Friday, June 7, 2013

The How To’s of Machine Embroidered Applique

If you love the look of machine embroidered applique but haven’t had much success just follow the steps below to learn how to properly stabilize a knit fabric (tee shirt) and how to use an applique file designed for your machine.

Knit Tee Shirt
Poly Mesh Fusible Stabilizer by Floriani
Light Weight Tear Away Stabilizer
Applique Design from a *reputable supplier
Applique Scissors
Polyester Embroidery Thread
White Pre-Wound Bobbin by Gunold
75/11 Schmetz Embroidery Needle (no ball point)
Water soluble marker
505 Temporary Spray Adhesive
Flower Head Quilting Pins

Choose your design and hoop your tear away stabilizer. Mark Center of your hoop using a water soluble marker. 

Step 1

Fuse the poly mesh stabilizer to the wrong side of the tee shirt, use a piece that is about one inch larger than the applique design.  This stabilizer is soft and pliable but can support a knit fabric indefinitely, it is necessary for good quality embroidery on knit tee shirts.  Mark center of your design onto the poly mesh stabilizer.

Step 2

Spray the tear-way stabilizer with the 505 temporary spray adhesive (being sure not to spray near the machine-this stuff is sticky and not good for embroidery machines).  

Step 3

Match the lines on stabilizer in the hoop with the lines on the tee shirt, just line them up keeping the shirt centered and lines even.  We are doing a pin and baste method for embroidery, this is the easiest and most effective way to embroider a tee shirt.  We used quilting ‘flower head pins’- they are 2 inches long and bend very easily allowing you to pin the tee shirt to the stabilizer thereby removing the difficulties of hooping the actual shirt.  Please make sure you use enough pins so that the shirt is secure and the sleeves and excess fabric are out of the way.  This is the best way to work with knit fibers and embroidery designs because hoops cause ‘hoop burn’ when you actually hoop knit fabrics-and those burns are sometimes not removable.

Step 4
Step 4

Once the shirt is secure and there is no ‘walking’ (run your fingers across the area pinned in the hoop, if the fibers move you have not secured your shirt with enough pins, smooth and check again).  The first time you attempt this it may be difficult but I can assure you it gets easier and still is far simpler than attempting to hoop the whole shirt.

Begin first part of the applique design, the first stitching should be a placement stitch. 

Step 5
Lay the first applique fabric on top of the area that has the placement stitch.  Let the machine stitch down the fabric, this is called the ‘tack down stitch’.

Step 6
Using good quality applique scissors trim around the excess fabric, being careful not to snip the shirt or the actual design. Place hoop back into machine and let rest of design stitch.

Step 7

Once design is completed stitching remove the shirt from the hoop and tear the tear away stabilizer away and then lift up the poly mesh fusible stabilizer from around the design and trim as needed.

Step 8

Step 8

Spritz the design with water from a spray bottle to remove the water soluble marks.

Step 9

Enjoy your design.

*You may be wondering what a ‘reputable applique dealer’ is…A reputable applique dealer is a digitizer or company that provides good quality applique designs.  As an embroidery educator I often see new embroiderers struggling with the process of applique, and the issues they face are not their own but a flaw in the designs they are using.  The complaint of designs lifting from the tack down stitch and lifting from the tee shirt are due to poor placement of the inset stitch, or lack of using a double inset stitch. 

The inset stitch is the stitch that runs prior to your satin stitch, but it is not your tack down stitch as a tack down stitch has only one row of stitching. An inset stitch should have two parallel rows running side by side and is stitched just  prior to the final satin stitching. 

If you look at the design above you’ll notice we used black thread to feature the tack down stitch and the two red lines of parallel stitching are what is called a ‘double laid inset’.  The double laid inset stitch is imperative to good quality applique designs as the double rows of single stitching serve three purposes, all very important;

  1. One line inside and one line stitched outside of the tack down stitch keep the applique fabric from pulling and lifting (some digitizers do not understand this process so they will tell you that you need a fusible product such as Heat-n-Bond Lite to make your applique stay stuck to your shirt).  This is actually ineffective and not the way to solve a lifting problem, with a good design you will never have any lift. If someone tells you that you need Heat-n-Bond Lite or Wonder Under for good applique they are mistaken.
  2. The second purpose for this double row of stitching is to build a foundation for the final satin column of stitching. These two small rows of stitching help the satin stitch stand up bold and proud, giving a rich full look to your applique design.
  3. The third reason for this double stitch is for good quality stitching after washing and drying, this stitching strengthens the satin stitch giving it optimal durability throughout the life of the garment.

Having said all of that I recognize that you may not be familiar with where to locate good applique designs, or you are using a site that sells applique designs but not having much luck. If any digitzer tells you that you need a fusible product to ‘tack’ down the design to the tee-shirt then you can rest assured that they are not applying the ‘double inset’ rule, and you can bypass that site and locate a digitizer that does follow proper digitizing rules.

I am often asked why there are so many sites with so much misinformation about the process of machine embroidery and so many poor quality designs.  I believe the issue to be that the automated digitizing and embroidery software available today is truly affordable which can be good and bad. 

The ability to draw a design and have the software create it automatically can be very magical…that is until the design is stitched out.  Without any formal training many of these home grown digitizers really don’t understand the process fully.  As most professional digitizers know, what you see on the computer screen is not always an exact replica of what will stitch out.

 If the person using the software has had no formal training then they will not understand what needs to be changed to make for effective stitching.  The consumer  then purchases the design and is told to use other products such as fusible Heat-n-Bond to make the design stay in place.
As a professional textile designer I can tell you that you do not need these products, it is an extra expense and step that is not necessary if you have a good applique design in the first place.

I hope this tutorial helps you in purchasing and completing your applique projects.

Nicci Brazzell
MaEd, M.F.A.