Eye of the Beholder

original applique patterns inspired by the world around us

Machine Reverse Applique Part - 3 of 5: Your Sewing Machine & You

     Welcome to Part 3 of our 5- part blog series on Machine Reverse Applique.  Follow along and gain insight into how to prepare your piece and how to approach machine reverse applique to stitch with success.  Become familiar with your sewing machine.  Be aware of how you think about machine reverse applique. Learn tips for curves, circles, corners and acute points.   If you are just joining now, we invite you to go back and read Machine Reverse Applique Part 1 -Creative Possibilities and Part 2 - Stabilizing Your Fabric.

 Snowflake block from  Twinkling Flurries Quilt VI  (76" x 84")

Snowflake block from Twinkling Flurries Quilt VI (76" x 84")

Getting to know your Sewing Machine

When doing machine reverse applique you DO NOT need a specialized sewing machine. However, as all sewing machines are a bit different, it gives you an opportunity to learn what your sewing machine can do.

  • To do a satin stitch, you need to have a zig-zag stitch
  • To raw edge machine reverse applique, you need a straight stitch
  • To do buttonhole machine reverse applique you need a buttonhole stitch
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For the past 34 years I have used my Pfaff Tiptronic 1171.  I have loved this machine.  I could do raw edge, satin stitch or use a decorative stitch for my machine reverse applique.  However, I didn't have a machine buttonhole stitch so could not do buttonhole machine reverse applique. I use this sewing machine when I travel to teach because I can carry it.

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Two years ago I added a Babylock Aria to my sewing machine collection.  In addition to being able to raw edge or satin stitch, I can now do a buttonhole machine reverse applique.  I love this machine, but I can hardly lift it, so it stays home.

Satin Stitch

I love the clean, satiny edge of a satin stitch for machine reverse applique. It reminds me of my childhood coloring book days.  All those dark black lines outlining the shapes.

To satin stitch, your machine just needs the capability of a zig-zag stitch.

To create a satin stitch, I start with my machine’s zig-zag stitch. Then I adjust my stitch width and stitch length to get the desired effect. 

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How tight or narrow a satin stitch you can get is a mix of the elements of your fabric and your machine's capabilities.

I can’t really give you the magic numbers for adjusting stitch length and width, because every sewing machine is different. Experiment to see how narrow and tight together a satin stitch your machine can do. Then you can try using that stitch and find out how you do stitching with a stitch of that width and length.

I always have a tester piece of fabric handy to try out my stitch before sewing on my actual project.

I encourage you to prepare a tester of fused fabric if you are machine reverse appliqueing before you layer your piece, or a sandwiched tester, fused top - batting- backing, if you are Appli-quilting, ready by your machine. I'll talk about creating a practice piece at the end of this blog.

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Sewing Machine Foot: Open-toed foot

For many years I didn't know such a thing as an open-toed foot existed.  Investing in an open-toed foot was one of the best decisions I made for successful machine reverse applique.

An open toed foot creates great visibility. I can see my raw edge, where my sewing machine needle is and where I am going with ease with an open-toed foot.  I encourage you to treat yourself to one.

 As I’m testing my stitch, I pay attention to where the left and right needle positions of the satin stitch are in relation to my presser foot.  This helps me to know how to line up the raw edge of my top fabric with the foot, so the satin stitch covers the raw edge.

My open-toed feet have a notch etched into the middle of the foot.  On my Babylock I can align the left needle position of my satin stitch a needle width to the left of that center notch, meaning I can line up the raw edge of my top fabric with the presser foot’s notch.  On my Pfaff, however, my satin stitch straddles that notch. When stitching, I line up the raw edge of my top fabric by sight to the left of the presser foot’s notch. 

 Center notch aligned with raw edge to be stitched. Dark purple is my top fabric and is on my right of where I'm going to stitch. Light purple is my background fabric and is on my left of where I'm going to stitch.

Center notch aligned with raw edge to be stitched. Dark purple is my top fabric and is on my right of where I'm going to stitch. Light purple is my background fabric and is on my left of where I'm going to stitch.

Needle position

If your sewing machine has the capability, you may want to adjust your needle position left or right of center. My Pfaff does not allow me to shift the needle position in the zig-zag mode, but my Babylock Aria does.

Needle Down

I machine reverse applique, and applique, with my sewing machine needle in the needle down position.  This means that every time I stop sewing, my needle will remain down in the fabric.  This gives me an anchored pivot point and turning radius when doing points, corners and curves.

Needle - Eye coordination

Machine reverse applique is a complex endeavor using all our senses, and experience is our best teacher. Where are you looking? Where is the left and right needle position of your stitch in relationship to your raw edge? How fast or slow are you moving your fabric? How much pressure are you using on your foot pedal or knee bar? What does your machine sound like as you are stitching? As we are machine reverse appliqueing we want to create an awareness of all factors involved.  I call this Needle - Eye coordination.  Let me explain further.

How you sight your piece is important.

  • A straight stitch for raw edge needs to be very close to the raw edge, but clearly in the top fabric.
  • A buttonhole stitch needs to have the thread bars perpendicular to and on the top fabric while the back of the stitch hovers over the background fabric and hugs the raw edge.
  • A satin stitch needs to be perpendicular to the raw edge and just covering the raw edge with thread. 

The focus of my stitching tips for the remainder of this series will be for use with a satin stitch.  Each stitch will have its own adjustments to your machine stitching awareness.

