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Mandy's Blog

Mandy's Top Ten Tips for Machine Appliqué

Alison Owens

Mandy’s Top 10 Tips for Machine appliqué

The blanket stitch on this Quilter's Organiser was done on the machine

The blanket stitch on this Quilter's Organiser was done on the machine

Appliqué is my favourite quilting technique. As a child I always loved cutting and sticking into scrap books and applique and machine appliqué is exactly the same – but with fabric.

Here are my top 10 tips on achieving the best applique every time:

1.     Always start by giving your machine a little spring clean and a new needle. Refer to your manual on how to clean and oil your machine, it makes a huge difference.  I like to use the denim needle (size 12 or 14) as they are lovely and sharp for piercing through the multi layers of fabric. You should always change your sewing machine needle before you start a new large project

2.     Reduce your top tension slightly. When you are appliquéing by machine you need the top threads to show underneath the work slightly so that you get a nice curved stitch on top.  It’s worth practising on identical fabric and layers first.

3.     You can use bobbin fill or ordinary thread in the bobbin. If you have that special little hole in the arm of your bobbin case, Bernina owners, thread your cotton through this to give a better tension.

4.     Always use your needle down facility if you have one. This will stop the work slipping.  If you have a knee lift, start using it, it frees up the hands so you have more control over the work.

5.     Always use the correct foot for the job. You will need an open toed embroidery/appliqué foot which has a cut away on the under side which allows the raised stitch of the appliqué to go under the foot more freely making a huge difference.

6.     If you have not attached your shapes with fusible webbing use some thin paper or ‘stitch and tear’ behind your work to stabilise it to prevent unattractive ruffled stitching.

7.     Always start sewing by pulling the bottom threads up to the top, sew a couple of stitches on top of each other and then cut the thread. This prevents the threads tangling underneath.

8.     When sewing curves always stop on the outside edge, needle down, foot up, and then turn the fabric. It is better to stop and start a thousand times than try and get round the corner in one swoop.

9.     I always sew using the single blanket stitch that comes on most new machines. The double stitches are too bulky and difficult to manoeuvre around curves. With a bit of practise, you can get a great hand look. 

10.  You can blanket stitch with a thicker thread, Maderia do a wool thread and so do Aurifil, just put a larger needle in your machine, size 16 and they will sew a treat. The bobbin thread should remain unchanged.

I hope these tips will help with your machine appliqué, but you must remember practise makes perfect. Each machine is slightly different and you will need to understand what works best for your own.

It all sounds a bit fiddly I know but remember – it’s far better to make a quilt, finish it, and learn from it than have no quilts at all!