10 tips for satin stitch applique

Welcome back. Today we’re going to see how the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 930 shines when it comes to applique. Not only is the quality of the satin stitch amazing, but there are features on the Sapphire 930 that make the applique process so easy – you will NOT want to applique on a regular sewing machine. Trust me on this one. I’ve compiled 10 tips for satin stitch applique that are very useful when quilting.

Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 930 sewing machine

Number 1 – choose the appropriate applique method

When I want to emphasize or highlight the applique shapes, I usually choose a fusible applique technique and finish the raw edges with satin stitching. I don’t want to turn the edges of the applique shapes under when using a satin stitch as that method would add a lot of bulk to the shape and that look isn’t for me.

When choosing to finish the raw edges with a satin stitch, the process will be a lot easier if the applique shapes are reasonably sized with smooth-ish edges. If there are many points and jagged edges in the design of the applique shapes, you’ll be spending a lot of time doing the stitching. Best leave those shapes for another stitch type.

Not only do I look at the style of the applique shapes, but I look at how the quilt will be used. If the quilt is for a child, it’s best to firmly attach those applique shapes and fusible applique with satin stitching as it’s very durable if done correctly.

Remember what I said yesterday – there are guidelines, but should you choose to do your own thing – that’s perfectly acceptable.

Number 2 – set up the sewing machine

The sewing machine gets set up the same way for any type of applique. Extend that work surface around the needle, use the correct needle plate and put on the open toe applique foot. See the post from yesterday if you don’t remember.

Getting the sewing machine and the work surface set up correctly will help to achieve those good results we want.

Extension table for the Sapphire 930

Number 3 – choose the right needle and thread

Equally important is the needle and thread. I choose a completely different thread for the satin stitch. I want the stitches to show so I choose embroidery thread (40 weight). It has a bit of a shine to it so it helps to highlight the edges of the applique and because it’s slightly thicker, it helps to fill in the spaces between the stitches so the applique shape doesn’t show through the satin stitch. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

I also use pre-wound bobbins for the bobbin. If the tension is set properly, there’s no need to have many different colors of bobbin weight thread for the bobbin. I tend to use black or white. That keeps it simple.

I’m going to use a Microtex needle but this time because the thread is thicker, I’m going to use a size 80/12 which is the same size that I would use to piece quilt tops.

40 weight embroidery thread and prewound bobbins for satin stitch applique

In this sample below, you can see that I used two different colors of bobbin thread. On the left, the bobbin thread was black and on the right, I used white. The top thread color was black for the entire sample. A correct tension for satin stitch will pull the top thread to the back and so it doesn’t really matter which color bobbin thread you use. Although I do like to use black in the bobbin when I’m using dark threads on top and white bobbin thread for the lighter threads on top.

Again, the Sapphire 930 has no issues with the tension. I select the stitch I want and the Sapphire 930 does the rest. The more variables I can eliminate, the faster I can get to the stitching.

Left side used black bobbin thread, right side used white bobbin thread. See how the top thread is pulled to the back. This is correct tension for satin stitch applique.

The other thing to think about is the color of the thread for the actual satin stitch. Do you use matching thread, contrasting thread or one color for the entire piece regardless of the color of the applique shapes? This is something that is very personal. Only you can decide.

One way to help guide you is to check out quilts or applique designs. I like to take pictures of things I like and of things I dislike. Sometimes, it’s the end look of the piece that will dictate the thread colors, sometimes it’s the thread colors that I have on hand – many factors will help decide which thread color to use.

Remember – there is no right or wrong choice. Pick what you like! Stitch-outs are invaluable here!

Number 4 – use a stabilizer

This one isn’t even up for discussion! You must use a stabilizer when you’re doing satin stitch. Even though the applique shapes have been prepped with fusible and the fact that the applique stitch sits on that fused shape, you still must use a stabilizer. It helps to keep the work from pulling in, especially if you’re not 100% accurate on the stitch placement. Buy lots – you will use lots!

There are many types of stabilizers, but a light tear away such as the one shown below by Inspira works perfectly for most applications of satin stitch.

