CraftFilter: How to attach applique with embroidery, for dummies.
May 22, 2010 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Crafters, please help. What I'm trying to do is apparently called "applique" and "embroidering," as part of a quilt project. I'm totally clueless and kinda need to finish today.

Okay, I've stepped back into the 1890's because my crafty friends have proposed that we'll show our love for our pregnant friend by making a quilt from squares we each make. Beautiful idea.

I am totally clueless here. After going blind from the animated gifs on the online How Tos, and seeing the time I have for this project ticking away, I turn to you for any help you might be able to provide.

Here's my current situation:
- I've received good guidance on size, etc. The edges will be finished when the squares are sewn together, and then they'll do the quilting.
- It's for a baby, so it has to be durable and washable.
- I have three pieces of fabric: one for the backing, one for the body of the animal I want to make, and one for the wings. I went ahead and pre-shrunk them.
- I have purchased "embroidery floss" and "embroidery needles."

And ... that's it. So now. Questions:
- How do I cut fabric to the shape of an image? (I am finding one online.) Do I cut it bigger than the shape and then turn the edges under, or what? I do have tracing paper from architecture class if that helps.
- Then, how do I attach it? The craft store last weekend recommended embroidery, since it's easier than trying to attach it invisibly. I have discovered that there are a variety of stitches online, and I'm thinking maybe I'll attach the animal perhaps using something like a blanket stitch? And if time allows, there are these internal lines in the wings that I might like to do with some sort of stem stitch or split stitch? I do have pins, needles, and thread, if any of that is useful. No sewing machine.

I truly am clueless, so if there's anything big I'm missing here, please let me know. I don't want this to just fall apart. Thanks sincerely for your help.
posted by slidell to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What sort of fabric are you using? If you pick at the cut edge, can you pick out threads? If not, no seam needed. Otherwise, you will need to make a seam (you could make do with some iron-on interfacing, too, but that depends on how much time you have and whether or not you can/ want to run to the fabric store) or pink the edges, which might work well if you're aiming for a sort of country, rustic look. Do you have pinking shears?
I used a sewing machine pretty exclusively, so I can't be of help as to your hand embroidery; again, though, iron-on interfacing might come in helpful to help anchor the piece and give it some stiffness (which may or may not be desirable).
posted by queseyo at 3:34 PM on May 22, 2010

This is a decent tutorial. Good luck - I'm sure it will look great!
posted by Mackerelly at 3:34 PM on May 22, 2010

Here's a good How-to by a quilter for doing appliques. She uses a machine for the stitching, but you should be able to do it by hand. Doing a buttonhole stitch by hand will be time consuming, but it will be a nice finish.
posted by saffry at 3:38 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you so much for the help. I'm looking at the tutorials now. Thank you -- that sort of thing is exactly what I needed.

To answer the questions above: the fabric is cotton, I believe. It frayed a bit in the washer/dryer, so I'm assuming the end needs turned under (if that's what you mean by whether a seam is needed). No pinking shears handy. Could run to the store if necessary. (I'd go if going would save more time than it'd take.)
posted by slidell at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2010

The easiest way I know of to turn under the edges is the "sew and turn" method from Mackerelly's link. You cut your shapes out of the applique fabric, and you cut some more out of scrap fabric or interfacing. Place the applique fabric shape and the scrap fabric shape right sides facing eachother and sew along the edges. Then carefully cut a slit in the middle of the scrap fabric piece (make sure you don't cut through to the good fabric). Turn the whole thing inside out through the slit and iron flat. Then sew the shape onto your backing piece. You can even put a little stuffing in the shape before you sew it down if you want a little dimension to it.
posted by dogmom at 5:02 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For applique, if I remember my beginner's quilting class correctly:

1) Trace the shape you want on the wrong side of the fabric (a pencil works well)
2) Cut it out, leaving about a half or quarter inch of seam allowance around the traced shape
3) Fold the allowance under, creasing it along the edges so all that you see from the right side of the fabric is the shape you want
4) Baste your shape to the backing, tacking down the allowance as you go. You should have a kind of little tunnel running along the edges of your shape, made where you folded over the allowance.

