I have been working on another block of Amanda Herring’s Friendship Quilt-along this week, named “Patient”. It’s a good virtue for being a friend, right? But it’s also a good virtue to practice when learning new things. In my case, I’m learning how to use new software and *gulp* digitize things for embroidery. In this case, I used my Destiny 2 to scan the outline of the templates and turn them into applique.
Clearly,I have more to learn and this is going to take patience.
But on to something I know more about, and would like to share with you when thinking about the blocks from the quilt-along, either singly or all together
How to Quilt Applique Blocks
I’ve quilted quite a few applique quilts this year, and have some thoughts on the matter. I think applique, no matter how it has been finished off, often needs two things:
- stitching around the applique to help it “pop” in the design
- stitching in the applique to help keep it firmly fixed so it literally doesn’t pop off with wear and tear
I always do #1, but #2 depends on the size of the applique piece. If it’s less than 3/4″, there are times I will make the decision to not quilt on top of it.
Thread choices: spun threads vs. monofilament
I don’t like monofilament. I’ll just say it out loud. To explain why, I need to tell a story: I read an article years ago about how the space suits in the Smithsonian are deteriorating, and it made me wonder why they were falling apart, and then it made me wonder how quilts were accessioned (i.e. taken into a museum’s collection). In the National Quilting Museum, new quilts are put into a deep freeze (-40, if I recall) for 4 months. This kills off any kind of bug or fungus and bacteria, in theory. While natural fibers can handle that kind of temperature shock, sometimes modern materials can’t.
There are lots of opinions on how to stitch around applique, but my personal favorite is using an 80 wt or 100 wt thread (I like Decobob and Invisafil for polyester, and Aurifil for 80 wt cotton). The thinness of this thread, especially the polyester ones) means that the thread almost disappears if matched to the predominant background color. For this block, either white or light grey would be a great match.
Spun threads are when lots of little tiny fibers that have been spun together into a single long piece. To strengthen the thread further, they are then spun together with other threads to make them 2- or 3-ply. This means that if one little piece fails, there are lots of other little pieces around it to take up the load.
Monofilament means that it is a single loooooooooong strand of nylon or polyester that has been extruded. It isn’t lots of little pieces working together, but one piece that is kinda stretchy. It is less able to handle shock, and if there’s a weak point, there aren’t other tiny bits to help pick up the slack. It’s also susceptible to temperature changes (like washing in cold and then drying in the dryer) and sunlight can cause it to degrade, changing the color of the monofilament from clear to amber, and making it very friable. Over time, it can also create grooves in the metal bits of the tension discs and takeup lever on your machine.
Who doesn’t like “how it’s made” type videos?
Here’s how I go around applique: go slowly. Use the thinnest thread you feel comfortable with, and try to get as close to the applique as possible. Match your thread to the backing, if you can.