Did you notice that I did not recommend a stabilizer yesterday for the invisible applique stitch? That’s because it’s not necessary when doing the elongated zig zag. It would be next to impossible to remove after you’ve completed the stitching and it isn’t necessary.

With the satin stitch, the stitching perforates the stabilizer so when you’re finished your piece, the stabilizer readily tears away along the edges of the satin stitching.

Light weight Tear Away Stabilizer by Inpsira

Have a look at the sample below. The stitching on the left is at the widest setting on the Sapphire 930 which is 7.0 mm. There was no stabilizer underneath the stitching and it’s a mess.

Then I placed one layer of the lightweight stabilizer under the sample on the right. This is much better and if you still feel that your work is pulling, then use a heavier stabilizer or double up the lightweight.

You want everything to be smooth and flat – if not – then your work is going to be severely misshapen which isn’t going to look pretty and you’re going to have odd shaped backgrounds.

Sample on the left – no stabilizer, sample on the right – one layer of lightweight tear away stabilizer by Inspira

Number 5 – selecting the stitch options

There are three pre-programmed satin stitches on the Sapphire 930. The length of the stitch (I refer to it as the density – more on that in a  minute) is the same for the three stitches at 0.8. There are three different widths pre-programmed into the Sapphire 930. A narrow stitch with a width of 2.0 mm, a medium width of 4.0 mm and a wide width of 6.0 mm. You can use the taper feature with the widest setting.

The settings for all three of those stitches can be overridden so if you’re in the medium width and decide that you want a wider stitch or a more dense stitch, you simply use the plus and minus buttons to do so. The minimum width is 0.5 mm and the widest is 7.0 mm. This gives a very wide range of widths which is perfect for everything that I’d want to satin stitch. Anything larger than 7.0 mm should probably be done in a different style because after 7.0 mm wide – those stitches start to become huge and too loose.

Settings for medium width satin stitch on the Sapphire 930

Settings for the large satin stitch on the Sapphire 930

In the sample above with the large satin stitch, you can see the taper symbols in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

You will note that the Sewing Advisor recommends the B foot and technically you could use the B foot but I would definitely use the open toe applique foot. Remember – guidelines are just that – guidelines. While the B foot has the channel underneath that allows the thickness of the satin stitch to move smoothly under the foot as it’s formed, my preference is the open toe foot because it’s open in the front which helps to see into all the corners and points of the applique shapes.

Another good idea is to do some stitch-outs with the various widths of the satin stitch. In the sample below, the leftmost sample is the widest at 7.0 mm, the next one is 1.0, then 0.5 (both of which are probably too small to be used on a shape other than stitching a point – more on that in a minute. The smallest I’d likely use to cover a shape would be 1.5 mm. Again – it’s all personal preference and skill. That’s why stitch-outs are so important. If someone recommends you use any particular setting, do a sample stitch out. You’ll know whether it works for you, your machine and your skill level.

You would be amazed at how many people ask for specifics — what stitch length, what speed, what whatever. And the answers I give are settings that work for me and my sewing machines. Matter of fact, I use different settings depending on which model of sewing machine that I’m using. Experiment!

A variety of stitch widths for the satin stitch, 7.0 mm, 1.0 mm, 0.5 mm and 1.5 mm

Let’s talk about density for a minute. Density is created by the stitch length. If your stitch isn’t dense enough, you won’t get complete coverage with your thread. If the stitch is too dense, the thread will jam and you won’t be able to move forward.

The wider the stitch, the more the density or lack thereof is pronounced. In this example below, the lower sample stitch is at 0.8 stitch length and you can see the background peeking through. I shortened the stitch length slightly and got the sample on the top.

Two things to keep in mind – the denser the stitch, the more thread it uses and the longer it’ll take to stitch. You can use a narrower stitch width or match the color of the thread to the applique shape to help if the density is an issue for you. It’s rare that I’d use this wide of a stitch. I find the default setting of 0.8 on the Sapphire 930 is just fine for the narrow to medium stitches. Again – there are many variables and most of them are personal choice.

