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4 essential tips to applique with decorative stitches

by Elaine Theriault

I hope you liked the lesson from yesterday’s post about perfecting the satin stitch.

It’s time to think about applique outside the box. One feature on sewing machines is the number of decorative stitches that the machine is capable of stitching. However, I’ve heard many quilters say, “oh – I only use a zigzag and a straight stitch.” Perhaps, it’s time to break out of that rut and try some of those decorative stitches on your sewing machine?

I’m using the Husqvarna Viking Brilliance 75Q to play around with decorative stitches as a way of securing my applique. Let’s have a look.

Husqvarna Viking Brilliance 75Q

Husqvarna Viking Brilliance 75Q

I have to share a story about the blocks I’m working on for today’s post. Like many of you, I have a few UFOs that need to be finished. OK – if you’re not one of us – congratulations! I wish someone had told me what would happen if I didn’t finish all these quilts! Who knew they would grow into a huge pile?

I started a small group where each of the group members commits to a certain amount of work on one of their UFOs for the month. Each person chooses how much they can accomplish that month. Not only do we have peer pressure to get our task completed, but there’s money at stake. Each person puts $100 in the bucket. Each month that they accomplish their task, they get $10 back. Technically at the end of the year (we don’t meet in the summer), we would each get our $100 back.

This is the project that I chose for this month and I was determined to get it done. I’m definitely motivated by $10! Crazy!!!

I started off by choosing a fairly familiar applique stitch – the blanket stitch (or buttonhole stitch).

From yesterday’s post, you know that 99% of the applique stitch will lay on the applique shape. I chose a slightly darker shade of green thread to work on the stems and leaves.

The thread color doesn’t always have to match – slightly lighter, or darker or even more dramatic contrasts can add a lot to the final look of the applique.

TIP 1 – Stitch from the bottom up

In the photo below, you can see that I’ve stitched the two partial stems before I stitch the long uninterrupted stem.

It’s easy to stop and start the line of applique stitching as I use the FIX function on the Brilliance 75Q. This is a priceless function, especially when doing applique. No need to pull the threads to the back and tie them off. And back stitching with blanket stitch would not look nice. The FIX function saves a LOT of time.

If you’re not familiar with the FIX function, essentially the threads are pulled to the back of the work and a knot is created on the underside of the work. Just as if you had pulled the threads to the back and tied them yourself.

Applique the pieces from the bottom up

Applique the pieces from the bottom up

Here, you can see that the FIX function is engaged (the light is on). In the Sewing Settings menu, I can turn that FIX Auto function off for that sewing session if I don’t need it. I can activate the FIX function whenever I need it by touching the function on the function panel. I have total flexibility over when I use this feature.

The FIX function is ready to tie off a knot at the end of my line of stitching

The FIX function is ready to tie off a knot at the end of my line of stitching

The stitch menus are easy to access on the Interactive Touch Screen. I’ll touch on the screen a bit more tomorrow.

I’m in the Sewing Information Tab related to the stitch I’m using for the blanket stitch. There’s a lot of information on the screen to help me. The A Foot is recommended although I like to use the Open Toe Applique foot, I see a picture of the stitch including the starting point (indicated by the red dot), the recommended needle size, the stitch width and length (which I can change), the fabric type and weight (as chosen in the Sewing Advisor) and a whole lot more information.

It’s important to use this information to ensure that you get the best possible stitch.

The color touch screen for the B:6 applique stitch

The color touch screen for the B:6 applique stitch

TIP 2 – Choose an appropriate stitch for the applique shape

If you look at the leaf shape below, you can see that it has a point on one end and it’s rounded at the other. To make it easy to stitch around this shape, I chose a stitch that was non-directional.

In this case, the non-directional stitch means that the stitch is going in the same orientation on both sides of the leaf. If I had of chosen a directional stitch, the stitch would be upside down (or going in the opposite direction) on the other side. You may want that. Just be aware of that when choosing your stitches.

Once you choose a non-traditional decorative stitch for applique, it’s imperative that you understand the stitch sequence. You’ll have to turn corners and go around curves and you need to understand the stitch sequence so you know when and where to pivot.

