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Applique
   
 

Today I’m going to introduce you to the wonderful world of applique. Well, my world of applique at least. Applique, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, is a French needlework technique in which pieces of fabric, embroidery, or other materials are sewn onto a bottom piece of fabric to create designs. Typically in machine embroidery, the applique fabric is placed onto a larger piece of fabric or garment, and has a “satin stitch” border added around the edges to secure the fabric. My applique is a bit different. I like a loose crafty feel to things, so we’re getting rid of the nice neat satin stitch border, and letting our design run loose.  Here’s how you do it...


 
To begin, you’ll need something to put your applique on. I picked up some simple little kitchen towels for the job.  You can use anything... pillows, bags, tees...experiment a little.
 

 


All right -- you have your applique design, and have what you're stitching onto. Now you can cut your applique fabric to the right shape.

For that you'll need a "dieline," and that's in the applique file that you download from my site. Look for the file that has a "dl" tacked to the end of the name. Most embroidery software can print a dieline, but if not, just sew it onto your applique fabric. A couple of applique designs might have two pieces, so hoop a new piece of applique fabric for each dieline. Then, cut out the shapes, and those are your applique pieces.
 


If you can print the dieline, put that printout over your applique fabric and cut it out. Remember that you may need to print the file twice if the dielines overlap, like the owl and his tummy. 

Keep in mind, these little bits of fabric are small and very losable. Keep them in a safe place while you’re working so they don’t get lost or accidentally consumed by hungry bunnies.

 

 

Grab a hoop that’s large enough to fit your design, and cut a piece of stabilizer that’s just a bit larger.  Hoop it together with the fabric you’re going to embroider on.

Pay attention to the orientation. You may have to move or rotate your design to make it fit in the hoop, so make sure you adjust your fabric placement accordingly.

Depending on what you’re embroidering on, you might want to find a way to keep excess fabric from being caught in the machine. I use handy dandy hairclips.


Once you start the design, the first thing your machine is going to do is sew another dieline (not to be confused with the one that you printed earlier). Grab your little applique piece, and spray the back of it with some fixative. The important part here is that when you place the fabric over the dieline, you visibly cover up all the stitches from the dieline.  Freestyle applique is not meant to be perfectly neat, but you don’t want the dieline showing on your finished product. 

Once your fabric is all set, your machine will sew a tackdown stitch just inside the edges of the applique.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t follow the shape exactly, it’s not necessarily supposed to.

 
Some designs, like this little owl, have more than one piece of applique, so just follow the same steps, making sure to cover up the dieline, and watch with glee as your design sews out. As it sews, keep an eye out for any tension issues, like bobbin thread showing through. When I first set up my machine it took an hour of inventive cussing before I got it just right.

 
Trim away any extra threads left over on your design. If you want to save yourself some hassle, periodically trim these extra threads while the design is sewing out (stop the machine first of course... at least if you value your fingers).  This will save you the trouble of trying to get them out later if they’ve been sewn over by another part of the design.


 

 

Once you little guy is done, turn over your design and carefully clip away the excess stabilizer. I would recommend pulling it back from the fabric while you trim, to make sure you don’t chop right through all your hard work. If you like when you’re finished you can give it a once-over with a hot iron to make it flat and pretty. 

 

 

So now that you’ve added applique to your arsenal of wondrous crafting abilities, go make a bunch of stuff! Your deft sewing abilities and classy style are sure impress all your friends, family, coworkers, perhaps even small red monsters. It seems to impress them around my studio.

 

   
 

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