Tips for Better Applique · Wool appliqué

What do you do when you come to the end of blanket stitching?

This is a blog post for folks who are so new to blanket stitching by hand that they aren’t quite sure how they should tie a knot in their thread. Go ahead and admit it, I won’t tell. You’re in beginnerville babay. 

I remember when I was taking my first stitches at hand blanket stitching. Uncertainties were everywhere.

How do I tie my starting knot, is there a right way? How do I start stitching, where do I start, do I just stick my needle in anywhere?  Oh grasshopper, I have so much to teach you.

tell ya what. I learn better by watching and thought you might too. I am sitting on y front porch is afternoon while the kids are napping and I thought “I should video myself as I start and end my blanket stitching.  So that’s just what I did.

I stepped into the house, grabbed my iPad, propped it up and hit record. Here is my totally unscripted (uh, obviously) video of how to finish when you come to the end of blanket stitching.  Click here for the first saga on “how to begin blanket stitching” to see how I begin by taking that first stitch.  Those first and last stitches are where I had the most questions and I bet you do too, so grab some popcorn and watch the flicks.

and please leave me a comment.  And if ya like the video or found it helpful please please rate it. That will help others find it too.

if you think it stinks, um well, maybe don’t rate it.  But do tell me because I don’t want to put out crappy videos.

And thanks for peeking in.

Tips for Better Applique

You Can’t Machine Blanket Stitch Wool? . . . . or Can You?

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:

  1. 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.
    Patch Abilities Essentials #1 collection includes 12 most often used variegated colors in Valdani 100% COLORFAST No.12 pearle cotton. Get them 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!

    Essentials #1 collection in 35wt machine thread. Woo Hoo!! this thread rocks!

    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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

just the star is stitched here
after I’ve machine blanket stitched the star and circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

  • Speed.
  • 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.

Tips for Better Applique

“F” Applique! Which Fusible Web Do I Use?

Trick #2 – Which Fusible Web Do I Use?
Make the “F” stand for “FUN”

My tippy top tricks for making fusible applique fun.

Applique (fusible, that is) should not be hard or hated.  Definitely not hated.  And if you’re going to use an “F” word to describe it, let it be only 3 letters, F. U. N.   Having designed over 200 applique patterns, and machine appliqued nearly all of them, I am pretty stinkin’ good at it.  Practice does make perfect better (let’s not use the word perfect for now) and I would love to share with you the tricks I’ve developed/discovered. . . by the way, these are in no specific order of importance.

Trick #2 – Which Fusible Web Do I Use?  
“Oh fusible web, you are my “applique BFF””.  And no, that’s not the basting spray fumes getting to me.  I love fusible web and without it, I personally would not be the self-proclaimed applique queen.  One of our readers left us a comment about their “f” in applique, and it said “trying to choose a fusible that works”.  So, I’m addressing this topic in today’s tippy top trick.

Here in my sewing studio, I do one type of applique only and it involves using a fusible web.   It makes my applique projects much more fun than if I were not using it . .. . uh, in all honesty I don’t have a clue what I would use if it were not an available tool.  I should back up a bit and say there are other methods of “applique” that do not involve some type of fusible web, such as needle turn.  They are not my cup of tea, however, so I stick to what I enjoy and that’s fusible web.

So, let’s get down to the meat here.  Which FW do I use and why?  I use Heat ‘n Bond Lite.  The company does not pay me to any degree to say that, rather I’m telling you what I use 99% of the time.  I’ll list my reasons for loving this product:
Pros:
* it’s a paper backed FW which is easily drawn upon with a pencil, pen or marker
* the paper and the fusible substance do not separate when handling the product
* it only takes a few seconds to heat up and fuse to the fabric
it does not leave a gummy residue on your needle!  this should be a the top of the list
* they have a heavy version of it, which does not require stitching to keep your piece in place – I find it perfect for tiny, detailed pieces that are too tedious to stitch around – such as the stars and bats on these “Scary Buddies”.
Cons:
* fusible side is not tacky, so when you place your applique pieces on backgrounds, they will not stay in place until you fuse them with an iron . . . . . but this does not bother me, though I listed it as a con for your information

