Fusible Machine Appliqué

Fusible machine appliqué is surprisingly easy, and fun to boot! Page through almost any issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited and you’ll find loads of examples of this great technique.

A few weeks ago I was creating a sample for an upcoming class on machine appliqué, and it reminded me that it all comes down to two key elements: fusible web, and stabilizer. Combine these two and you’re golden.

Rose of Sharon, ©Diane Rusin Doran
Rose of Sharon sample by Diane Rusin Doran

I’d love to recommend a single product that is the secret sauce for all of your appliqué needs, but there is no one perfect solution for everyone. The perfect solution for you is what you find works best. I have friends who are die hard users of Lite Steam-A-Seam 2, others who are Misty Fusers for life, and then, of course, there’s the Wonder-Under crowd. These are just a few of the fusible choices available. If you’re not familiar with using fusible web, I’d recommend getting a small amount of several kinds (maybe share with friends?) and creating a few test or practice appliqués. Not a whole block or quilt, just a few shapes to see what look and feel you prefer. Different products yield varying degrees of stiffness and hold. Be sure to refer to the manufacturer’s pressing directions for the specific product you’re using.

As for stabilizers, once again there are many choices. When I first began to machine appliqué (which pre-dated when I began quilting!) I didn’t know about stabilizers. They make all the difference in your stitch quality! Even putting something as simple as copy paper or freezer paper under your work can improve the look of your project. I no longer use paper as a stabilizer, since removing it can be tiresome, but instead rely on some of the easier to manage tear-away or wash-away products that are readily available at any quilt or fabric store. Again, doing a little test will help you determine which stabilizer best suits your needs.

Part of the fun of fusible appliqué is that you can easily vary the look of your design by using different stitches. Some folks don’t stitch down their edges at all, but instead rely on how they quilt their work to hold the appliqué in place. This works great for pieces you don’t intend to wash.

For quilted items that you would like to wash, try using a small zigzag, satin stitching, a blanket stitch, or even straight stitching (though if washed this may fray a little).

©Diane Rusin Doran Rose of Sharon sample
Note the different edge treatments on the various parts of this simple appliqué .

In the sample above the leaves and the lavender stars are finished with a tiny zigzag, the rose colored portion of the flower is blanket stitched, the deep orange has satin stitching, and the lightest orange is straight stitched. It’s fun to combine a variety of edge treatments like this, and it also adds a little visual interest.

For more details on incorporating satin stitching into your work,  check out part one of  a great two part series about satin stitching that Beth Schillig wrote for our  November/December 2014 issue. (Part two was in the January/February 2015 issue.) I love Beth’s great tips on thread selection, achieving the right tension, and especially her explanation of the proper needle placement.

Wishing you smooth stitching and happy appliquéing!

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