I started designing quilts partly because I couldn’t buy patterns in the places I lived but also because I wanted more of an input into how the quilt turned out. It took me some time to master the mechanics of piecing, applique and quilting and I made up lots of other people’s patterns but I wanted to do my own. Part of it was that I was going to make quilts to sell and that is not acceptable to many designers, although some do now allow it. I soon discovered that I don’t really like the actual quilting bit enough to complete projects to sell and that even if I did the man hours are such that the price would have to be prohibitive.
One of the groups of designs I have done includes the cowboy one you may have seen in an earlier post and I call it the ‘Jamie Plays…….’ collection. Each shows Jamie in a different occupaion. There are several in the pipeline but there is one more available in a pattern already. This is the ‘Jamie Plays Soldiers’ pattern that is also available in a kit.
As you can see I didn’t manage the musket or the fife but I did get a drum in there. Also a Trumpet -
I even found a soldier fabric to match from Nutex in New Zealand.
Sometimes just finding that perfect fabric makes all the differece between OK and perfect. I matched the rest of the quilt to the border. When I lived overseas I used to take a pile of fat quarters out after every leave and I made everything from what I had. Now I have the whole range of makower Spraytime on my site so it was quite easy to find a match. Although strangely because I have every colour It is often more difficult than when I had to work with what I had. It gave my work a bit of a signature if you know what I mean.
As you will have seen if you look at comments – I have had some questions on technique with machine applique. As I explained in my replies, I have largely developed my own way of doing things but helped along the way by tips picked up from various places. I can only tell you what I do, others may have other methods but as long as the end result is what you want that is all that matters.
I use either Madeira or Gutermann Sulky embroidery threads for my applique. I have the full range of both makes because I did a trade with the B.C. – he got a boat and I got an industrial embroidery machine. I then bought both ranges. When I started buying embroidery patterns I found that most of the ones I wanted were digitised for Madeira threads. As a result I save them for my embroidery machine and I use the Sulky thread for the appliques. I know these are available in UK and Australia and they are both suitable for machine applique. This does not mean that you can’t use any other. I personally think that if I am going to spend time and money on making a quilt I don’t want to risk spoiling it with a cheap thread that may not sew properly or might run when the quilt is washed. That is not to say that you can’t use cheaper thread. All I am saying is that as with all other aspects of machine applique, in fact, quilting in general, ‘try before you buy.’ Try it, if it works, use it. I am sure there are lots of other threads of the same quality as Madeira and Sulky too, all I am saying is that they are the ones I know I can get here and that work well.
I also use a stabiliser on the back of each block. Again, you don’t have to, I have had to do without many times as I couldn’t buy it where I lived. I find it helps the fabric to move more smoothly and creates a better stitch on top. As it helps the fabric move it also helps prevent it sticking in one place and making the machine form knots of thread which are a pain to have to sort out.
I bought my original Madeira threads from Barnyarns in the UK and every so often they send an email out with a little tip on how to get the best from their products or why you might be having problems. In one of these mention was made of the fact that the top tension should always be no higher than 3 when embroidering. This of course means that the top tension is looser so it doesn’t pull the bobbin thread up to show on top. Again, experiment – never start a new process on your quilt until you have perfected it on a piece of scrap fabric. Try the tension at 3 and reduce or increase until you get a smooth satin stitch on top and stilll have some of the bobbin thread showing underneath. If there isn’t any then you have probably got it a bit loose.
(If you would like the whole range of Sulky on small reels – that means you have any colour you need visit gs-uk)
I use an open -toed applique foot but all that is really required is that you can see what you are trying to sew. You need to follow the outline of the applique enclosing the edge of it in the satin stitch. You don’t have to use satin stitch but if you don’t and use a zigzag or other stitch it may fray in the wash. I also find it easier to stitch with the applique on the left – but I am right handed.
I bought special embroidery needles at great expense and discovered that all that happened is that I broke them quickly. I think it is probably that, as they have made the eye longer to reduce friction on the thread it weakens the needle and so any little bit of strain or bending in stitching results in snapping. Again, this is just my experience, you may find they help a lot. I just use my ordinary machine needles and it doesn’t seem to matter what size either.
As you will have picked up if you have read the earlier posts, I use fusible webbing to fix the appliques to the background. I am repeating myself a bit here but not everyone reads all the back posts or can necessarily find the right one. I have tried a few and I find that the Heat n’ Bond suits me best. Some of the webbings come away from the backing paper before you have time to trace the smaller pieces and this tends to result in a sticky iron or board as you try to retrieve the situation. When I made the Gollyville quilt they supplied one which was equally good. They are based in Australia and if you go on their site it appears to be called ‘Applifix’. I am sure there are others depending on where you live. Fusible webbing is basically a sheet of dry glue with paper on one side. You take reversed pattern pieces and trace them onto the paper side. You then cut the shape out roughly, iron it onto the back of the fabric you are using for that piece, allow it to cool and then cut out accurately round the traced shape. You then remove the paper and what you have is your applique shape the right way round and backed with glue. You then have two choices. If it is a simple applique like a heart you might just lay it onto the background fabric and iron it on. Then you stitch as above. If more complicated you might want to use a template (see below).
Put the template on the ironing board. Place a piece of non wax baking paper (greaseproof paper in UK) over it. I used a cheap one and found it wasn’t successful as the pieces stuck so that’s a tip for you. It usually has a slightly shiny surface to stop things sticking. Place all the pieces in turn onto the greaseproof over the template and ‘tack’ them into place with the point of the iron. When you are satisfied with the whole place another piece of greaseproof over the top and press quickly. Allow to cool then remove the whole applique from the paper and place onto the background. You can buy an applique sheet but I don’t get on with them It doesn’t mean you won’t though. Using a steam iron, fix onto the background. This works well with the fusible webbing I use, you might like to experiment with scrap before risking your expensive fabrics, especially if you are using a kit.
I had better stop rambling now as I think that’s probably enough for anybody to read.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. I am happy to think I can help . You might have some tips or favourite brands in other countries too.
Until next time.