Friday, January 20, 2017

Machine Applique - Tips and Tricks - Part 2

Last week we focused on supplies that will make your machine applique life easier. Today I’m going to share some of the tips and techniques that I’ve learned through the years. If you missed last week’s article, you can find it HERE. So, let’s begin on the next article. 

Before tracing around your appliques, make sure you are following the designer’s instructions about the tracing process. Some will already have the pattern pieces inverted, while others like myself, instruct you to place the pattern pieces ink side down onto the paper side of the paper backed fusible webbing. You don’t want any letters, numbers, or other images to be going in the wrong direction. 

When cutting out your pattern pieces and your paper backed fusible webbing, I find that you get best results when cutting exactly on the line or at the inside of the line (still touching the line). Some pieces are so precise that if you cut your pattern pieces outside the line, they may not fit project precisely, and it makes it much easier to become sloppy. 

When fusing the applique pieces to the background fabric, be sure to look at the designers photograph and/or illustration to see which edges of the pieces are the ones that overlap other pieces. 

When you have designs that have several tiny pieces that are similar in shape and size, it helps to mark or number the backs of them on the paper backed fusible webbing, then don't tear it away until you are ready to fuse them. That way they all end up where they belong, and they won't get mixed up!

It always helps to gather up your thread and bobbins in advance and keep them by your machine. Let’s say I have green, red, and blue thread. I always do all one color first, then move onto the next color. I also save any straight stitching or accent stitching for last. I don’t want to change the settings on my machine mid-way through applique because I want all my stitches to be exact and even. I'm afraid if I switch stitches, I won't be able to get my stitches exactly where they were before.

Before beginning any stitching on my project, I do a test stitching on a piece of fabric that is the same type as the one that I’ll be stitching on, and has the same stabilizer I’ll be using. Sometimes it takes a few adjustment on the sewing machine setting to get the stitches the size and length I want them. I always have several of these “practice pieces” on hand.

It’s also fun to experiment with different stitch designs. For my appliques, the stitches I use most are the blanket stitch, the straight stitch, and a loose zig-zag stitch. Occasionally I’ll use some of the fancier stitches my machine has to offer as well. When I have an applique that has really tiny pieces, I find that the straight stitch on my machine works best because the other stitches are too big and overwhelming.

Always keep your needle at the outer edge of the applique piece. When beginning your stitching, manually place the needle into the fabric before stitching to make sure it lands where you want it. And now that you are ready to stitch, and you already know (as discussed earlier) to secure the beginning and the ending of all your stitches. Also be sure to set your machine so that it stops with the needle in the down position. Some much older machines don’t give you this option but you will at least be able to stop the stitching with the needle down. This is important when it comes to turning corners and curves.

Corners, curves, and points can be tricky until you get the hang of it. Just make sure that when you turn your fabric to stitch around them, you are turning when the needle is at the outer edge of the fabric applique piece. It also helps to know how many stitches your machine takes to make the stitch you are using. For example, my machine uses four stitches to complete a blanket stitch. I know that there are two stitches between each “blanket” stitch. It makes it easier to know this when I’m about to turn a corner, point, or curve. I want to make sure that my needle is on the outer edge of the fabric applique piece before turning or moving.

Most importantly, take your time. I always feel that if I’m going to make a project, I’m going to make it good and rushing through never gives you good results. Also note that mistakes are going to happen, and a stitch may not be perfect, but guess what? Nobody will ever notice this but you!

So have fun and get creative!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Machine Applique - Tools and Tips to Make the Job Easier - Part 1

By far, the biggest sellers in my pattern shops are my applique templates and mug rug patterns. Judging by the feedback I get from my customers, most of them use the machine applique method. I’ll admit, it’s my favorite way as well. When I first started designing them I used the hand applique technique, but once I discovered how fast these go together when using the sewing machine, I changed my method quickly! I’ve learned a lot during my four or so years of designing mug rugs. I’ve always known how to machine applique, but I’ve learned a lot of tricks and tips along the way that will give excellent results.

First and foremost, there is a difference between machine embroidery and machine applique. I get so many people write me and ask me if my appliques are, or can be formatted for their embroidery sewing machine. I have to tell them no and explain to them that the appliques are made up of fabric. Machine embroidery is getting so popular right now, I can understand how some may become confused. Most of my customers already know, but for those who may be new to sewing, I’ll explain. Machine applique is the process of stitching around appliques that are made up of fabric, where machine embroidery is when your entire design is made up of machine stitches. I know that a lot of my readers are seasoned sewers and crafters, but I like to help those that are new as well.

