Thursday, March 18, 2010

And now, HOW MACHINE APPLIQUÉ TECHNIQUES SCORED based on my personal criteria….

Pattern by Mary Sorensen, Simple Gifts

I hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! This year’s celebration took on an international flavor when my Cuban born Mom surprised my Southie husband (Irish descended South Boston native) with an incredible meal including a homemade cake with “from scratch” custard filling and green meringue. Thankfully, Mom’s incredible cooking – which we all have known since childhood has magic powers – is one of the few things that can cure Jim’s homesickness so he was a very happy Irishman yesterday.
AP Photo/Orlando Sentinal, Red Huber


I too am very happy but for a different reason. I have made progress on my search for the perfect machine appliqué technique. Here is the link to the original blog if you missed it …

Before I get into the details, I want to stress that this test and scoring process is all based on PERSONAL PREFERENCE. We are each the sum total of our experience and physical abilities. What works for me may not work for anyone else and vice versa. The only way to know what works best for YOU is for you is to try it things for yourself. I’m sharing my experiences with you to help you on your own path of discovery.

By the way, this is a long one so it’s probably a good idea to get a hot/cold drink before you settle in to read. On second thought, you had better go get a sandwich.

So far, I have tested 5 different techniques. Sadly, no technique so far meets all of my criteria. However, several have potential and one works especially well. Below is a quick description of each. Google each teacher to learn more or to order their book/DVD that teaches the technique.

1. Freezer Paper Prepared Edge - Technique 1 is freezer paper underneath with the fabric edges glued down. After stitching with either a blind hem or tiny zig zag stitch, the background is cutaway and the block is dampened with warm water to loosen the glue and the freezer paper is removed. I learned it from Beth Ferrier’s books.

2. Foundation Paper Prepared Edge - Technique 2 is Sharon Schamber’s foundation paper underneath with the fabric edges glued down. However, the paper is left in the quilt block. After sewing the appliqué with either a blind hem or tiny zig zag stitch, and the quilting is complete, the entire quilt must be washed to dissolve the foundation paper. I have taken several workshops with Sharon and highly recommend them because you learn so much about quilting, creativity, design, etc. Her books and DVDs are very good.

3. Liquid Stitch Raw Edge - Technique 3 is another Sharon Schamber technique. The appliqué fabric is starched stiff and the piece cut right to the edge. Then a small bead of either Liquid Stitch or Elmer’s School Glue is applied to the back edge and the piece is ironed down to the background. The edge is finished with a zig zag, buttonhole or other decorative stitch. Again, Sharon Schamber .

4. Fused Raw Edge - Technique 4 uses fusible web (BTW - I tested several different brands and Soft Fuse by Shady Textiles is my absolute favorite – probably the subject of another blog). I TINY bit of fusible is left around the perimeter of the appliqué and the shape is fused to the background. The edge is finished with a zig zag, buttonhole or other decorative stitch. I have taken several of Sue Nickel’s workshops highly recommend them. She is an excellent teacher. Her book is Raw Edge Applique and is also very good.

5. Templar and Starch Prepared Edge – Technique 5 requires a template be made from Templar (or other heat resistant template material – again tried several but Templar won hands down) for each appliqué shape. The appliqué fabric is cut out with a seam allowance. The template is placed on the back of the fabric. A small amount of Magic Sizing is used to wet the seam allowance and then ironed dry over the edge of the template. The appliqué shape can then be stitched to the background using either a tiny zig zag or a blind hem stitch. I learned this from Karen Kay Buckley. I have taken a few of her workshops and she is an EXCELLENT teacher. I have also viewed her DVD several times.

And now, HOW MACHINE APPLIQUÉ TECHNIQUES SCORED based on my personal criteria….

Was the technique enjoyable or did it feel like a kindergarten art class?

Did I feel like I was sewing or was it too crafty/messy?

Did it create a beautiful edge?

Did the finished appliqué feel soft in my hands?

Was it faster than hand appliqué?

Technique 1 - Freezer Paper Prepared Edge - failed on almost all criteria. For me it was excessively messy. The glue stick was difficult to control. In our South Florida heat and humidity, it would get too soft too fast. I had to keep switching it out with another glue stick I kept in the freezer. I had glue all over my hands, the iron, my hair, the dog, etc. I could not get past the mess and my hands constantly wet and sticky. The method did create a beautiful edge. However, I was very uncomfortable cutting away the background fabric and leaving a moistened towel on the back of the block to loosen the glue so the freezer paper could be pulled out. I couldn’t get through this technique enough to prepare a single sample.

Technique 2 - Foundation Paper Prepared Edge – also failed for extreme messiness and stitches showing. The advantage over Technique 1 is that the foundation paper does not need to be removed because the fiber dissolves when the quilt is washed. This technique also creates a nice edge but I noticed that the combination of glue and fiber stiffen the appliqué so that the stitching, which should be invisible, shows more. The monofilament was invisible but the hole made by the size 60 needle was still visible even after washing. In one sample (the pink bird pattern from Best of Baltimore by Elly Sienkiewicz), I went over the stitching with a hand embroidery to hide the holes.

In the second sample (the red rose pattern Victorian Rose by Sharon Schamber) I ended up stitching the appliqué by hand with cotton embroidery thread.

Technique 3 - Liquid Stitch Raw Edge – scored much higher than Techniques 1 &2 because there was no glue stick – Yippee! Plus it was much faster to execute. The appliqué shape is cut right to size and a very tiny bead of Elmers Glue or Liquid Stitch is applied right to the edge. The appliqué shape is ironed to the background. I had difficulty squeezing the bottle of glue hard enough and keeping my hand steady enough to get the glue only on the very edge. My hand kept cramping up. In addition, the fumes from the Liquid Stitch were strong enough to bother my allergies. The Elmer’s Glue was less toxic but because it washes out, I was worried that that any points would fray after washing – and they did. The appliqué edges were soft and clean but the overall appearance of the block was very flat.