The nice thing about the Sapphire 930 is the flexibility it provides. If you don’t like a particular aspect of a stitch, you can change the settings to suit your project and your tastes. That flexibility is extremely useful!

Top sample shows a tighter density (shorter stitch length) that the sample on the bottom

A quick note about the sample above. Do you see how the background fabric is pulling slightly? Yes – I only used one layer of the lightweight stabilizer. With that wide of a stitch, two layers of lightweight are required or use one layer of the heavy kind.

Number 6 – …where do I stitch?

We’re almost ready to start stitching, but where do we place that satin stitch? Easy – the same rule of thumb as yesterday is applicable. 99% of the applique stitch (in this case, the satin stitch) is going to lie on the applique shape. When the needle swings to the right, it will enter the background only.

In the sample below, you can see along the bottom edge how the satin stitch is mostly on the surface of the applique shape. But look what happens when I end up with the entire stitch on the surface as on the top row. That raw edge is exposed and it doesn’t look so pretty. Then right at the end of the stitching on the top, you can see that I veered too far away from the edge of the applique and there’s a slight pulling of the background fabric.

It does take a bit of practice to get it right, but the end result is worth it. Having the open toe applique foot helps a lot and go slow if you have to.

Sample showing where the satin stitch should be placed relative to the applique shape

Number 7 – pivot

Pivoting your work is a key factor between having fabulous work and not so fabulous work. This is where the Sapphire 930 shines very brightly. By using the combination of the Needle Stop Up/Down and the Sensor Foot Down/Pivot functions – controlling the sewing machine is completely hands-free leaving your hands free to control the fabric. You can also take one stitch at a time by tapping the foot pedal.

I can’t say enough about this. I don’t have to worry about touching the presser foot lever to move the work because there isn’t one. Once you’ve used this feature, especially for applique, you’ll never want to applique on a sewing machine that doesn’t have these features.

On curves, it’s important to pivot frequently enough to keep the stitches pointing into the center of the work. If you don’t pivot often enough, the work can become misshapen and the background can pull up. Also the stitches will end up slanted along the edge of the work. All things that affect the quality of your final piece.

To pivot on a curve – you must stop with the needle down at the fullest part of the curve. So on the outside edge of the sample below, I stop with the needle in the background and pivot slightly so when I take my next stitch, it will slightly cover the stitch next to it. If I pivot on the applique shape, I’ll have a V shaped space. You can see a couple of examples of the left side of the outer ring of stitching.

Now if I were stitching the inside ring, I must stop with the needle in the applique fabric. When I pivot slightly, the stitching will slightly cover my previous stitch. If I pivot with the needle in the background, I will get a V shaped space in my stitching. You can see several examples on the inner line of stitching.

Bottom line, pivot frequently but make sure you pivot in the right spot, depending on the curve.

Sample of what happens when you don’t pivot on the correct side of the satin stitching

In going around tight curves, you must pivot frequently (after every stitch) and you have to pivot with one side of the stitch in pretty much the same space – think of the stitching as forming a fan. And that works for inside points or outside points.

Pivoting on a tight outside curve – pivot often to create fan shaped stitching

Pivoting on a tight inside curve – pivot often to create fan shaped stitching

Think about it – if you have to pivot after every stitch and you have to lift the presser foot lever each time or you can use the HANDS-FREE setup on the Sapphire 930 – which would you choose?

I think the samples speak for themselves.

Number 8 – turning the corner

Turning corners is easy when you know where to pivot. The sample below shows an inside corner where I pivot at the outermost corner of the stitch. In this case, I pivot with the needle to the left, if the corner were an outer corner, then I would pivot with the needle to the right.

Watch the video to see exactly how I stitched that inside corner.

On an inside corner, pivot with the needle on the left side of the stitch

Turning a Corner

Number 9 – sharp points

Making sharp points with the satin stitch isn’t hard if you know-how. I’ve prepared a video for you to watch. Basically you’re going to taper that stitch width down to 0.5 as you approach the point, pivot to rotate the work and then taper the stitch width back up to whatever width you were using.

There’s a taper feature on the Sapphire 930, but I have to confess that I’m so used to doing this step manually that I find it easier to taper manually. This is something that I should practice so I get better at using the taper feature.

