Greetings Aurifil family! As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator I’m thrilled to introduce fellow Aurifilosopher Heidi Pridemore of The Whimsical Workshop! Heidi is a talented and creative pattern designer, fabric designer, author, and cheerleader for all things quilting. You’re going to love her bright, fun design style and supporting educational videos. Today Heidi is sharing tips and tricks for completing fusible applique The Whimsical Workshop Way! Many thanks to Heidi for tutoring us through this quick and simple way of finishing applique.
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— Karen L. Miller
As a quilt designer, my favorite technique to design for is fusible appliqué, where the only limitations are how big the pieces are and how many layers of fabric stack on top of each other. There are no precise templates necessary, no seams to match, and no math to worry about. I love to sketch and draw in general, making fusible applique the perfect match for my design skills.
When I started designing, my first patterns were large format fusible applique patterns based on Jungle Animals. In 1999, I was very new to quilting and pattern writing, so I reviewed the applique patterns available at the time. Most of them were tailored to hand or needle turn applique and were not a good fit for fusible applique. Because of this, I decided to create patterns specifically for fusible applique to include all elements necessary to successfully create the quilt.
Today, I’m excited to share my top tips for machine finishing fusible applique edges. After years of lecturing and teaching quilting, I have found that quilters either love or hate this technique. When I meet people who do not like fusible applique, I dig deeper and ask questions about why. What I’ve found is that while this technique is not for everyone, many quilters struggle with the technique because they need more direction on how to finish the applique shapes once they get everything in place on the background.
Before we get into how to finish your fusible applique project, I want to share our YouTube Channel and our Fusible Appliqué Playlist. This playlist includes tutorials on how to do fusible appliqué, The Whimsical Workshop Way. The videos include many of my tips and techniques for fusible applique projects.
I am going to use our FREE Gift Tags pattern to share my finishing tips today. You can download the pattern HERE and sew along with me. We have a supporting video tutorial for this particular project that you can watch HERE.
Once the pieces are fused in place, it is time to finish the edges. The first step is to choose threads. Here are some things to consider: First, determine how much you want the edge stitching to show. If you are new to this technique, your stitches may not be perfect (even if you are an expert this happens), so you may choose to have the stitches blend into the fabric. If this is the case, use a lighter thread weight, like Aurifil 50wt. I recommend matching the top thread color to the different fabric colors in the piece. This means you will be changing your top threads after stitching each color on the piece. To save time and bobbins, I recommend filling a bobbin with a neutral colored Aurifil 50wt like gray or tan. This way you can use one bobbin with all the different colored top threads.
If you want the stitches to stand out, use contrasting thread colors or stitch the whole project with black to create an outline around the shapes. Just be aware that every stitch will pop out. This is a great choice if you are going to be photographing your quilts. Stitching with a dark thread is like creating an outline on a piece of artwork and can really make a project pop. When I am outlining my shapes with this method I also like to increase the weight of the thread to Aurifil 40wt — it really makes the finished edge stand out! The bonus to this method is there is no need to change threads throughout the project.
To benefit from the best of both worlds: threads that blend and using only one color, I recommend using a dull neutral thread for all the edges, such as gray for pastels or tans for earth tones. On our The Midas Touch Quilt I used a dull gold that blended into all the colors of the project and simplified the process by avoiding thread color changes.
The best way to audition thread colors for a project is to pull a single strand of thread and lay it over the fabric. It is better to pick colors that are on the duller side and slightly darker than the fabric color. I like to lay out several shades of thread on top of the fabric to compare them side by side. If you are only going to use one color thread, lay it over all the fabric colors to make sure it blends into the project. If you are working on a high contrast project you may have to use two neutral colors, one light and one dark.
When considering the thread weight, consider how large the shapes are that you are stitching around, how much you want it to blend in and the finished style you are going for. If the shapes are smaller, select a lighter weight thread that will balance with the pieces. Lighter weight threads such as 50wt will blend into the fabrics and disappear — perfect if you are going for a clean and modern look. If you are going for a folk art look, pick contrasting colors of thicker threads like Aurifil 28wt or 12wt.
