Surprised Hobbits, A Miffed St George and Tip the Third

13 Oct

I am still wandering through the land of dragons making cute little critters out of scraps and thread. Wouldn’t the Hobbits be surprised. I think St George might be a bit miffed too but that’s another tale for a winter’s evening.

Remember I am narrating my way of doing things and the things that work for me. If you find another way, by all means take it. Take advice from wherever you find it, mix it up and pick out the bits you like best. It sounds like a bag of pick-and-mix but you get the idea. If you prefer the licquorice torpedos to the sherbet dabs, go for it.

I gave you an overview of the beginning of the making of the dragon quilt in my last post. If this is the first one you are reading you might want to have a look at that one too to fill in the gaps. I discussed the basics of fusible web application and we ended up with templates covered with layered up fabrics ready to stitch. This time I will deal with the stitching a bit more.

I always  use machine embroidery thread for my applique and I always use satin stitch these days. I did toy with other embroidery stitches but was too afraid of how they would survive washing . I always use the machine as have neither the skill nor the patience to do hand applique. I also prefer the satin stitch look but that is subjective. For every person who likes machine stitching there will be one who prefers hand stitching and ultimately neither is better than the other, they are just different. I have both Madeira and Gutermann Sulky threads, I use the Madeira for my embroidery machine as a lot of commercial embroidery patterns are done in Madeira so it makes life easier. Before I bought the Madeira threads I had already treated myself to the full range of Sulky threads and so I use them for the applique, to use them up so to speak.

My Sulky collection

My Madeira collection

Unless you do a lot of embroidery you may not be able to justify investing in the large cops but the Sulky collection of all plain 40 weight rayon  plus some variegated are available in purpose made boxes for a reasonable price. If you are in UK follow this link to buy either the large cops or collection of small spools at trade prices. These are prices without VAT so you will need to add that.

I have the variegated threads too and I have a little trick to help me see which is the nearest match to the fabric I have used. I stitch out a sample of each to keep in the box.

Easiest way to identify the nearest match.

Looking at the colour on the cop doesn’t help as different threads are variegated differently. Some blend gradually and some are almost stripes and only seeing them stitched will show you how they will look on your project.See some of the ones with more distinct differences below. The same applies to variegated metallics which are very handy for Christmas projects.

It is not compulsory but I always use a piece of stabiliser under the appliqued block. This seems to help the machine sew better and more evenly. After all most people would use stabiliser if doing a standard embroidery on their machine and this is in effect embroidery. Any weight will do but if it is very thin use a double layer. As I keep emphasising, experiment. Try everything out on a sample of fabric with the same conditions  as the project will have and only go to your actual project when you are happy with the result. A little preparation time can save a lot of unpicking and  frustration.

Stabiliser in case you don't know what it looks like.

I also use  an open-toed applique foot as it makes it easier to see the stitches and get them in the right place. It should be possible to get one to fit your machine. It certainly takes the aggravation out of a large part of the process.

Open-toed applique foot

Your templated block on its own is not usable, it needs some definition.

Before stitching

It should look like this.

First of all I compare the block with the template and draw in any definition lines to help with the stitching. I also draw round any areas which overlap in an identical colour so that I can see where to stitch the outline.

Definition Lines

As I suggested in the last blog use bobbin thread on the bobbin. It is a finer thread than normal sewing or embroidery thread, the machine seems to prefer it and there is not so much bulk under the embroidery. Satin stitch is a fairly dense stitch and so there are quite a few threads to the square inch. If there is too much bulk sometimes the  machine will jam and refuse to move.  I can tell you from experience this is a pain and you really don’t want the hassle. As an added bonus the thread is cheaper and, of course saves your normal thread for when it is really needed.

The next point is to loosen the top tension to around 3.  Again experiment until you have a good even stitch on top with none of the bobbin thread being pulled through. The other way is to tighten the bobbin tension but the top is the easiest and the result the same.  The object is to make sure that the bobbin thread pulls the top thread down slightly so that no bobbin thread shows on the top and only a thin line of the top thread shows underneath. This will give a neat stitch showing only the colour you want to show.

For general stitching round the shapes I set my stitch width to 2.5 on my machine. To do the definition stitching I lower this to 2.0. I think these are fairly standard on most machines but, again, experiment. You might prefer a wider stitch over all or some sections. Whatever you choose make sure that it is wide enough to enclose the raw edges of the fabric.  the stitches should just go on to the background with most of the stitch on the applique so that it doesn’t fray.

Even if you use a tying off stitch at the end of your satin stitch row it may pull loose if not finished off properly. I start my row with the both  threads in front of the foot so that they will be covered by the stitching as I sew. One turn of the wheel by hand will raise the bobbin thread to the top, then turn it a couple of times before putting your foot on the pedal. That takes care of the beginning.

Pull the two threads to the top under the foot.

The secret to securing the end threads lies partly in the order in which the pieces of the design are stitched. Always look at your design and decide which pieces are underneath and which on top. Do the underneath ones first so that when you do the  top ones you can make sure any loose tails are sewn into the stitching. It may require an extra colour change or two but which is more important, doing one colour all the way through without changing the thread or a better appearance and no loose threads?  I would say that the finished article is the important thing, not the speed of sewing.   Any threads that cannot be tied off in this way need to be pulled through to the back and tied off by hand with a few double knots.

Carefully work out which pieces are over others.If you look at the purple dragon his tummy is done after the purple body and I would do the bottom, second up, third down second down, top and then the centre to cover the rest of the stitching. (By the way I repositioned the eyes before sewing. Sometimes it is difficult to see where things go. I only realised my mistake when I came to draw the nose detail.)

A short time working this out at the beginning saves a lot of unpicking.

Here he is finished.

Well I have four more to do so I really must get down to the dungeon. The Big Cheese has gone to a sugar conference (how sweet) so I don’t even have to stop to eat today.

Hopefully I have helped at least one person on the way to applique. I have tried to make it understandable which is not always easy when you know what you are doing. It is easy to forget when you knew nothing and assume knowledge by the other person. (Have you read a computer manual recently) If you need any clarification send me a message. Otherwise happy appliqueing until next time.

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8 Responses to “Surprised Hobbits, A Miffed St George and Tip the Third”

  1. Bambi Mayer October 13, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Wow! Thanks for the tutorial. I haven’t done much applique or satin stitching and when I did, I just winged it. Next time I can go in with a plan!

    • quiltaholic October 14, 2011 at 9:31 am #

      Glad to help. Everything is easier when you know how.

    • quiltaholic October 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

      A plan is always a good thing but be prepared to be flexible if you meet the unexpected. That’s how you learn.

  2. Shirley Medhurst October 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Just what I needed now to put it into action. Thank you so much.

    • quiltaholic October 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      No excuses now. Perfect applique every time.

  3. Debbie in WA ~ USA October 15, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    Thanks so much for your tute. I haven’t done any applique for a number of years and now I feel I’m ready to tackle it again. I’m sure the final results will be much better with your extra help. Those dragons are really cute!
    Blessings for your extra caring and sharing.

    • quiltaholic October 15, 2011 at 4:33 am #

      ‘If I can help someone as I pass along then my living has not been in vain’ as the song says.

  4. Karen October 16, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    I always find something useful in your tutorials. Each time there is a little something that helps me improve my skills. Love your idea of pulling threads up and covering them at the start of stitching. I also like the idea of stitching out a sample of the variegated threads. Very helpful!

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