Making a stitch out sample is crucial to the success of the final work. It’s not hard – you just need to understand the sequence and the results are so worth the wee bit of extra work.

I mentioned this yesterday – should the edges of raw edge applique be finished? And if so – how? I think if you look at the two leaves below, it’s easy to say which one looks more interesting. The unstitched leaf looks flat. But jazzed up with that spikey stitch? That leaf looks stupendous!

The spikey stitch adds so much more interest to the applique shape

The spikey stitch adds so much more interest to the applique shape

I wanted to try as many different stitches as I could but used the same stitch on the similar shapes. I did a satin stitch (a very traditional applique stitch) on the yellow part of the flower. I choose a moss stitch (similar to the satin stitch, but with a jagged edge on both sides) and another decorative stitch for the main flower part. The stems were done with a blanket stitch, while the leaves were done with a spiky double-sided blanket stitch.

I had loads of fun browsing through the menus looking for stitches that I wanted to try.

One thing to keep in mind is how many points and curves you have on the shape you’re about to applique. If there are lots of points or sharp curves, you may want to go for a simpler applique stitch. Hence I chose the satin stitch for the yellow bits.

A variety of applique stitches were used to applique the flowers and leaves in place

A variety of applique stitches were used to applique the flowers and leaves in place

Here’s a closeup so you can see the stitching in a bit more detail. While I love traditional satin stitching, I also love the jagged edge stitches. They make the piece look way more organic and fun!

Have a look at the yellow shapes. See how I’ve taken ONE stitch sequence from one of the decorative stitches and only stitched that one sequence.

How did I do that? It’s super simple on the Husqvarna Viking Brilliance 75Q. I went into the PROGRAM tab (which is on the Start Menu tab). I selected the stitch I wanted to use and programmed STOP after one stitch sequence.

It was now a simple matter of positioning the block where I wanted the single flower motif to stitch out. I hit START on the function panel and the Brilliance 75Q stitched ONE motif and stopped.

Seriously? How much easier can it be to get a gorgeous SINGLE floral motif?

Detail of various applique stitches used to tack down the applique shapes

Detail of various applique stitches used to tack down the applique shapes

Here’s a screenshot of the moss stitch being selected from the menu of applique stitches. It’s like a satin stitch, but notice how the edges of both sides are jagged. I’m currently in the B Menu – Applique Stitches. If I decide that I want to use this stitch, I can hit the Stitch Information Tab (Aqua color) to get the screen that allows me to change the width and length of the stitch).

The B Menu - Applique Stitches

The B Menu – Applique Stitches

The stitches are logically organized by stitch type in various menus. There’s the Utility Menu, Applique Stitches, Heirloom Stitches and so on. As I move through the menus, the first twelve stitches in each menu will appear to the right of the menu list.

I can use the arrow keys on the screen to scroll through each menu if there are more than twelve stitches in the menu.

The drop-down list of the Stitch Menus

The drop-down list of the Stitch Menus

As I mentioned, I was working on two blocks. Here’s a look at the stitches used on the second block. Notice I used quite a dark thread for the veins on the leaves which helps to add a pop of color.

Detail of different stitches used on the second applique block

Detail of different stitches used on the second applique block

TIP 3 – Make a sample stitch out

It’s a good idea to have a scrap of fabric near the sewing machine to test out your stitches. The more familiar you become with various stitches, this will be less important, but it’s still a good idea to do a sample stitch out EVERY TIME. I’ve been surprised more than once when I thought I had everything set just the way I wanted. Let’s just say the sample stitch out saves a lot of ripping! Just do it!

Sample stitch outs - a MUST

Sample stitch outs – a MUST

TIP 4 – Try a new stitch

There’s nothing like trying a new stitch to learn how it works. I haven’t done a lot of candle wicking, yet I have a candle wicking foot – let’s give it a try. The candle wicking foot has a deep groove on the underside to allow for the thickness of the stitch to pass under the foot without jamming.

