Thursday, March 19, 2015

Irish Chain Quilt-A-Long - Appliqued Chains Block - Stitching

**  NOTE  - This post is part of a series of posts for the Irish Chain Twist Quilt-A-Long.  If you would like to join (and have a chance to win $100.00 or $75.00 Gift Certificate grand prizes sponsored by The Intrepid Thread and Fat Quarter Shop ) you can find a list of the post links here :)  Here is the schedule:

Appliqued Chains Block - Stitching - Mar 19
Piecing Top and Grand Prize Linky - Mar 26th
Parade and Grand Prizes - April 23rd

Before we get any farther,  we need to pick a winner for last weeks Appliqued Chains Assembling Block assignment.   And great job to everyone !!!  I know applique was new for a lot of you and your all rocked it out!!!

The Appliqued Chains Assembling Block winner who gets 2 Bella Solids Charm Packs  from Olie and Evie.  is . . .
#5  -  Camillesquilting!!! - Congrats :)

So here we are ready to stitch our Applique!     If you are just finding this QAL, it's never to late to join in the fun :)  Just see the schedule above for the posts you missed and start quilting along ;)  


Secure Stitching around your applique holds it in place and gives it strength.  It is the final step of the applique process.  Now, I have to say, this is probably my favorite part of applique.  It is so very relaxing for me.  I often rest my head on my sewing machine while I stitch around all of my shapes ;)  So I hope you find it fun and relaxing as well ;)  So let's get to it ;) 


First off, you have to decide what color thread you want to use to secure stitch your applique.  You will have an entire rainbow of choices, but they are most likely going to fall into 3 categories.  Matching, Blending, or Contrasting, and all are great.  It just depends on the look you want to go for.  
Matching is when your thread color is the same as your applique fabric.  Using matching thread makes it so you can hardly see the stitching lines at all.  This works great when all of your applique is the same color.  

Blending is when your thread color is not the same, but a soft color that will blend away into your applique.  Normally soft cremes, light greys, and light yellows tend to blend well with most colors.  This is a great alternative if you are doing scrappy appliques and you don't want the thread to stand out but you also don't want to have to change it a million times ;)

Contrasting thread is when you want your stitching to stand out, which can be a lot of fun ;)  So if you are going for a bold look,  pick a bold thread color that will stand out ;)  And you can pull in colors from the rest of your quilt to tie in the stitching as well ;)  

I like to lay the thread in a single strand over the applique to help me get an idea of what it will look like.  Kind of like auditioning binding fabric, only you are auditioning thread.  So you have an entire rainbow of choices, time to pick ;)   

Once you have picked a thread color, wind a bobbin with the same thread.  I like to have my top and bottom threads always match when I am secure stitching so I don't get any little bits of color showing up from the bottom that I didn't want.   And now it is time to start stitching.  I made up a little sample block to show this off, so that I could Contrast the thread so it could show up :)  I will be going over the three basic types of secure stitching.  And a good rule of thumb before we start, always have your needle in the Needle Down position, it makes pivoting much easier ;)


First off, is the Straight Stitch.  I love using this stitch when I want a little big of raw edge that will scruff up a bit in the washing machine.  It gives a super cuddly look to the quilt ;)   So to straight stitch I like to use my 1/4" foot and the basic straight stitch setting on my machine although I like to shorten the length of the stitch a bit for strength ;)

Whenever I am stitching an applique I like to start towards the outside edge and move inward.  But I don't start right in the corner as it can be tricky to finish and start there. I like to stitch an 1/8" in from the edge of my applique.  I use the inside of my foot as a guide.  Start by stitching 2 stitches, and then backstitch to secure them in place.

Then continue stitching forward down the side of the applique, using the inside of a foot as a guide so your stitch is nice and straight.  When you get 1/8" from the corner of you applique stop with your needle down.  Pivot your foot and then repeat stitching up the other side of the applique.  And you will notice that I have taken the pin out of the applique.  If you find they are getting in the way, don't be afraid to move them.  They can easily throw off your stitching if they are pushing up against or slightly under the foot.

Pivot at the outside corner again and then stitch until you meet your beginning stitching, but don't stitch over it.  Backstitch 2 stitches to secure it.

Now clip your threads right up close to the stitching.   The backstitching will keep the threads from unraveling even though you clipped them right up close ;)   I backstitch a little more than 2 stitches as I wanted it to show up in the picture, so no, it doesn't normally stand out that much ;)


Next is the zig-zag stitch.  For this stitch I like to use my Open Applique foot because it allows me to see all of the stitching, but if you don't have one of these your basic foot will do just fine ;)  Select the Zig-Zag stitch on your machine.  To start, I left my machine at the basic settings.

Once again, you are going to start towards the outside along the side of the applique.  Stitch 2 stitches and then backstitch 2.  And when backstitching zig-zag I like to go slow.  If you go to fast, your stitches won't wind up in the same place.   (sorry for the thread mess in this picture, I forgot to take it until I had already moved forward and had to improvise ;)

Now continue stitching down the side of your applique.  With the zig-zag stitch, I find that if you keep the applique centered in your foot, than your stitches should land right to the side of your applique ;)

Now when you get to the corner, and sometimes I lift my presser foot and manually shorten a stitch so it ends up right in the corner, pivot with the needle down and then continue stitching up the next side of the applique.

