Applique Remix

I love using my own hand dyed fabrics, the subtle colours that you can achieve are so painterly. But sometimes it can be hard to decide what to make with the fabrics, or even to put scissor to cloth and cut them up! I like to come up with projects that really showcase those gorgeous fabrics. And while the fabrics really do look amazing as a large piece, cutting them up and using them cleverly can make them even better.

In today’s project I want to suggest a way you can use your fabrics in appliqué. The idea is to just work with a single fabric, but to cut it up so as to remix the placement of colours. Take a look at this appliqué block here – it’s made with just a single piece of hand dyed fabric. I have used one section for the background and then fussy cut sections from other areas to provide the contrast.

If you struggle putting colours together this is the perfect way to make sure your project is coordinated!

To work along with me, you’ll need a piece of hand dyed fabric with some distinct colour variation. The piece I’m using has been dyed with two colours which have been allowed to mix and merge where they meet in the dye bath.

My fabric is a cotton poplin which is quite closely woven and not inclined to fray which is ideal for the technique we’re going to use.

You need a piece as large as your appliqué design, plus some extra on all sides, plus some more for the appliqué pieces. I estimate I used twice as much as the size of my block.

You’ll also want some wadding (batting) and backing fabric.

And of course you’ll need some thread. I’m using a combination of Madeira Cotona and Madeira Sensa Green. I picked out five colours that worked with my fabric, but in the end I only used three.

Prepare your project by layering up your top fabric, wadding and backing to make a quilt sandwich. Wind some bobbins to match your top threads.

**I am demonstrating today with a digital embroidery design which is worked in the hoop using my embroidery machine. If you don’t have an embroidery machine you can still take the concept and use a traditional bonded appliqué technique. Cut your background fabric just the same and then bond the rest of your fabric to fusible web. Cut your chosen shapes and fuse them in place before securing with your favourite appliqué stitch.**

For my example I used a digital embroidery file from the MySewnet library. If you have a MySewnet enabled machine and a subscription to the library you’ll be able to download this file. If not, it is available to purchase and keep. This is a link to the exact design I used.

This particular design is big! It suits the large 360x350mm turn-able hoop from Husqvarna Viking. If you don’t have that hoop, or your embroidery machine can only stitch smaller designs, be sure to choose a smaller appliqué design to experiment with. There might even be some built into your embroidery machine.

Hoop your quilt sandwich, then load your design onto your machine so you’re ready to stitch.

Here you can see the machine starting to stitch out the design. You’ll see there are some areas that are just quilting and the machine stitches these first. You might also spot that I’ve hooped the fabric so that there’s a mostly blue section on the left and a mostly rusty-brown section on the right.

I’m using a dark purpley-blue thread for this first area of stitching.

Digital embroidery designs that include appliqué areas work by stitching out a placement line of stitching that defines the area of the appliqué. This works as a guide for where to place the appliqué fabric. In this photo you can see I’ve laid another section of my dyed fabric onto the hooped sandwich. I’ve made sure to place a bluer section on top of the brown areas.

The applique fabric is just placed loose on the surface of the work and smoothed down, there’s no need to do anything to hold it in place. When you restart the machine it’ll stitch over the same lines to secure the fabric.

In this particular design the machine is set to do a double running stitch.

When the stitching of that section is done the machine will stop. Slide the hoop off the machine. Don’t remove the work from the hoop!

With sharp scissors trim away the excess fabric as you can see I’m doing in this photo.

As you work, you’ll end up with little scraps of fabric. In this photo you can see I’ve picked out a blue section of the fabric for this area of appliqué. I’m trying to create a feel of counterchange so always looking for a section of the hand dyed fabric that will contrast with the area of background colour that it’s being applied to.

I’m also changing the thread colour for different areas. If you look closely you’ll see I’m sometimes stitching with a golden brown thread on the blue areas and a pale thread on the dark areas.

Here I’m snipping away the excess of that small section. If your design has a double running stitch only try to snip quite neatly, but not too close to the stitches. You don’t want the appliqué fabric to pull away from the stitching during use.

If your design uses a satin stitch then after trimming the shape you’d put the hoop back on the machine and it would then stitch over the edges of the shape once more with a satin line covering that running stitch and the trimmed edges.

The machine will repeat the process, defining an area with a set out stitch, pausing while you place the fabric, stitching again to secure, pausing to allow you to remove the hoop and trim the fabric, and so on until the design is complete.

With this particular design, worked in the large hoop, it’s necessary to turn the hoop half way through to complete the other half of the design. The machine will prompt you!

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