Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Using Decorative Stitches in your work.

I just received my newsletter from Daphne Greig and she had this very interesting tip about using decorative stitches. She said it was ok if I shared this. I hope you enjoy it.

I have used decorative stitches to quilt the fields in several of my new landscape quilts and I think her tips are right on. You can also see examples of it in my new book ART Quilts Fusible COLLAGE.
Appliqué Stitching Techniques - Decorative Stitching Options
Many of us have sewing machines with lots of built-in decorative stitches. Do you use them? They are often a selling feature when we buy our machines but we do not think of using them with our normal sewing and quilting. Many of the stitches are very effective as appliqué stitches.   
Your machine has small drawings of each of the built-in decorative stitches, either on the machine itself, or on a separate plastic card. I think of these as an 'artist's rendition'. When the stitches are sewn they may appear a bit different from the diagrams. I recommend you sew every decorative stitch so you will know eactly what it looks like. Use a wide foot since the needle moves from side to side for most stitches.
Yes, this may seem to be a daunting task!  My machine has over 180 built-in stitches! It takes time to try them all and to change the width and length of each one to see more variations. It can also be boring to do this all in one sitting.
So, why not spend a few minutes before each sewing session to stitch 2 or 3 of the stitches. Set up a strip of muslin, put some stabilizer underneath. The stabilizer will prevent puckering of the stitches. Write the stitch number and width and length beside each row of stitching. If you change the width and length be sure to write down those changes too. Keep using the same piece of muslin so all your stitches will be in one place. This is an excellent reference for future projects where decorative stitches can be used.
Decorative Stitchouts

If you want to use one of your decorative stitches for appliqué you need to be familiar with the pattern of stitching, By this I mean, does the needle stitch one stitch forward and then one to the left and then one to the right? Or does it stitch forward, right and then left? You need to know exactly where the needle will stitch so you can anticipate pivot points for curves and corners. Before trying a decorative stitch on your project, set up a small sample and test the stitching. This gives you the opportunity to understand exactly how the stitch is made, and you can make adjustments in width, length and tension.
Another consideration is the colour and type of thread to use with these stitches. Select a contrasting colour so the stitching is visible. Variegated threads work well on some stitches but often not those that go backarwards and then forward. Thick threads can build up too much for some stitches. Test the stitch and the thread before working on your project. 

Decorative Stitch Applique
Some decorative stitches that do not work well for appliqué can add a unique touch to your quilts. I used a variety of stitches on top of the fused applique shapes for my Chutes & Ladders quilt in my book,Give & Take Fabric Appliqué.  I tested many stitches on fused fabric samples before I selected the stitches for my project.
Chutes & Ladders Stitching
Learn more about Give & Take Fabric Appliqué in my book:  Order your autographed copy here.
Daphne Greig is a designer, author, teacher and fibre artist. Her bi-monthly e-zine offers tips and inspiration for quilters and fibre artists. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at:

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