Sighting your raw edge

As I'm sewing, the background fabric is on my left and the top fabric is on my right. I like to have the left needle position of the satin stitch enter the background fabric right next to the top fabric, which means I'm sighting the left needle position and my raw edge.  The right needle position of the satin stitch, therefore, enters the top fabric with most of the threads of the satin stitch, the stitches width, in the top fabric. In this way I keep the design shapes true to size.

 Right hand needle position of satin stitch goes into top fabric. The width of the satin stitch will be overlapping the top fabric, keeping the design true to size. Dark purple is my top fabric and is on my right as I sew. Light purple is my background fabric and is on my left as I sew.

Right hand needle position of satin stitch goes into top fabric. The width of the satin stitch will be overlapping the top fabric, keeping the design true to size. Dark purple is my top fabric and is on my right as I sew. Light purple is my background fabric and is on my left as I sew.

 Left hand needle position of satin stitch goes into the background fabric right next to raw edge. I sight the left needle position and the raw edge as I satin stitch. Dark purple is my top fabric and is on the right of where I'm going to stitch. Light purple is my background fabric and is on the left of where I'm going to stitch.

Left hand needle position of satin stitch goes into the background fabric right next to raw edge. I sight the left needle position and the raw edge as I satin stitch. Dark purple is my top fabric and is on the right of where I'm going to stitch. Light purple is my background fabric and is on the left of where I'm going to stitch.

You will need to experiment to find which way of sighting works best for you. Are you going to have your raw edge on the right and sight the right needle position of the satin stitch? Or will you machine reverse applique as I do, sighting the left needle position in relation to the raw edge? 

As an aside, when I machine applique, I sight opposite to how I machine applique. When I machine applique, my top fabric is on my left and my background fabric is on my right. Therefore, I sight the right needle position into my background fabric and my left needle position in my top fabric, so the threads of the satin stitch, the width, are in the top fabric.

 Close up of Lace Flourish block from  Chantilly Lace table runner  (20" x 60")

Close up of Lace Flourish block from Chantilly Lace table runner (20" x 60")

Marking for greater Visibility

For most of my machine reverse applique I have a sharp contrast between my top and background fabric.  This contrast is either created by color difference or value contrast.  However, sometimes sections of my top fabric are very close in value or color to my background fabric.  This makes it harder to see, particularly the older I get.  So, use a marking implement to create the contrast that makes it easier to see where you are stitching.

  Thistle, 7 of 9  (16" x 16"). created by machine reverse applique.

Thistle, 7 of 9 (16" x 16"). created by machine reverse applique.

Be Aware of your Stitch Width

I also pay attention to how wide my satin stitch is.  As you practice stitching, get a feel for the width of your stitch.  This information becomes important when satin stitching points and corners.

 

 

 

 Machine reverse applique practice pieces layered with batting and backing to Appli-quilt.

Machine reverse applique practice pieces layered with batting and backing to Appli-quilt.

Making a practice piece

Consider having your practice pieces ready for January 24, 2018 when we release Machine Reverse Applique Part 4 of 5: Corners & Acute Points.

The piece(s) we are going to make will serve many purposes.  First, it will serve as a tester for stitch width and length.

If you make one of fused top fabric ironed onto the background fabric you will learn what stitch numbers give you the best results, and you can also treat it with Terial Magic or layer with a stabilizer to see how they work. 

Or make your quilt sandwich...fused top, background, batting and backing...to experiment with Appli-quilting.

Pick two fabrics with sharp color and value contrast to make things easier on yourself.

I cut 3 - 7" x 7" squares of Soft Fuse, 3 - 7" x 7" squares of top fabric, 4 - 7" x 7" squares of background fabric, 3 - 7" x 7" squares quilt batting, 3 - 7" x 7" squares of backing fabric. 

Draw 4 shapes onto the paper side of your fusible:

  • a zig-zag line with 45 degree angles to practice inside and outside corners
  • an "S" curve line to practice inside and outside curves
  • an acute angle line to practice acute inside and outside points
  • several circles of various sizes to practice stitching circles

Iron the fusible onto the wrong side of your top fabric. Cut the shapes out with your small, sharp scissors. (If you carefully cut them out you can use these bits to make a practice piece for applique, too.)

 "S" curves to practice inside and outside curves.

"S" curves to practice inside and outside curves.

 Zig-zag to practice 90 degree corners.

Zig-zag to practice 90 degree corners.

 Circles various sizes to practice circles.

Circles various sizes to practice circles.

 Acute zig-zag to practice acute inside and outside points.

Acute zig-zag to practice acute inside and outside points.

 Treating my fused top fabric with Terial Magic spray-on stabilizer for unlayered practice piece.

Treating my fused top fabric with Terial Magic spray-on stabilizer for unlayered practice piece.

 Applique practice piece. Ironed and layered to practice appli-quilting.

Applique practice piece. Ironed and layered to practice appli-quilting.

Once the shapes are cut out, peel the paper and lay fused piece on the right side of the background fabric.  Iron.  Stabilize one piece with either Terial Magic or stabilizer of your choice for fabric layers only. Layer two of the fused tops with batting and backing.  I chose to make an applique practice piece, too, while I was at it and layered it as well. So, for a little bit of time I made 4 practice pieces.   You are ready to begin stitching.

See you next time, January 24, 2018, for Machine Reverse Applique - Part 4 of 5: Corners & Acute Points.  Use what you've learned about your sewing machine and of Needle- Eye coordination plus tips on how to satin stitch crisp inside and outside corners, and clean sharp inside and outside acute points. 

Visit the machine applique section of our shop for our unique reverse applique patterns for creating by machine.