First, and above all, I am not a pro nor am I an expert!! But I have been asked to share the very basics of preparing my fabrics for raw edge applique and I am happy to share my tips for doing raw edge applique.
- Use GOOD quality fabrics! My favorite combo is a Moda grunge background with batiks. Batiks also make a good background. You want a good thread count and weight to support your applique pieces. Batik is the best medium for applique, IMO, because of the higher thread count and a lower tendency to shred. When you are doing raw edge, you don’t want shredding edges on your curved pieces.
- Starch your fabrics. I always spray starch my background and stem fabrics. Stem fabrics are heavily sprayed. Starching your fabric adds to the stability and reduces fraying. If you are fussy cutting shapes, heavy starching is critical.
- Pick a light weight but effective fusing product. I use Heat n Bond lite which can be bought in sheets or rolls. Be sure to get the LITE as their other weights will result in a stiffer application that is difficult to sew through. I also tried Steam a Seam and do not like the results of any of their products. Head N Bond Lite bonds quickly and securely and is easy to stitch through and will not gum up your needle.
- Pick a good needle! I use a size 12 Schmetz or Superior Threads Top Stitch needle. Don’t forget to change your needle after 8-10 hours of sewing.
- Pick a good tear away stabilizer. I have tried many stabilizers and while it is not cheap, for raw edge I much prefer Sulky Sticky Tear-away stabilizer. It is easy to use, tears beautifully and can be washed and ironed after use. Some of the others I tried SHRANK and/or melted when I ironed the top or melted in the dryer. Yuck. I put the stabilizer on the back, pinning at the 4 corners, prior to using my fusible media.
- Pick good threads! 90% of my thread is Superior Threads (Manifico, Fantastico and metallic). I occasionally use a Sulky or Madeira poly (rayon will not take iron heat well) that I have in my thread stash. I also use ST MonoPoly for appliquéing my tiny birds and other fussy cut shapes. I like Bottom Line in the bobbin as it does not add weight and thickness.
- Your iron should be hot, but not TOO hot. A too hot iron used too long can vaporize your media glue! Let your iron heat up all the way, press firmly for about three seconds. Then I do a quick “once over” of my pieces. Don’t over iron!
- Cool your pieces before cutting. (I am so guilty of not always taking my own advice on this!)
- Adhere like pieces in sections. I find that if I adhere an entire block at once, some smaller pies or corners may lift up as I stitch other areas. I tend to adhere a group of stems, then stitch them. Then the next group, then leaves, then petals, etc. If I have a color group using the same thread, I do them as a sewing batch. On the SG Robin Block, for example, I added 5 bluebells on the left of the block, and then stitched. And then 5 more towards the middle, etc.
- I use my machine lock stitch to start applique stitching. If you do not have a lock stitch, you will need to pull your long threads to the back and knot after stitching. I did this for two years before getting my current machine.
- Use a blanket stitch for main applique if at all possible. If you don’t have a blanket stitch, a small, tight zig zag or satin stitch can be used. If your satin stitch is too tight, you will get tunneling. Starch and stabilizer can reduce tunneling, but test with your actual fabrics FIRST to make sure you like the results.
- HAVE FUN! It is fabric and thread; it should be fun.
When I start an applique session, I preset all my commonly used stitches – straight, satin and blanket.
Before we start stitching, I am going to talk about the satin stitch. If you don’t have a blanket stitch on your machine, you will likely use a satin stitch.
Back to my pre-sets for our project! I like to set a short straight stitch for traveling between sections (like around a portion of a leaf).
Here we go, adding stitching to burgundy leaf.
Wait a minute, let’s embellish a bit! This little deco stitch is great for adding trailing foliage. I added some bubbles to the fish mouth as well.
I hope this helps! Raw edge is a nice option that finishes quicker than turned edge. I use turned edge on a bed quilt that will need to washed occasionally and is used frequently. Raw edge is efficient way to make a wall hanging and it is much quicker when working with lots of small pieces. A lot of us have arthritis in our hands and machine raw edge helps keep us productive as we have these physical changes over time.
Above all else, have fun and play and make beautiful things!
Happy applique to all!