Hand Appliqué Tips and Tricks
I thought it might be nice to share a few pictures, tips and tricks on hand appliqué. Since we do a lot of wall hangings or table runners that call for embellishments that can be either hand or machine appliquéd, I mostly choose and prefer the hand variety.
How do you get started? Initially, the pattern you are following will give you the piece(s) to trace. You could cut out the piece from the purchased pattern, but we usually make a copy of it so that the original pattern stays intact. We then cut out the piece from the copied paper. Let me warn you from experience – if you are tracing letters to the wrong side of the fabric, the letter needs to be reversed! I cannot tell you how many backwards “S” we have had to retrace in our days . . .
Now, the pattern you are following may suggest using some sort of fusible webbing/interfacing to secure the piece to the other fabric. If you choose to do this, use the lightest, thinnest 2-sided fusible webbing/interfacing you can find. There is a brand called Lightweight or something similar. As you are pushing your needle through the fabrics you will wish for the thinnest possible of layers or your finger will quickly get tired and/or sore. This is also especially important for a table runner – you don’t want stiff areas on a table runner!
We don’t use the fusible webbing very often any longer. Not using it requires that hand or machine appliqué is done for all the pieces, so if the pattern has a lot of little pieces it may be necessary. I don’t like to hand appliqué through pieces that have been attached using the fusible webbing mainly because it is more difficult to push the needle through.
Once you have your background fabric and pieces to appliqué, you are ready to get started. Pick out some thread – I use cross stitch floss because we have a ton of it on hand. You can also use any cotton or polyester thread you have on hand. The thread can match the fabrics, or it can totally not match to draw attention to the appliqué. It is up to you! I often use black, but here are some pictures where I chose lime green (!!). I am using the ABC quilt as an example where I visibly centered the letter on the background fabric and secured it with a few pins. If it is slightly off as far as being centered, I think it just gives the overall quilt charm – but use a ruler if you find that annoying! Here are all my tools that I use on a daily basis for hand quilting:
I make a basic knot in the thread – two actually so that it doesn’t pull through the fabric, and I bring the needle up from the wrong side of the fabric. The thread is then laid flat against the fabric and underneath the needle as a stitch is taken. In this picture you can see the stitch is about ¼” long.
You can make you stitches any length – as big or as small as you want, but I would make them an appropriate scale to the piece you are appliquéing. If you are stitching on small pieces, you wouldn’t want large stitches. I sometimes make small, dense stitches and other times I loosen up a bit and make them less dense. I try to eyeball them so that they somewhat match because I think that looks best – but there are no Stitch Police that I am aware of. NO ONE else will really look at them as closely as you do!! Really!
Here is the letter Q with a few stitches in it. As I stitch, I pull straight up on the thread as I’m laying it behind the needle for the next stitch.
What do you do when you either run out of thread or have completed the area that you need to appliqué? Well, they are two different endings actually. If I run out of thread, I take a small stitch on the wrong side of the fabric underneath the item that is being appliquéd. In this case, the small stitch would be under the black polka-dotted fabric close to the last stitch so that it doesn’t show through on the beige fabric. When I get to the end of this appliqué, or the inside of the Q is all stitched, I take one final stitch right over the beginning knotted area so that it looks like every other appliqué stitch and then poke the needle down right next to the beginning knot.
Then I take a small stitch on the wrong side of the fabric to form a final knot and snip off the thread with a short tail – not too close so that it could come loose but not too long so that it could show through the fabric. Are you ready to start some hand appliqué? I’d be happy to answer any questions, or to clarify any point for you.