Consider the Fabrics
Before beginning an appliqué project with a regular sewing machine, it is essential to first consider the fabrics to be used. Applying fabric to a base material utilizing a sewing machine must include selecting materials that work best with the project. There are a wide variety of fabrics to work with, including light-weight fabrics like cotton, heavier fabrics like denim and everything in between. All of these fabrics require different settings and techniques for proper application. It is best to begin the project with one firm base fabric, and the appliqué (the decorative fabric) should have the same weave and measure approximately the same thickness. Mixing fabrics may lead to uneven results, puckering and potential fabric damage due to the incorrect tension settings.
Iron on Interfacing
Prior to sewing the appliqué to the base material, is it helpful to use an iron-on interfacing or stabilizer. This helps the appliqué adhere better to the base fabric, as well as help reduce shredding or fraying along the edges of the fabric. It also helps maintain the shape of the appliqué instead of having a softer, more malleable material. After cutting the desired appliqué, iron on the interfacing to the back side of the fabric and let cool before handling or sewing.
Selecting the Stitch Settings
For the start of the project, select a basic straight stitch setting. This is the most reliable and easiest stitch type option to begin with when using a regular sewing machine to appliqué. When using a thread color that is either similar or slightly lighter than the color of the appliqué fabric and the base material, a zig-zag stitch can be used to add texture and more of a decorative flair, especially when using a thicker thread that also adds durability. For a more unique look, a small width zig zag stitch can also be used for additional texture.
Getting Started with the Machine
Once the fabric and stitch settings are chosen, it is time to start the machine and begin appliquéing. For a standard straight stitch start the project by simply turning the hand-wheel and aligning the needle of the machine with the appliqué to begin stitching. Use the feed dogs to help guide the appliqué into place and sew a basic stitch. The spacing can range depending on the size of the appliqué and the desired result, but seven to eight stitches per inch is recommended to ensure that the two fabrics remain secure. Keeping the pressure on the foot of the machine consistent is also ideal for a secure hold that looks professional.
Secure the End of the Stitch
Finishing up the appliqué with a secure stitch is an important step for achieving the desired look. To finish the stitch at the end of the appliqué, simply place the fabric forward towards the presser foot in order for the needle of the machine to take a few stitches at the end of the fabric. When the needle becomes still with the needle in the fabric, turn the hand-wheel in the direction that it goes and pull the fabric out of the machine. Instead of cutting the thread, press the reverse button for a few stitches and then cut the thread near the presser foot with scissors. This will ensure that the stitch remains secure.
Trimming the Appliqué
If there are unsightly fraying edges of the appliqué fabric, take a pair of regular scissors and trim the edges prior to washing. This will allow the fabric to look more professional and retain its shape better. Use caution when doing this so that it does not end up giving it a distorted look.
Caring for the Appliqué
When caring for the appliqué, always read the clothing tags for the description of the materials and what type of washing cycles to use. For most applications, the standard procedure is to machine wash with cold water on a delicate cycle and low heat or air drying options.
Troubleshooting Sewing Machine Problems
When a sewing machine is not performing correctly when appliquéing, the best advice is to double check the needle and presser foot settings on the sewing machine. Use the manual to make sure that the machine is properly threaded, and if a bobbin is required, ensure that the bobbin is inserted properly. If the presser foot pressure is not set correctly, make sure to turn the screw of the foot so it is slightly loose and make sure the needle is installed properly.
Different Types of Appliqués
When using a regular sewing machine to create appliqués, a variety of techniques can be used that can make all types of projects unique and one-of-a-kind. Utilizing all of the settings on the machine, appliqué can be used to make decorations, pictures, banners and geometric patterns. These techniques can also be used with different types of materials, including felt, quilting cotton, leather, suede and brocade, to create a truly unique look that reflects the personality of the project.
Putting Appliqué Inside a Seam
One technique that is commonly used when appliquéing is putting the appliqué fabric inside a seam. This type of appliqué is used to help create an invisible appliqué on garments and quilts that looks professional and neat. Prior to the appliqué, it is essential to mark the outline of the appliqué onto the fabric while a thin interfacing is applied to the appliqué. Once this has been done, cut along the outline of the appliqué and turn the fabric inside out and press to leave a smooth side facing the seam that is placed inside of it. Finally, stitch around the exterior fabric of the appliqué to secure both items together and finish the project.
Applying Metallic Accents
Another popular technique for appliqué is using metallic accents for additional decoration. There is a wide selection of metallic accents to choose from, each with its own unique effects. Metallic special effects threads can be substituted for the regular thread in order to create a bolder, more dramatic look that can add shine and shape to a garment or a decorative item. This type of thread utilizes a wide range of materials, including silver, gold and even hand-painted threads that can be combined with a metallic leather or fabric in order to create a shimmering fabric with a unique look.
Decorative stitching is another technique used when appliquéing fabrics with a regular sewing machine. Decorative stitches come with various shapes, sizes, patterns and lengths of stitches, each with its own unique look. A wide range of decorative stitches can be utilized while creating appliqués, from small and rectangular to more complex with multiple elements that come together in an intricate pattern. Selecting an appropriate needle and adjusting the tension is necessary for these types of projects for being able to achieve the desired look.
Adding a Professional Finish
The last step in creating a professional finish for any appliqué is using a finisher. This is typically a tool that is used to neatly hide the threads in the appliqué fabric without having to hand sew or tie off the threads. It does this by utilizing a small metal tool that is used to press the threads in the fabric down into a secured position and is then clipped with a pair of scissors in order to prevent unraveling. This tool can be found online or in specific machine stores, and can make all the difference in making an appliqué look polished and professional.