Then once again, pivot in the second corner, backstitch 2 stitches when you have met your stitching, and then clip your threads close.

And a fun little thing about zig-zag is you can customize it to look any way you like, all the way down to a basic satin stitch.  Play with the width and length of the stitch on a practice piece of fabric and find the look that suits you best ;)

Those simple little tweaks can really change up the look as shown below.  There are about 6 different settings on that petal, all just adjusting the width and length of the stitch :)


The blanket stitch is my personal favorite for secure stitching applique.  Once again, for this stitch I like to use an Open Foot, but your basic foot will work fine as well.   Select your Blanket Stitch on your machine, which you might have to look for a bit.  Mine is in the "fancier" stitches ;)

Like the others, start in the outer edge and stitch 2 stitches and then backstitch 2 stitches.  The important thing to remember about the blanket stitch is that the stitch is 3 parts, so you always want to end the stitch along the outside edge.  Remembering to do all 3 parts of the stitch come in hand when pivoting :)

Continue stitching down the side of the applique, aligning the straight stitch (the first stitch in the sequence of 3) with the edge of the applique.  So all you will see on the applique is the inward stitches.

Just like the others, stitch to the corner, pivot with the needle down, stitch up the second side and then backstitch to finish when you meet your stitching and clip the threads close.

And those are the basics!!!   Not to tricky, just enjoyable stitching that you can really have some fun with ;)  And I have seen some pretty fancy stitches on applique, these are the basic, but if you want to get fancy with your machines stitches you go for it ;)


Now, because our applique all touches in the center, we can speed things up a bit.  If you are doing a stitch that is along the edge of the block (blanket or zig zag in our examples) and all of your points meet in the center you can start in the center.   But please note, if you have a little bit of space in your center I don't recommend this, traveling from one to the other with space can leave you with a hot mess where everything is criss-crossing ;)

So for this little trick, start in the center of your block, stitch 2 stitches again and then backstitch 2 stitches.  Now begin stitching down the side of the first applique.  When you get to the corner pivot with the needle down and stitch along the second side of the applique.

As you near the center again, stop with the needle down and clip the thread in the front and back.  You don't want to stitch over this as it can get all sucked up in your stitches.  Now, continue stitching downward moving right on to the next applique center.  Once again, when you move from one applique to the next, it should not need any extra stitching to fill in the center but be a smooth transition.

Continue stitching around that applique and once you reach the center, again, stitch downward moving into the next applique shape.

Repeat this until you have stitched all 4 appliques and then backstitch 2 stitches to secure everything in place and clip your remaining front and back thread close ;)  Fun little trick huh ;)   Your applique won't always be touching, but when it does, traveling from one to the next can really save some time and thread :)

And you are done ;)  I hope you enjoyed your little stitching session ;)   I love to listen to a good book on cd when doing this as it really doesn't take a lot of concentration.

And just to make sure you didn't lose one from the previous week, here is the total number of stitched blocks you should have ;)

And with your Assignment all complete, you are ready to link up for a chance to win the Weekly Prize!!!!

Happy Quilting is sponsoring this weeks prize and the winner will get to pick their favorite 2 of my Happy Quilting PDF patterns :)  I mean, you are going to need a new project to start soon, right ;)  

So what do you have to do for a chance to win these patterns?  Simple . . . Just link up your Stitched Appliqued Chain Blocks at the end of this post :)  You can link to a blog post, flickr picture, Instagram, Facebook . . .  or whatever.  Just make sure to link up by next Thursday morning as I will be announcing a winner at the beginning of next weeks post :)

If you don't get your Stitched Appliqued Chain Blocks done by next week you can still link it up :) (just not in time for the prize :)    The linky will remain open until the end of the Quilt-A-Long.  So if your out of town, or just had a busy week, no worries!!!  Just link up when you can :)

And Don't forget to add your stitched blocks to the Happy Quilting Quilt-A-Long Flickr group and to post it on social media with using #irishchaintwistqal.    I am so excited for this week, because it means we are just about there!!!  I can't wait to see everyone's quilts come together!!

So let's do some stitching!!!  And if you have questions, don't hesitate to email me at  Have a Happy Quilting Day!!

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  1. Thank you for such a wonderfully detailed tutorial on applique! I'm going to print this out and put it in my reference notebook. Your instructions are so clear and detailed that I felt as if I was sitting along side of you at the sewing machine!

  2. I just got some spray starch today (never had reason to use it before!) so now I am all caught up with last weeks' assignment and hopefully Sunday or Monday I can get this done.Never played with applique before for quilting purposes. We will see how I like it.

  3. Hoping to get caught back up this week! A trip to Lancaster, PA and needing to get my blocks completed for our guild raffle quilt have put me a couple weeks behind!

  4. I love this block! Its adorable. Thank you for the tutorial. I have to make this.

  5. Thank you, Melissa. That was so very helpful, especially seeing the differences in each of the stitches.

  6. Thank you for the instructions! This was my first applique and my points do not match but I am happy learned something new as I had been afraid to try.

  7. I just wanted to say that I love looking at all the blocks everyone is making! The fabrics are all so different and I can't wait to see all the finished quilts.


Thank you so much for your sweet comments. I just love hearing from you!!
Have a Happy Quilting Day :)