Machine Appliqué Tips and Tricks, Part 1!

Now that you know the machine appliqué basics, it is time to focus on the details. Because appliqué is all about the details.

1. Combine and Conquer!

Are there connected small, fiddly pieces in your applique pattern? Of course! Should you carefully cut each little component individually and then assemble? Maybe, but maybe not! As I read through some of Esther Aliu’s older blog posts, I realized that Esther herself would sometimes combine small elements and cut them as single unit. Eureka! Combine and conquer. Less cutting means less fray and fuzz and greater accuracy in maintaining your shape size. It also saves time! You can add the detail that makes these components appear “separate” with your stitching as you applique them.

The stem and stem base were two parts in the pattern, but combine nicely into one element!
These tiny stems (about 1/4″ tapering smaller) with leaves and stem base were all cut as a single piece. Perfect connections and no fraying at a join. Pattern is Lily Rose from Esther Aliu.
Cutting stems and leaves as a single raw edge component simplifies these fiddly pieces.
The center pale avocado colored leaves were cut as 4 components, rather than 8 components, with the center joint details stitched in. Pattern is Secret Garden by Esther Aliu.

2. Sharpen Your Points!

Points are a key detail to an orderly and exquisitely finished appliqué tableau. We are wanting beautiful points that actually point, are tidy without the faintest hint of fuzz, and that lie perfectly flat.

As I approach a point – say 1.5″ in a larger element or .75 in a smaller element (or .5′ in an even smaller element, etc) – I reduce the blanket stitch length and width. And then for the final quarter of the way to the tip, I reduce again. As I pivot, I take one very small straight stitch (1.5 cm) back into the element and then resume the most recently reduced blanket stitch size. And the repeat in reverse adding to the blanket stitch length and width?

Confused? Here it is a step by step example.

Blanket stitch on main body element is 1.6 x 1.4 (a typical combo for me)

First reduction is to 1.4 x 1.3 (last inch to point)

Second reduction is to 1.2 x 1.2 (last .25″ to .5″ of distance to point)

End blanket stitch on left of stitch. Stitch forward 1 small straight stitch, turn your work.

1.2 x 1.2 blanket stitch for 3 to 5 stitches

First increase to 1.4 to 1.3 blanket stitch

Second increase to 1.6 x 1.4 blanket stitch

Continue blanket stitch setting to complete the element

Nice, smoothly tapered points.
Lots of points in this section! Pattern is Love Entwined 2 from Esther Aliu.

3. Is ST MonoPoly the “Sliced” Bread of Threads?

Yes, yes it is! (What is this obsession with MonoPoly, you are thinking? The woman is always nattering on about MonoPoly!) Well, I can easily tear off a hunk of a baguette and chomp it down, but I wouldn’t dream of doing appliqué without MonoPoly nearby. MonoPoly can tame a fuzzy edge, make your Broderie Perse sparkle and shine, giving flight to a bird above your elements, or setting a fish swimming.

Doesn’t using MonoPoly on difficult elements and then restitching with your appliqué thread take more time? Really, it doesn’t. Using a tiny zig zag to cover your Broderie Perse (fussy cut) flower, bird, fish or other element and then going back around with your appliqué thread is not more time consuming. But even if it was, it would be totally worth it. This technique stabilizes your component, covers tiny stray threads (and you can trim any fuzzes after the MonoPoly and prior to adding your primary appliqué thread), and gives you a nice flat work surface to work the appliqué magic without slippage, stretching or having a delicate curve lift up. Once you have stitched with MonoPoly, you are also free to use any width or length blanket or other stitch you prefer. This avoids having a heavy thread edge from very close stitching around your Broiderie Perse and can allow you use a narrower, more delicate blanket or satin stitch.

Why do I say ST MonoPoly? Superior Threads makes MonoPoly (It is a trademarked name). There are other brands of invisible thread and sometimes people use the term MonoPoly in a generic sense. When I say MonoPoly, I specifically mean ST MonoPoly. I can recommend Glide’s invisible thread, as well, but non others. I stick with ST MonoPoly because it always works beautifully and (another tip!) I find I can use a size 11-14 needle (or a size 16 or 18 when using it for FMQ outlining on my Tiara) with it and it stitches just fine. Bonus!

Look at that delicate little butterfly and the flowers with a metallic thread stitching. They sit lightly and without excess thread build up.
Pattern is from Red Delicious from Esther Aliu. That bird is clearly in flight! Both birds stitched with ST MonoPoly only.
MonoPoly with metallic thread overstitch.

4. Starch and Starch Some More.

I may have mentioned starch a few times in my previous blogs. Starch really smoothes the way to making appliqué elements that don’t stretch, tug or wander. The best procedure is to starch your half yard or meter lengths, fat quarters and layer cake squares as soon as you pull them for a project, before you cut anything at all. Do I always do this? Hmmm, umm, no. But it is good advice. I sometimes jump ahead and start cutting and then remember to starch. Doing it before cutting saves time and starch.

Bias strips, thoroughly starched before making your bias cuts are delightfully straight. Pre-starched stems slide right into your bias maker easily, and they hold their edge firmly when pressed. They will “wander” much easier when pressed with a steam iron, making nice flat curves (even tight ones) without puckering or gathering.

A crisp stem is a happy stem! (Pattern nis Nelke from Esher Aliu.)

Happy stitching to all!



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