Monday, August 1, 2011

Applique is easy--just watch those fingers!!!

While at the Atlanta Gift Market recently I had the chance to talk to other industry professionals regarding different tips and techniques for machine embroidery. There are a bunch of creative people out there and I draw a lot of inspiration from them, especially when doing applique work on seersucker items from the Mint line.

When I first bought my Babylock EMP6, there were certain buttons on the LED screen that I chose to ignore--mainly the odd orange applique buttons. But a couple of years ago I took the plunge and started playing around, making some 4th of July and other holiday tees for the Homemaker children. Through my own version of "play" grew a fondness for applique work. Last summer at Market, I got to see closeup the applique handiwork of Amy Fitzgerald from The Flossy Fitzy and was blown away by her use of applique on all of the different styles of bags from Mint.

I returned home armed with plenty of new ideas and couldn't wait to play around with some designs. Amy graciously shared a couple of her favorite sources for applique frames and patches--Applique Cafe and Planet Applique--and I plunked down a handsome hunk of change on dozens of designs.

I never received any formal instruction on how to do applique (I am ADD-leaning), tho I did try to follow a couple of tutorials; however, the main technique I observed involved stitching the applique fabric to the item and then trimming the fabric after it was sewn onto the item. An arm wrestling injury (LONG story, but true) has rendered my right arm somewhat useless, causing my hand to shake--and that's not good when using applique scissors. Rather than risk ruining items, I fumbled my way through and happened upon a technique through trial and error that works for me.

First of all, select a darling canvas for your work! For this example, I chose Mint navy seersucker boxer shorts. Next, choose your design in your embroidery software. (I use the Husqvarna Viking 4D Embroidery Suite. Have not been able to swallow the cost of the upgrade yet.) I selected a small, square patch applique and inserted the single initial "R" into the design, then loaded it on to a USB stick for my machine.

Once loaded on the machine I set the different applique buttons that correspond to the thread order on the design--applique material, applique position, applique. Depending on what item I am hooping, I then determine whether to use an actual hoop or Fast Frames. Since the boxers are small, I use a combination of the two.

I hoop some lightweight sticky stabilizer (I prefer Eco-Stick from American Embroidery Supply) and score it with a pin, then gently peel away the white coated layer to reveal the sticky stabilizer.

Then I adhere the applique fabric to the stabilizer.

Load the hoop onto the machine and press the start button.

Once the outline is stitched, the machine will stop. Remove the hoop from the machine and unhoop the stabilizer and fabric patch. Flip the fabric over and trim close to the stitch line.

Set the patch aside and prepare your item for applique placement. Since the boxer shorts are so small, I switch to my Fast Frames system and use the 3 x 4 frame. I adhere sticky stabilizer to the frame, flip the boxers so the leg opening is facing the back of the frame (and ultimately the back of the embroidery machine, slip on the frame and press onto stabilizer. I always secure the item with pins. Then I mark a center point where I want the patch to be located on the boxers and load onto the machine.

Then reload the design on to your screen setting applique material, applique position and applique stops once again. This is important when switching from hoop to Fast Frames. Once the design is loaded, rotate it 180 degrees on your edit screen, then move the needle position over your center point (see yellow mark on picture above). Go to your sewing screen and skip the first thread color (applique material), then push the start button and your machine will stitch the applique position then stop.

You can either remove the frame from the machine or leave attached. I usually leave it attached. I spray the back of my applique patch with 606 Spray and Fix and line up with position on the applique item then press in place.

Hit the start button and let 'er fly!

I some times will hold the patch in place while sewing the tack down stitches just to be sure the patch does not shift, but be careful if you do this--I actually was distracted while sewing these shorts and the needle stitched through my thumb--ouch! I'll spare you the picture of that, but for those interested, I did post on Facebook ;-). When the initial is stitched, remove the frame from the machine and gently pull the item off of the stabilizer.

Clip all jump threads, turn shorts inside out and adhere Dream Weave Fusible mesh to the back of the patch to cover stitching and protect baby's delicate skin.

I paired the appliqued shorts with a contrasting red seersucker stitched with a name (at top) for an adorable gift for a precious baby boy!