Other FW’s I have tried:  Steam a Seam – and I gave it a good shot, really I did.  Using it with wool applique, I thought it might offer an advantage over the H&B by having my pieces lightly stick to the background before I fused them with my iron.  But, I personally did not care for it.  My biggest complaint was that I had a gummy feel to every needle I stitched through it, hand or machine.  And, I thought it took forever to heat it up and fuse with my iron, and that was accounting for the extra thickness of wool.  So . . . . the only FW I have found that works for me is Heat n Bond Lite.  The bolt even says it’s “made in USA”.  I’ve no idea if other FW’s are, but it’s another “pro” to add to this self-proclaimed applique queen’s list.

Sew, which fusible web do I use?  Heat n Bond Lite.

I want to know what makes applique fun or frustrating for you.

Please share your “F”s about applique – be it “fun” or not-so.   Leave a comment for a chance to win a “Scary Buddies” pattern.  We’ll draw at least 1 winner on Wednesday Feb 24th from all the “F” comments.  Ha Ha.  The more “f” comments we receive, the more patterns we’ll give away! So share and comment and get everyone else to share their applique “f”s.

Ooh Ooh! We’ve added “Pinterest” pin buttons to every item on our website. So, please feel free to pin everything you love and wish for. Oh go ahead and get pin happy.  Pin pin pin pin pin.

Tips for Better Applique

My tippy top tricks for making fusible applique fun – TRICK #1

logo-squareApplique (fusible, that is) should not be hard or hated.  Definitely not hated.  And if you’re going to use an “F” word to describe it, let it be only 3 letters, F. U. N.   Having designed over 200 applique patterns, and machine appliqued nearly all of them, I am pretty stinkin’ good at it.  Practice does make perfect better (let’s not use the word perfect for now) and I would love to share with you one of the tricks I’ve developed/discovered

 

Trick #1 – Don’t start, stop, start, stop, start, stop.

When you have a shape that has other pieces that overlap it here and there, you don’t have to stop and tie off when you come to the overlapping piece.  Let me explain using my little bird on a branch below.  Here’s how I appliqued around the entire branch without stopping and moving my needle to the next point, leaving threads to clip and tie off.

Little Birdie is featured in 2 patterns: MM905 Little Birdie table runner & MM9T2 Tah-Dah Towels for Spring
Little Birdie is featured in 2 patterns: MM905 Little Birdie table runner & MM9T2 Tah-Dah Towels for Spring
  1. I started at the “start here” spot.  Using a blanket stitch, I stitched up to the pink flower (left) and stop
  2. Put my needle in the up position
  3. I switch my machine to a straight stitch (noting your blanket stitch settings so you won’t forget)
  4. Then, manually place my needle just to the left of the pink flower and straight stitched along (but not on) the pink flower until I reach where I begin blanket stitching the branch again, and stop
  5. Put my needle in the up position
  6. Switch my machine back to the blanket stitch (use same settings as before)

Continue blanket stitching on the branch. Then I came to the bird body which overlaps the branch just a bit.  Again, I follow these steps and continued this process all the way around the entire branch until I got back to the starting point.  My very rudamentary yellow drawings here, show my path.  Sorry about the chicken-scratch look, but you get the jist.

I love this trick because

  •  save time by not having to go back and clip all those pesky threads.
  • I don’t have several threads to clip, just 2 at the start/stop point (and 2 on the back side)
  • I don’t waste lots of thread that would be those long strands of loose threads if I were to stop, tie off (or backstitch), move my needle/project to the next spot, and begin stitching again.

It just looks sharper and cleaner.

