Lessons Learned – Machine Applique

I don’t do much applique, but needing to make a baby quilt for an upcoming shower, I took inspiration from a speaker/teacher that came to my quilt guild a couple of months ago. She had made a small quilt appliqued with very elegant sheep made from very textural fabrics on a dark green background. I couldn’t find a pattern for making the sheep, so bought a coloring book at the dollar store that had a simple line drawing of a sheep. (Needless to say, I can’t draw worth beans.) I programmed the faces into a software program that I have for my Janome embroidery machine and stitched them out on white flannel. After tracing the pattern pieces onto some iron-on fusing material, and ironing them on to various scraps of flannel, fleece and even one piece of Minky and then onto the background fabric, I was a little concerned that the fusible wouldn’t hold the pieces through the multiple washings that a baby quilt was liable to get, so decided to do some decorative stitching.
That experience brought me to the following conclusions.
Number 1 and most important: If I ever do something like this again. I will definitely use stabilizer on the back of the entire piece of background fabric. I didn’t have any problems stitching around the bodies, but when I got the smaller bits like the ears, some terrible puckering happened. Fortunately, I figured out the problem after the first two blocks. This first photo is without any stabilizer except for the legs. (I’d figured out this trick by then.)
quilting 047
You can really see the puckering on the left ear. (this poor little lamb really does have a monkey on its back.) I will most likely tear this out and do it over again.
The next photo is with a small piece of stabilizer placed under the left ear and side of the face.
quilting 046
The second lesson is: When using fusible material, wipe your needle off with an alcohol wipe after every two or so blocks. I struggled and struggled with breaking threads until I started doing this.
The third lesson is: Minky is really hard to work worth in small pieces. The fusible doesn’t want to stick very well; ironing on the fusible squishes down the knap; it sheds worse than you can imagine. After trying one piece of black (every sheep quilt needs one black sheep) Minky, I was ready to throw in the towel. But I did get a piece of pastel to work out okay once I learned to cut it over the trash can and then take it outside and shake it like a Labardor Retriever fresh from a swim.
Now I remember why I don’t do much applique! I’ll be glad when this one is complete.

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