5) This is the tricky part: using thread the same color as your backing, sew down the applique, hiding your stitches in the tunnel and on the wrong side of the backing. Ideally, you shouldn't see any stitches from the right side of the square. Start on the wrong side, and go along the edges of your applique. Imagine that you're sewing down the folded over part, and run your needle through the "tunnel" as much as possible when you're on the right side. So, small stitch up into the tunnel, run the needle through it a bit, then down on the bottom of the folded over part and into the backing. The exact style of your stitches matter less than: making them as small as possible (for sturdiness), and making sure you can't see them from the right side as much as possible.

6) When you've gone all the way around and tied off your thread, pull out the basting stitches. If you'd like, you could blanket stitch around the edges as well for decoration. As for the lines in the wings, chances are they will take care of that when quilting, although you could add them in if you have the thread/embroidery floss.

I'm sure most of this is covered in the tutorials above, and this is assuming you're dealing with pretty simple shapes. Curves and points can be difficult, but don't worry about it too much! The flaws of a handmade quilt square are part of the charm :)
posted by MadamM at 5:10 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Appliqué (with a buttonhole stitch-type finish) without a sewing machine would be very slow and probably drive you insane if you haven't sewn before. This means that yes, you're going to have to turn the edges under. It would probably be easiest to use iron-on interfacing or magic hemming tape of some kind (umm, it's basically a strip of iron-on interfacing, you fold the fabric into the right place and put the tape wherever it should be, then the heat from the iron melts it all together. soldering, for fabric), then attach the magically hemmed animal to the background.

You probably don't want blanket stitch, unless this (in the first picture) is the kind of effect you want. For a beginner project, I think you'd be able to get a nice effect with running stitch - go for something bright and contrasting, maybe, rather than trying to match the fabric colour exactly ... this kind of thing, but maybe with better colours ... you can always double it, going back along and filling in the gaps to create a solid line of stitching (this kind of thing). I'd use running stitch for the detail in the wings, too.

Good luck!
posted by Lebannen at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much. This is all starting to make sense. I don't want to mark "best answers" because it took both tutorials for me to have any sort of a clue about anything, and now I'm most likely going to do this "sew and turn" method, probably because having once made a beanbag, it made sense to me, and also because it seems extra sturdy and perhaps easier to repair.

I'm starting to think about how all this relates to my shapes. I'm looking at a simplified version of this or this for my pattern, so there's a pretty narrow part. I like the idea of making the body puffy. MadamM made a great point about the quilting step, and since I'll be there the day they piece it all together, I'm thinking about maybe bringing some embroidery floss with me and have a discussion about that general question with them.

I hold great respect for those of you with all of this knowledge, and I'm even starting to see how this could be fun! Many thanks!
posted by slidell at 5:31 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: Hmmm.... some helpful but sobering reality from Lebannen. I didn't quite think through how long all that stitching would take. I do have a few good movies. Maybe this magic hemming tape is necessary. The fabric store is going to close soon, so I'm trying to think through ... that stiff backing stuff, magic hemming tape, iron-on interfacing.

Which is easier, the turn-it-inside-out method, the magic hemming tape method, or the "tunnel" method that MadamM describes? (The latter two sound very similar to me: is that right?) "Sew and turn" would require two round of sewing (one to hem it and one to attach it), while the other methods basically attach it and hem it at the same time, right? Which is more beginner-proof? :)
posted by slidell at 5:38 PM on May 22, 2010

I think the easiest method of applique is to use a lightweight fusible interfacing (I use Heat and Bond Light) to affix the applique to the base fabric (it's like making your own iron-on). You do need to stitch the edges to make everything washable. I've used blanket stitch on such appliques and they've turned out nicely. It would probably be the fastest way to get your applique done (although it won't look quite as polished as a turned-under, no stitches showing applique).
posted by rebeccabeagle at 6:09 PM on May 22, 2010

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