I’d like to share some tips & tricks that I’ve discovered while working with wool felt and machine appliqué. The step-by-step instructions I provide with Ruby Threadgood patterns use a sewing machine for the appliqué process. Ruby Threadgood patterns can be sewn by hand if you prefer.
IF YOU CAN SEE IT, YOU CAN SEW IT
Get yourself a clear presser foot. If a clear presser foot did not come with your machine (as it did not with mine), check with your local sewing machine shop or online to find a compatible clear foot for your machine. It will make a world of difference and practically eliminates the cussing coming from the craft room.
Some folks have tried using a zipper foot which allows you to see the edge of your shape while sewing but this is not ideal. Wouldn’t want your finger to get in the way!
TAKE IT SLOWLY
You might be able to sew straight seams at light speed but when sewing around curvy shapes and tricky corners, it’s best to take it slowly. Just put your ‘patient britches’ on before you start, slow down and enjoy the process. I’d rather sew around a fun shape than a straight seam anyday!
NEEDLE DOWN, FOOT UP
When turning a corner, sharp curve, (or sometimes just course correcting), the trick is to leave the needle in the down position while lifting the presser foot and turning the fabric you are working on to the desired position. I do this many times throughout a project.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR BACKSTITCH BUTTON
When sewing my patterns I have my thumb on the backstitch button when ‘steering’ around corners. I sometimes back up a full stitch and sometimes only a half stitch. The goal is to keep a consistent distance (about 1/6”) from the edge of the felt while working around a shape. It is better to be closer inside than too close to the edge. Ultimately you want to secure the felt in place so your project will last for years to come. Sewing too close to the edge, can fray the fibers and weaken the shape. This is something that definitely improves with practice.
STOPS & STARTS
Machine appliqué is not a smooth, seamless process – there are lots of starts and stops and you’ll need to secure your threads at the beginning and completion of stitching a shape.
Here’s what I do:
On the underside of my fabric, I pull on my bobbin thread until a loop of my top thread pulls to the underside. With a pin I pull that top thread through to the back. I then tie those two threads together and clip.
If you’d rather do a couple of back stitches before moving forward at the start and then a couple of back stitches at the finish, you can clip your top and bottom threads close to the fabric on the front and back. Just be careful to stitch directly on top of your previous couple of stitches either way.
Some Ruby Threadgood designs suggest that the thread colors be matched to each of the felt colors. I do this to simplify the lines of the design and help camouflage any stitches that may be off. Some sewists prefer to use one color of thread throughout a project because they like the look of it and it cuts down on changing thread and loading bobbins. Sewist’s preference always!