Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Dissolving products used for turned edge machine applique

I've been asked quite a few times how I use dissolving products to do turned edge invisible machine applique.  I'm pretty sure I first learned the technique from Sharon Schamber many moons ago.  She was selling a few products then, and I have since morphed into other ones that I recommend.

First, I use Ricky Tims Stable Stuff Poly.  It is a non-woven stabilizer that can be used in the printer, drawn on with a pencil or permanent marker, accepts glue readily, provides a clean edge to machine applique against, and finally, dissolves into fibers when you wash the quilt.  I use it on my art quilts extensively, even through they don't get washed.  I purchase it in sheets and in rolls.  The sheets run through the printer easily and the rolls help me make large pieces.  It is available on The Quilt Show and many other on-line sellers.  (No longer available through Ricky Tims himself.)

Second, I use the washable school glue stick from Elmer's that starts as purple, but dries to clear.  You can purchase these cheaply when school supplies hit the stores in late summer.  A box of them lasts me the entire year.   I use the smaller size; the bigger one is too messy.  Well, the small one is messy too, but not so much that you can't work with it.  Remember, it's washable, so whatever gets on your fingers or tool can easily be washed off.

And finally, the tools that I've come to love are the small Ritz iron, an awl, a wooden clay carving tool, tiny scissors, a small ironing surface covered with Duck cloth, and freezer paper.

Here are the steps that I followed to do small flower petals.  First, I draw the shapes onto the stabilizer.  I place them quite closely and cut them out on the lines.

Next, I place some glue on the outside edges of each piece and place them glue side down on the wrong side of the fabric.  (My ironing surface, which lets me sit down, is covered halfway with freezer paper that is used to slop the glue onto and the freezer paper is tossed at the end of each project.  It's cheap and handy to have it on the right side of the ironing surface.)  These pieces then get pressed with my Ritz iron.

I leave a small seam allowance when I cut out the pieces.  1/8" is all you'll need, and it is much easier to turn the edges neatly when they are small.  If you're doing larger applique pieces, you can leave a larger seam allowance.  The trick is to have no tucks on the edge, so any excess fabric will try to form a pleat.

I take this piece back to the freezer paper area and cover the edges with glue a second time.

Using my tools to keep my fingers out of the way of the hot iron, I turn the edges and make sure to smooth out any tucks on the edges.  I have found that using the awl on the edge and the wooden tool to hold the seam allowance while ironing works the best.  The point of the awl can really smooth out any edge wrinkles.  If you get a small tuck, just use your awl to pry up the seam allowance and try it again.  The beauty of using the Ricky Tims stable stuff poly is that you can do this second step without ripping the foundation.  Ask me how I know?  I have to do this a few times on the really small pieces.  When I've tried using other foundation products or glue, they grip tight the first time and there's no going back.

When I am done with a small area, I press the seam allowance well to mash down the excess fabric, making sure to press from the edges towards the center.  

After it cool off, it can be used in your art quilt.  Sometimes, I spot glue this applique to the background before I stitch it to hold it in place.  If you do tiny spots of glue either with the glue stick or a small pointed glue delivery tip, you can do this well in advance of stitching down the pieces.  It will hold for quite a while.  Sometimes, I don't bother with that step and just pin the pieces in place right before I sew them down.  On the quilt with the daisies, I've pinned them up on the design wall to play with placement.

This technique works for any shape you can draw.   You can also use the foundation product to use an irregular shape from a printed floral or graphic material.  In that case, you place the foundation product on the wrong side of the fabric (with no glue), sew around the motif (just inside the edges) with dissolving thread, cut away the excess foundation, and turn the edges in the same steps as above.  You will have to use water to dissolve the thread.  This is a personal choice - rather to baste with regular thread or use dissolving thread.  If there are a lot of pieces, I prefer to use dissolving thread as the ripping out of the basting thread can be tedious.

The last step of course is to applique the pieces to your quilt.  I prefer to use invisible thread and do a small zig-zag stitch - 1.3 width to 1.6 width, and 1.1 stitch length.  

I hope this helps some of you!

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