??’s – One big question that will eventually pop into your brain is: “But won’t my stitches show around the flowers, especially if I’ve stitched over that same path 2 or more times?”
No.  As long as you stitch over the same path, they will not show up when you’re all finished.  In this particular case, the branch is the first thing I blanket stitched, so the blanket stitching around the flowers, leaves and bird covered it up.  But use common sense: if you stitch black thread on white fabric, then yeah the stitching will show up.  I use this trick ALL the time and I’ve NEVER once regretted it.  And, I’ve shown this trick to many guilds and then asked folks if they can see where I “did my trick”.  Nope.  No one can see it.  Tah Dah!  Success.

So, that’s one of my applique tricks.

Please share with me one of your “F”s about applique – be it “fun” or not-so.  I want to know what makes applique fun or frustrating for you.  Leave a comment below for a chance to win a “Little Birdie” pattern (table runner or towel).  We’ll draw a winner on Wednesday Feb 17th from all the “F” comments.  Ha Ha.

Tips for Better Applique

What Fusible Webbing Do I Use?

Ahhhh.  Fusible Webbing.  If you applique it is definitely your friend.  It’s certainly mine.  One question I receive often is, “what fusible webb do you prefer”.

Up to 4 weeks ago, I would tell you that I personally did not have a preference.  That’s because I’d never tried anything other than Heat n Bond.  Yep, never.  Anything else.  Ghee, maybe the company that makes that should read this post – ha ha.

Well, I did say up until 4 weeks ago didn’t I.  So what happened?  I ran my bolt clean out.  Empty.  Nada, nil, zilch.  Crap. (my actual word)

Towel-DecJanFeb

I needed to finish a couple new towel samples for this new pattern, but didn’t have the time to wait for a new bolt to be shipped in.  We quilters are antsy ya know.  No patience when we’re in the heat of a project.

So, I asked my Mom, (aka Merry of Merry’s Stitchins) if she had a little to spare.  She too had just had a hot run on the stuff and was nearly out.  Well, I couldn’t wipe her out, being she’s a retail quilt shop and all.  But she did offer me some “Steam a Seam”.  Hmm.  So I gave it a try.

It has what I think are pros:

  • it’s lighter than Heat n Bond, so my fabric isn’t as stiff
  • when you peel off the backing paper, it’s a bit sticky so it stays in place quite easily before you fuse it with an iron

But it had one pro that will probably keep me with my ‘ole reliable

  • it gummed up the needle on my machine – I had a little puff ball of lint that would build up quickly about half way up my needle and when I rubbed the needle to remove the puff, I could feel the needle was sticky

So, I now have a new answer to the question “what fusible webb do you prefer”.

My answer is Heat n Bond Lite.  It has all pros for me:

  • it does not leave a sticky film on your needle
  • it comes in Lite and Heavy – use the heavy if you don’t want to stitch around something as it fuses strong enough not to need it.

Yep.  That’s my answer and I’m stickin’ to it.

~Julie

p.s.  oh, did you like that towel pattern?  There’s one for every season.  Check them out here on our website

Tips for Better Applique

Guest on American Patchwork & Quilting radio

Whoo whee!  I’m preparing for my upcoming 12 minutes of fame.  ha.

1 APQPodCastBlogButtonsGuest250

On Monday April 6, 2015, I will be a guest on Pat Sloan’s radio show “American Patchwork & Quilting radio”.  I am honored and excited to be chatting it up with Pat, whom I admire.

American Patchwork and Quilting Pocast guests Julie Wurzer April 2015

During the show, I’ll share some tips for successful applique and how I choose fabrics for my designs. . . all while chattin’ with Pat.  She’s kind of a celebrity in my little world, so to be chattin’ it up with her will be . . . uh . . . awesome.  I mean, what else would it be?

So, enough of my jibber jabber.  Here’s how you can listen and I ruheely hope you will.  Afterall, I’ll be chattin’ with Pat.  Oh, did I already mention that?  Ha!

Click here to listen live!

  http://www.allpeoplequilt.com/magazines-more/quilting-podcast 

 So, please join Pat Sloan and I on

Monday April 6th, 2015