Now technically, I’m not appliqueing when I candle wicking, but it adds a nice embellishment to the edge of the block. Alternatively, I could run it along the edge of the applique shape if I wanted.

To make the process a whole lot easier, I slowed the Brilliance 75Q right down into the second from the bottom speed slot. Then I used the START/STOP function to run the sewing machine rather than use the foot pedal. As I neared the corner, I hit the STOP function which stopped the sewing process at the end of the current stitch sequence.

No thinking on my part. No miscues. All I had to do was guide the fabric keeping the edge of the foot next to the seam. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Stitching candle wicking using the candle wicking foot

Stitching candle wicking using the candle wicking foot

Using the seam as a guide for the candle wicking

Using the seam as a guide for the candle wicking

As I mentioned, I don’t use the candle wicking stitches often, so I wasn’t sure the best way to handle the corners. Since I had two blocks to do, I decided to try two different ways. The first time, I pivoted at the corner once the current stitch sequence was finished. I wasn’t 100% happy with that option as some of the corners were a bit curvy as I got back on track. I think I overshot the corner a wee bit.

The second time, I started in the corner and ended in the corner. Essentially, I did four separate lines of candle wicking stitches. I think I like that option better. I could have gotten really scientific and measured and calculated, but who wants to do that? The end result (in either case) is just fine.

Two separate lines of candle wicking stitches were used to "turn" this corner

Two separate lines of candle wicking stitches were used to “turn” this corner

One line of candle wicking involving a pivot at the corner

One line of candle wicking involving a pivot at the corner

This is a perfect example of how we can learn more. I want to take that candle wicking foot and try the different stitches. There are 6 different candle wicking stitches in the Brilliance 75Q. SIX! Then I need to play with the stitch width and the stitch length. What will that do with the stitch? Plus I’d like to perfect the corner. See – how one simple stitch becomes hours and hours of play?

So often we just stay within our comfort zone. Why? It’s because we don’t know what we’re capable of doing. We’re afraid of making mistakes. But if you play with your sewing machine and you make mistakes? Oh – you learn! Making mistakes is the only way to learn and many happy design elements come from learning. I’ve made so many mistakes over the years – I’ve lost count.

As I mentioned, I was working on two different blocks. One had some embroidery floss couched to the flowers as well. And a bit of free motion on the leaves.

But don’t you think those blocks look a whole lot nicer with the variety of stitching on them?

Applique block number one

Applique block number one

This is the second block that I was working on. In case you’re wondering, the blocks were completed on time and I got my $10 for the month returned!

Applique block number two

Applique block number two

So there you have it – some great ideas for using those decorative stitches that are built-in to the Brilliance 75Q.

If you’re new to applique, play with the stitches on scrap fabric until you gain enough confidence to use those decorative stitches for applique. Make sure to use a stabilizer under your scrap fabric, otherwise, some of those stitches won’t look pretty.

Experiment with the width and the length of the stitches to see what happens. Sometimes, it ends up being a big mess and sometimes a very nice design emerges. But our confidence as a skilled sewist and as a creative person increases the more we allow ourselves to play and experiment. This experimentation is especially easy with all the tools and functions available on the Husqvarna Viking Brilliance 75Q. The sewing machine provides a lot of flexibility in how you work.

Thanks for hanging out with me today as I explored decorative stitches for applique on the Husqvarna Viking Brilliance 75Q.

Be sure to come back tomorrow where I’m going to investigate the zigzag stitch and show you the difference between the zigzag stitch and a true satin stitch.

Have a great day!


This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Perfecting the Satin Stitch with the Brilliance 75Q

Go to part 3: Getting technical: the difference between satin stitch and zigzag stitch

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Michele Timms March 28, 2019 - 10:02 pm

These tips are awesome… my next appliqué project is going to take a step up!! Thanks!

Sandy Allen March 27, 2019 - 7:32 pm

I never thought of using decorative stitches for applique! I am going to have to try it!

Linda Webster March 27, 2019 - 7:31 pm

Thanks for the tutorial. I learned some great new tips!


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