Appliqué designs are the perfect take-along projects. Here, Associate Editor Erin shows you how a few simple steps can take the stress out of appliqué and provide you with hours of happy stitching. Can’t wait to get started? Try this winter-themed free pattern! Continue reading for Erin’s expert advice around fusible appliqué.
Whether traditional or modern or somewhere in between, appliqué quilts have long been admired by quilters of all kinds. Fusible appliqué uses a paper-backed, double-sided adhesive to bond applique shapes to a background fabric. Once the appliqué shapes are in place a variety of stitches can be used to finish the raw edges.
Fusible appliqué is great for quilters new to appliqué, and those who like using the many wonderful features in today’s sewing machines. Simple appliqué blocks can be fast, easy and great for quilts that will get a lot of use, such as baby and toddler quilts. Fusible appliqué is also great for very intricate designs because the stabilization provided by the paper-backed adhesive allows you to cut and stitch very precise motifs. Plain or fancy, here are some tricks to get started.
Types of Fusible Materials
There are a wide variety of adhesive products available for today’s quilter. The best way to determine which one will work for your project is to think about what you want your finished project to look like and how it will be used. If you are making an art quilt or wall hanging, you might want a product that keeps the cut edges very crisp.
These quilts don’t necessarily need to be soft so you might not care how stiff the product is. For bed and baby quilts you might want a softer-feeling product. Some quilters prefer the edges of their appliqué to not fray, some might want that slightly frayed look. The type of project you are making will determine which product you need so be sure to experiment and find what works best for you. It’s also important to follow the manufacturers’ directions carefully.
The types of fabrics you use will also have a big impact on your fusible appliqué. Batiks, with their tight weave, do very well with fusible appliqué but can become stiff if there are too many layers of fabric and webbing. Check out these low-volume batiks for your next applique project Loosely woven fabrics like ginghams and plaids can be tricky because the edges are susceptible to fraying. It is a good idea to purchase extra fabric when planning an appliqué project so you can try various fabric and webbing combinations to see what suits your project.
Fusible webbing can gum up needles if it is very stiff or improperly applied. Microtex needles from Schmetz are a great choice for stitching your fusible appliqué. It is also helpful to stop stitching periodically and clean your needle with alcohol if you are having trouble with gummed-up needles.
One of the many advantages of fusible appliqué is the variety of threads that can be used. If you want your stitching to disappear into the appliqué, choose an invisible thread or a fine matching thread to use in your needle. If you want to add a little pizazz to your appliqué, choose a contrasting thread color or one of the many beautiful specialty threads on the market today. A good neutral cotton thread is fine for the bobbin. Be sure to make a practice sample so you can adjust your thread tensions accordingly. You might find it helpful to reduce your top thread tension to prevent your bobbin thread from showing on the top.
The variety of stitches available in today’s sewing machines provides another wonderful way to get creative with your appliqué. A simple zigzag or blanket stitch is a great choice if you are new to appliqué. Once you have the feel for stitching around your shapes, try experimenting with some decorative stitches. A straight stitch can be a fun choice because it will allow the edges to peel up slightly and give a bit of dimension to your design. Another fun technique is to “free-motion” stitch your appliqué down. This is much like free-motion quilting where you lower your feed dogs and “scribble” over your edges. With fancy stitches and threads, the sky’s the limit!
Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get sewing.
1. Trace your appliqué shapes onto the paper side of the fusible web you have chosen.
2. Cut these shapes out roughly. If you are concerned with stiffness, cut some of the fusible web from the inside of the shape.
3. Iron, fusible side down, to the wrong side of the fabrics according to manufacturers’ directions.
4. Cut these shapes out on the drawn line.
5. Place the appliqués on the background fabric according to the diagram and fuse in place.
6. Stitch in place using a machine zigzag or blanket stitch to finish.
Looking for some projects to start your fusible applique journey? Check out Flip Flop Quilts: Fusible Applique Designs from Quiltmaker for some great ideas. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss out on more great tips from Quiltmaker.