Before we begin, I think we should talk about pre-washing your fabric. If you are one that does this, you will want to be sure NOT to use fabric softener. If you do, it could prevent your adhesive to sticking to the back of your applique pieces.

Let's discuss some of the supplies that will help make your stitching easier. Next week we'll focus on tips and techniques. Lets get started!

If you plan on doing a lot of machine applique, I would suggest investing in an Open Toe Foot (photo above). I purchased mine for under $10 at Amazon. I’m telling you, this sewing machine foot will make ALL THE DIFFERENCE! Even if you have a clear, all purpose foot, you will not believe how much easier this will make your stitching. The area at the needle is completely open so you can see exactly where your stitches will go. This is especially handy when you are going around pieces where the colors are very similar or the same. Trust me, this will make your applique life so much easier.

When it comes to stabilizers, use what is easiest for you, just be sure you use something or your stitches will not be nice and even, and your fabric will more than likely pucker or bunch up. When I am placing my applique on items such as tote bags, aprons, or anything else that will not be quilted or backed with batting or fleece, I like to use one that you iron on, then tear away. When making my mug rugs, I just iron my fusible fleece to the back of my main fabric and it makes a nice stabilizer. There are so many different types and brands to choose from so pick one that you are comfortable using, and will give good results. If you are new to this, try a couple different kinds until you find one you like best.

You are going to want to use a paper backed fusible webbing on the wrong side of your applique pieces to keep them from shifting around on the background fabric when stitching down. I always use Heat N Bond LITE. Again, there are so many to choose from, and at some point I’ve tried them all, but this particular one is designed for stitching through. It holds nice and secure with the least amount of adhesive. I’ve made well over a thousand mug rugs and other applique projects, and I have never had a gummed up needle, or an applique piece that has come off. You can always get it for a great price at JoAnn’s with a 50% off coupon, or at Amazon. 

And while we are on the subject of the pattern pieces, it will make your tracing so much easier if you print your pattern pieces onto card stock. I always use this method because your pen will just glide around the edges!

If you plan on washing your item after it’s stitched, you will need to really secure your stitches on the backside. Either knot them, or use your lock stitch on your sewing machine at the beginning and ending of each line of stitching. To make it extra secure, add a tiny drop of washable fabric glue on the beginning and end of the row of stitching, on the backside of the project. I only do this when something will be washed. For my mug rug samples I never do this because I never wash them. They are used strictly for decoration. When making things such as tote bags, baby bibs, or aprons, I find this an important step.

It always helps to have a tiny pair of scissors with a tiny and sharp point when cutting your threads. You can get nice and close to the fabric with them.

Did you know that you can enlarge and reduce the size of you pattern pieces by changing the percentage of you printout? You may have purchased one of my mug rug patterns but want to use the applique on something else that is either bigger or smaller than my mug rug. This is so easy if you are using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. That is the PDF reader that most pattern designers recommend using because it’s so user friendly. It also makes it so easy to adjust the size of the printouts. It comes pre-installed on many computers, but if you don’t have it, you can download it free from the Adobe website. And since it’s Adobe, you can definitely trust the website an the download. 

While we are on the subject of PDF readers, NEVER print from the Internet viewers that open in your browser from the Internet. Always download your patterns to your computer and open them in the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The default Internet PDF readers seem to print horribly! You will even notice missing pieces in some of them. As for the other PDF readers, I’ve used some and they didn’t allow me to change the size of my printout, but I’m sure some other ones do. At least with Adobe, you have a dependable reader.

When I first started writing this post, I didn’t realize how long it would be, so I decided to break it up into two segments. Now that we’ve discussed our helpful supplies, next week we’ll focus on some tips and techniques!

Part 2 can be found HERE

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Create Your Own Mug Rug Pattern Bundle

I'm so excited to add a new section to my shop! As many of you already know, I have some mug rug pattern bundles in the mug rug sections. Some of my customers have actually emailed me asking if they could choose their own patterns for the $4.95 bundle. Since I love my customers so much and want them to have the best, I always do it for them.

I decided to add a new section to my shop with special prices for bundles of 4, 6, and 8. The only difference is that the patterns will be emailed rather than downloaded instantly. They will get to you within 24 hours but usually much quicker.

You can visit my new section right HERE

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