound two different ways; stacked and figure eight. It can be put on your machine two different ways, horizontal and vertical. Try changing the location of your thread and the way it comes off of the spool. There are times when a coffee mug behind my machine with the spool rattling around inside of it is the best method. (Understanding how and why thread is wound the way it is, is a topic for a completely different tutorial.)

Applique Foot - You want to use a foot that is going to give you visibility. You can see where you're going but on the bottom of the foot there is a little cut out area for your dense stitching to pass through. There is also a closed toe applique foot. Any foot in your stash will do the job but if you already own one, this is the foot you should be using - one of these probably came with your machine. If you have a foot pressure guage on your machine you are going to want to loosen it so that you can move your fabric moves more freely under your foot.

Appliqué foot Open Toe Version

Clear All-Purpose / Applique Foot for Low Shank  04174 Closed Toe Version


Living on the Spit said...

This was a fabulous first class and very informative. I can not wait to go home and practice. I think I have some larger pieces I can practice with. My mother used to use pre-school coloring book pages to get a lot of her applique ideas from. I so wish I was paying attention when she was making overlays for smocked dresses.

I love what you are doing here.

Can we have a show and tell in a week or so?


BitnByAQuiltingBug said...

This rocks, Jen! You are so cool to do this. I read all the way to paragraph twelve, had to screw it up with (and I quote)"You're going to want to actually read the directions". I had to take a break at that point cause I can't read and laugh at the same time. Ok...I'm better now. I can read the directions, I just usually choose not to. I will for this! I have a teflon sheet for applique that I bought so ... I'll work on this on Sunday afternoon. Gathering the stuff.....
Thanks again!

cre8tivecrys said...

Great tutorial! Very imformative and I learned a great deal.

bingo~bonnie said...

great, great, GREAT information!!! HTanks for sharing. I took a machine applique class back in 1999 but never finishe my project... and have forgotten about all I learned. I'm saving your post so I can relearn somethings when I find that silly snata I stared way back when. ;)

Love from Texas! ~bonnie