The next stitch is going to be too large – time to start decreasing the stitch width

Once I have tapered to the end, then it’s time to pivot the project and start to increase the stitch length until it’s back to what you started with. If you can’t remember – write it on a sticky! You don’t want to mix up the widths part way through your shape.

Pivot at the point

Turning the Point

In the photo below, you can see the results of the pivoting at the corners and also the tapered stitching (decreasing the stitch width) at the point. Once you get down to 0.5 at the point, then pivot and come right back down the other side. Sometimes when I get to the point, I take an extra stitch and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the look of the stitch. This is where experience kicks in – and it’s all a matter of playing with samples.

Nicely formed points and corners in satin stitch

Number 10 – practice practice practice!

You know what I’m going to say. Yep – 10,000 hours of sewing experience and you too will be a pro!

I doubt that I’ve done 10,000 hours of satin stitching, but I’ve allowed myself to play with the stitches on the sewing machine. I’ve asked myself questions, and I’ve allowed myself to make mistakes. I’ve found that if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn.

However, now that you know some of the theory, it’ll be a lot easier and hopefully faster for you to achieve great results with your satin stitching.

While there are certain skills involved in this process, I have to admit that having a great sewing machine to work with made satin stitching easy. The Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 930 is a natural for satin stitching or any other type of applique. The three built-in satin stitch widths make it easy to get started. The Sapphire 930 does all the set up and then I get to adjust the length and width if I need to.

The features like Needle Stop Up/Down combined with the Sensor Foot Down/Pivot make for a brilliant combination for hands free sewing machine operation allowing you to focus on what’s important and that is getting that thread lined up properly along the edge of the applique.

Wow – seeing a well executed satin stitch is so exciting!!

Tomorrow, we’re going to investigate another applique stitch – stay tuned. It’s going to be as exciting as this one. Let me know what you think of this awesome list of 10 tips for satin stitch applique.

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Rachell Reilly August 11, 2018 - 1:50 am
This is a great tutorial and lots of good tips. Glad I found it, because it’s what I’m doing on my current project!
Elaine Theriault August 11, 2018 - 6:30 am
Rachell - glad we could out with some tips for you. Have fun. Elaine
Cindy December 7, 2017 - 11:04 am
Extremely helpful! Thanks for being so meticulous!
Jenn Martin November 17, 2017 - 11:56 am
Great tips!
Valerie Fitzgerald March 15, 2017 - 8:37 am
I have a sapphire 960Q and was told to only use the Viking bobbins. What prewound bobbins do you use and where can I get them? Thanks, Valerie Fitzgerald
Sue Russell July 17, 2016 - 12:33 pm
Thanks for sharing this. I have a Husqvarna Diamond which is similar to the Sapphire. I'm doing some awkward curves and points on an appliqued quilt and agree with all you have said. I am using the taper function on my machine but now see how easy it is to do without! My biggest problem has been that I am using black and white fabric on white background and the contrast in places is so poor I can't see where I should be stitching! I've got round that by drawing round my shapes with a frixion pen right up to the edge of the piece and satin stitching over it. Thanks once again
Kathy E. October 20, 2015 - 9:28 pm
I really do enjoy your articles using the Viking Sapphire machine, as this is the one I have. I could smack my head watching your video of tapering and pivoting points! I never thought of that and of course, it makes perfect sense! Now I want to head right to my sewing room and applique a star. It will give me super practice! Thanks so much.
Elaine Theriault October 21, 2015 - 5:59 am
Kathy - your comment brought a big smile to my face. Oh yes - there are so many things that we struggle with and there is usually a simple answer! So glad I could help turn on the light bulb. Have fun practising those points and corners. Let me know how it goes. And thanks for following along with the Sapphire. Elaine
oksana October 20, 2015 - 8:00 pm
Wow, Great Tutorial and video,,, thanks ever so much... The Quilt Social is amazing
Elaine Theriault October 20, 2015 - 8:58 pm
Oksana - so glad you're enjoying QUILTSocial. Yes - there is a lot information to share. Thanks for following. Elaine
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