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Finishing Fusible Applique with an Invisible ZigZag Stitch

We began our tutorial about fusible applique yesterday with three easy steps – trace, cut, press – and quickly created a daisy quilt block. With this quilting technique, the applique edges are raw but I don’t leave them that way. I prefer to cover the edges with some type of stitching. Over the next four days, we will look at fusible applique edge-finishing techniques, beginning today with an invisible zigzag stitch.

The Stitch

Set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch and lower the stitch width and stitch length settings. I set my machine to 1.0 for both the width and the length, which makes a very small stitch. Test the stitch on scrap fabric to find the settings you are most comfortable with.

Zigzag Stitch
Zigzag Stitch

 

 

 

 

The Thread

To make the stitch “invisible”, use invisible thread – also known as monofilament thread – in the needle and cotton or polyester thread in the bobbin.

Invisible Thread
Invisible Thread

 

 

 

 

There are two types of invisible thread: clear– which disappears against light-colored fabrics; and smoke– which is invisible against dark-colored fabrics. I used both types on the daisy block depending on the predominant color in the black-and-white print.

Clear vs Smoke Invisible Thread
Clear vs Smoke Invisible Thread

 

 

 

 

Invisible ZigZag Edge Finish

Pull the bobbin thread to the front of your work. As in machine quilting, I like to pull the bobbin thread up to the top of the work so it doesn’t get tangled underneath. This is done by lowering and raising the needle – to take a stitch – and pulling on both sides of the needle thread to pull up the bobbin thread.

Secure the beginning threads with a few straight back-stitches along the edge of the applique. Clip the thread tails close to the fabric.

Switch to the zigzag stitch. Position the fabric under the presser foot so that the left part of the stitch (the zig?) lands on the applique and the right part of the stitch (the zag?) lands on the background fabric close to the applique edge. Stitch around the applique shape.

Invisible zigzag stitch
Invisible zigzag stitch

 

 

 

You will need to stop and readjust the fabric to get around corners and tight curves. Always pivot with the needle down on the outside of the curve. If your machine has a knee-lift or a pivot setting, your hands will remain free to adjust the fabric.

Secure the ending threads by switching back to a straight stitch and taking a few small stitches along the edge of the applique. Clip the thread tails close to the fabric.

A note about stabilizers: I generally find that the fusible web works as a stabilizer when stitching around the applique edges. However, if you find that your fabric is pulling or bunching or you can’t balance your thread tension, try adding a light-weight tear-away stabilizer to the back and/or working with an embroidery hoop.

The Result

Choose an invisible zigzag edge finish when you don’t want the stitches to show or when the stitches would detract from the appearance of the applique. The graphic black-and-white fabrics in this daisy block presented a challenge: black or white thread would blend on some places and have high contrast in other places. Invisible thread covered the raw edges without competing with the applique fabrics.

Invisible Zigzag Edge Finish
Invisible Zigzag Edge Finish

 

 

 

 

And here’s our fusible-applique daisy with an invisible zigzag edge finish! Join us tomorrow as we continue our step-by-step guide to fusible applique with a second edge-finishing technique: a versatile decorative stitch that can add subtle beauty or bold drama to your applique.

Crazy Daisy with an Invisible Zigzag Edge Finish
Crazy Daisy with an Invisible Zigzag Edge Finish

 

 

 

 

Kathy is a multiple international-award winning quilter specializing in appliqué techniques in a “contemporary traditional” style. She lectures and teaches all over the country at guilds, shops and quilt shows and is a CQA/ACC Certified Quilt Judge. Her work has been featured in magazines, and her designs are available as individual patterns as well as in her book “Sewflakes: Papercut Appliqué Quilts”.

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