Why don’t we think about machine stitching on wool?
A while back, I had 24 wool models to whip up before Quilt Market and I had, well let’s just say I was pressed for time. . . . and that is an understatement.
So, I began thinking “how can I speed up the applique stitching process?” Because unless I were to magically clone myself or find a few hard-core appliquers such as myself, I had to figure out a shortcut.
It seemed impossible. I, being an optimist know that it’s only “impossible” until someone does it.
I began a somewhat frantic internet search for “machine wool applique”. My search turned up a few videos of people actually using their sewing machine to blanket stitch wool, but they also seemed to be telling me that they had more secrets or tips up their sleeve and they weren’t including these obviously highly valuable tips in this particular “free” video. Ugh. That disgusts me, I gotta tell ya.
So, I turned off the damn computer, turned around and dove into the unknown realm of “machine applique on wool”. Can you hear Twighlight Zone music?
Dig in and give it a go. That’s how I approach a challenge. Dig in. What’s the worst that will happen . . . . that it won’t work? What’s the best that could happen . . . . that I discover a faster method to get my models completed? YAY – I like the sound of this!
I dug in. And now, for the low low fee of FREE! (pooh on you, stupid sales funnels) I’m going to give you a list of all the materials and things I considered as I dove in:
- Thread? I can’t run the No.12 pearle cotton (used when hand stitching on wool) thru my sewing machine (it’s too thick), so what do I use? I typically used 50wt cotton thread (various colors) to machine blanket stitch all my cotton models, but I want the stitching on the wool to look as close to “hand stitched” as possible, so I needed to use a thread weight that fell somewhere between the 50wt and the No. 12 pearle cotton. For all of my wool projects, I use Valdani No.12 pearle cotton in variegated colors. Here’s a picture of the colors I most often use. The colors look a bit bright here, but trust me, the red is red and the rest of the colors are not as bright as they appear here.
It’s a pearle cotton collection called: Patch Abilities Inc Essentials Collection (click to purchase). These colors are perfect but can I get them in a machine weight thread? So I called my good gals at Valdani and inquired. GREAT NEWS! Nearly all of the colors in my Essentials collection come in a 35wt machine thread. YAHOO!
I was ecstatic. I could see a glimmer of light at the end of my tunnel. I ordered a set of the colors in 35wt and impatiently waited for them to arrive from Canada. It only took a few days, thankfully. When the package arrived I looked like a kid at Christmas tearing open the package, unpacking the threads and put them to use immediately on my sewing machine. . . . . . . . . . . . are you on the edge of your seat? Read on my friend, to see if it worked.
- Sewing machine settings like tension .. . . . did I need to adjust these? No, not for me and my machine which is a Viking 500 Computer. Some of those videos I watched said they had to adjust the tension of their machines but never did say to what, so I just started stitching to test the water. I do not adjust my tension. Your machine may run differently, so check in your owner’s manual (if you still have it), or just dig in and give it a go. If your bobbin thread shows on the top side or if your stitches pull down into the wool too far, then you’ll need to play with the tension. Don’t ask me more details than that as your machine is not the same as mine . . .. and I just plain don’t know. HA.
- Bobbin thread? Can I use any thread in the bobbin if I’m using a heavier thread on the top? Um, this again is best answered by you digging in and see what it looks like. For me, I started out thinking I should have the same weight of thread in the top and bobbin. I stitched nearly all my models this way. Then yesterday, I was machine blanket stitching on wool and forgot to change the bobbin to some of the 35wt thread . . . . . and the stitching looks the same. Huh? Who’da thunk. So, again my answer to you is “dig in and give it a go”. I’m channeling Richard Branson a bit on this advice, but it’s the best advice.
- Stitch settings? This is where I make adjustments. Widen my stitching to nearly double of what I use on cotton. For instance, if I would set the width (cross over stitch) at 2, I’ll widen it to 3.5 or 4. Stitch length (the straight part of the stitch) I lengthen by 1 or 2 increments. If I stitch cotton at a length of 2, I’ll lengthen it to a 3 or 3.5 for wool. My goal is to make my machine blanket stitch look as organic as I can. Machine blanket stitching on wool WILL NOT look just like hand stitching, but I have found I can get close.
- Corners and points? I have succumb to sacrificing the hand stitched look when it comes to the corners and points because you have limited control over stitch placement with the machine. I can, however, manually adjust the needle position and direction of the crossover stitch a bit. When I’m hand stitching I put a diagonal stitch at the corners and points, so I do this on the machine too by taking my time and making manual adjustments where needed.
That about sums it up on the points I considered when I dove in to machine appliqueing my wool. Here is a small list of pros and cons to hand stitching vs. machine stitching wool applique.
I thought I’d show you some of the actual machine stitched wool blocks.
These little blocks are a new design I’m working on. I machine stitched these little cuties yesterday which took me a total of approximately 30 minutes.
Pros to machine stitching wool
- Save time.
- Uniform stitches – I didn’t think about this one until just now, but I know that getting uniform stitching by hand is a pain point with lots of you.
- Speed – it’s so dang nice I had to say it twice
Cons to machine stitching wool
- Stitching does not look hand stitched or organic – it’s close, but it’s not the same
- Limited control over stitch placement
- Stitches sink down into wool more than they would if hand stitching
- Too uniform of stitches (again, pertains to not having an organic look)
So . . . . that’s what I learned about machine blanket stitching on wool. It works! You have to be willing to sacrifice the hand stitched look for speed, but it works.
For the love of Pete, I am stumped as to why machine stitching on wool is not a usual option that we think of . . . . perhaps I’m a trail blazer.
Do you have any experience with machine appliqueing on wool? I’d love to hear your comments. And I’d especially love to hear what drives you crazy about wool. Are you afraid to try a wool project – – tell me why?
I just love to hear what keeps you from digging in. Please tell me, maybe I can help.