Now that you have your project and threads picked, it is time to setup your machine for sewing. I am a traditionalist and usually finish all my edges with a Blanket Stitch. But I do recommend checking out how other artists finish their edges using satin stitch, zig zag stitch, or other decorative stitches.
First, make a test piece like a heart or star to practice your stitches on. Check your sewing machine manual to set up a blanket stitch. Not all machines have this stitch, so consider the other stitches available to you like a zig zag or blind hem stitch. I sew on a Bernina 570 and love to use the factory setting for the blanket stitch for most projects. I adjust the stitch size based on the piece I am sewing around. I do mix stitch sizes within one piece. I recommend always testing and adjusting the stitch width and length to get the desired stitch for each step.
Another machine setup tip is to utilize the needle down feature if the machine has it. This feature ensures the needle is down in the fabric each time you stop sewing. This helps hold the piece in place as you turn the piece under the needle or if you stop sewing to adjust your hands. Make sure your needle is in the center position and note if there is a centerline on your open toe foot.
Now that you are set up, it is time to start sewing around the shapes. Start with a large shape with a smooth edge to warm up before jumping into more detailed parts of the piece. Position the edge of the applique shape under the presser foot aligning the edge of the fabric with the center of the foot/needle.
Relax your shoulders and go slow. As you start sewing around the shape note that the straight part of the stitch should go into the background and the bite of the stitch should go into the applique. If you feel like you are going off center, stop stitching and reposition the piece under the presser foot. On smaller shapes, you may only be able to go one or two stitches before repositioning and that is completely normal.
My last piece of advice is to take your time and practice. The more you use this technique the better you will get. Go slow and steady. When you make a mistake, I recommend leaving it until you have finished the area. Many times when you are laser focused on the area you are sewing, the mistake may seem huge but once you finish the whole piece you may not even see it. Step back from the piece and look — if you cannot see the error, no one else will either and it is okay to just leave it.
If you need to remove the edge stitching from your piece, always turn the piece to the back and use a seam ripper to break the stitches. Then turn the piece to the front and gently pull out the loose stitches. This will keep the applique edges from fraying.
Once you have the basics of fusible applique under your belt, a whole world of quilt patterns will open up for you. Any drawing can become a quilt with a little work to create the templates (but that is a topic for another day.) This is why I love to work with the fusible applique technique so much. If you think you have caught the fusible applique bug, make sure to hop over to my website and check out the 100s of patterns we have available for this technique. No worries if this is not your favorite technique, we have lots of patterns that do not use fusible applique on the website as well.
All of our applique patterns include full-size reversed templates and, for the larger or more complex patterns, we also include a full-size placement drawing that can be used with an applique pressing mat for quick and easy assembly.
To wrap up, I would like to thank Aurifil for the opportunity to share this knowledge with you and for having me as one of their Aurifilosophers. I am available for workshops and lectures via Zoom or in-person on a large range of topics. Please feel free to email me with any questions!
The Whimsical Workshop, LLC is a full-service design studio and retailer led by Heidi and Matthew Pridemore. We specialize in bright, fun quilt patterns, fabric, fabric kits, books, and licensing. We also offer lectures and workshops about design, quilting and crafting. You can also find quilting tutorials, tips and tricks from Heidi on our YouTube Channel. Although The Whimsical Workshop is based in Arizona, their products are available worldwide through their website. The Whimsical Workshop continues to create new and exciting products that spark people’s imagination and make them smile.
Heidi was born and raised in Rochester, New York, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2000, Heidi began offering her services as a product designer to a number of fabric companies. She created her own line of quilt patterns beginning in 2002 and in 2004 Heidi started designing fabric in her own bright and whimsical style. By 2005 the work load warranted expanding to a partnership and The Whimsical Workshop, LLC was born with Heidi as the chief designer. Heidi is known for her fun and whimsical quilts which she often makes in dramatic, bright colors. She also designs quilt patterns for a variety of popular quilting magazines. In addition she has written five books; Quilted Whimsy, Bold Batiks and Dazzling Designs for Leisure Arts, Pop Up Paper Structures for C&T Publishing and Fabric Jewelry-Wrapped, Braided and Sewn for F&W Media.