Technique 4 - Fused Raw Edge was the fastest to prepare for stitching (one evening to prepare an entire block of complex, tiny shapes). However, it took the longest to stitch! It was very neat, no glue or wet hands. It was very precise. It worked for even the tiniest pieces. I tried several paper backed fusible products and was quickly frustrated by the paper peeling off the adhesive before I was ready (Steam a Seam). I also found some gummed up the needle during stitching (Steam a Seam 2). Some were just too stiff after ironing (Heat n Bond). My favorite turned out to be Soft Fuse by Shades Textiles. No gumminess and the paper stayed on ALMOST until you are ready to remove it. If you handle the product too much the adhesive and the paper will separate so be careful. I like to stitch raw edge appliqué very precisely and I am meticulous about hiding thread tails, start and stops, etc. For me it’s extremely time consuming. I can embroider a buttonhole stitch by hand in half the time. I can hand appliqué as fast or faster. Like technique 3, the overall appearance of the block is very flat - see the bird in a heart wreath example (pattern Summer Heart by Shirley Bloomfield).

Technique 5 - Templar and Starch Prepared Edge is definitely the front-runner! Preparation time is about the same as technique 1 & 2. Templates need to be traced and cut out of heat resistant template material. Until this experiment, I had only used Mylar sheets. Mylar is thick and for me difficult to cut accurately. For this experiment, I loosened the purse strings and bought a package of “The Original” Templar by Heirloom Stitches. A little pricey - $13 - $16 for a package of 6 - 81/2 by 11 sheets - BUT OH MY GOD! What a difference. Templar is only a little thicker than construction paper so it was VERY easy to cut accurately. Moreover, if tracing is not your thing, it can be run through a laser printer and it’s already cut to size! Another plus over the other methods is that the others require you to make a mirror image of your shapes or your finished piece will turn out backwards. That means you need a light box in order to trace from the back of the pattern or you need a fancy copier that will reverse and image. With this method, the template can be trace from the front of the pattern and cut out. Then to use the reverse image, all you have to do is turn the template over! How easy is that? It took me an evening to trace and cut the templates for THREE blocks. I don’t think that was excessive. The next step is to place the template on the back of the appliqué fabric and trace around it with a pencil. Cut it out with a quarter inch seam allowance. Place the template back on the shape. Paint the seam allowance with liquid starch or Magic Sizing or Best Press and use the edge of the iron to press the seam over the edge of the template. I worked very slowly to make sure my shapes were perfect. My sample is the first block from Mary Sorensen’s pattern Simple Gifts. It took me one evening to complete the dragonfly and one evening to complete the violets and their leaves. Again, what I feel is a reasonable amount of time. I believe the edge turned out beautifully. It’s soft with no glues, paper, etc. No mess and the Best Press/Magic Sizing smells so nice and clean. To me it looks exactly like a traditional needle turned edge. Only better because I can then stitch down by machine using a monofilament thread. The stitching goes very fast because there is no need to stop and change threads.

ONE HUGE PLUS that I never even considered before I started was that with this method I am able to use non-cotton or other non-traditional quilting fabrics for appliqué. Notice the iridescent fabric used for the dragonfly. That is a Mickey Lawler Sky Dye fabric I purchased years ago and then gave up on because I it was so difficult to needle by hand through the dyes.

I used several hand-dyed fabrics in this sample and they were all very easy to manipulate with this technique. Another plus I didn’t anticipate is that with finished edges and the color/fabric selection complete this becomes a very portable, no-brainer, sit with the family project that can also be very fast and easy to hand appliqué.

I like the Templar technique quite a bit. I may even do a head to head test between it and back basting for hand appliqué. Maybe. I will keep you posted. But until then….

Best stitches,

Mercy in Miami

aka The Savage Quilter

PS - Thaddeus turned 1 year old on Saturday, March 13th. To celebrate he learned a new trick - he climbs on to the sofa in the family room, covers himself with a quilt, and watches TV. Okay - I admit it - he's spoiled beyond redemption.


  1. The pattern for the Rose sample is by Sharon Schamber "Victorian Rose". The pattern for the pink bird is from Best of Balitmore Beauties by Elly Sienkiewicz. The pattern for the fused edge sample is by Shirely Bloomfield.

  2. enjoyed reading your tutorial...will try this at a later date...some good methods there. Thanks for sharing

  3. Thanks Joan! I learned a lot with this exercise - but more importantly, I had a lot of fun. I hope you do too!

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  5. Thank you for your detailed post and comparison. There are a few methods you did not try---one of my favorites for shapes which are a good size and do not have too many tight curves is Eleanor burns' using fusible interfacing. I will try to find some real templar as other products are tough on my wrist

  6. I love the looks of applique but am having a time mastering the hand technique. It was very nice to read your thoughts on all the different techniques out there. I've tried a couple but I also like the last method as this is what Karen K. Buckley taught in a class I took.

  7. Yes there are still more ways to prepare machine appliqué. That's part of the joy quilting - there are so many techniques and so many new things to always try out! Facing an appliqué shape with either a fabric interfacing, or solvy (water-soluble stabilizer) works really well for larger pieces. I'm very happy so many of you are finding this entry useful!

  8. Karen Kay Buckley is a wonderful teacher! She is the first teacher I learned the templar method from. Her work is gorgeous! She wins tons of awards! She is a prolific quilter! I can’t argue with success.

    If you like the templar method of appliqué - to finish either by hand or by machine - this is the teacher for you. If you cannot get away to take a class she does have a very good DVD that I have enjoyed watching several times and that I have learned quite a bit from.