Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ask and ye shall receive applique help

Several days ago, as I was having trouble with these leaves, I posted a question on my Dear Jane email group asking for suggestions for my applique dilemma. This is definitely a group willing to help! I came home to an inbox full of tips, suggestions and resources. Here is some of what they had to offer:

• I have successfully used a non acid glue stick. Rub a toothpick over the glue stick and use to tuck in frayed ends. Another technique I have used is a very, very thin coat of clear nail polish over the edge of the fabric. Believe it or not this doesn't leave the fabric stiff like fray check does. I try to use a very high thread count fabric when I am doing applique with lots of detail. Also I cut out my pieces with a fine serrated scissors like the ones Karen Kaye Buckley has. The serrations act like microscopic pinking shears and cut down on fraying. Hope this helps.

• I use a slightly different applique method. I draw my applique pattern onto masking tape and cut it out. Then I stick this tape pattern on the right side of the fabric I want to applique. I clip seam allowences(both convex and concave curves) and use needle turn applique. I use a glue stick on inside points if necessary. I also use glue stick on seam allowences before clipping. Allow it to dry before clipping. This tames most of the fraying. Masking tape on top means you don't have extra stress on edges of fabric that can cause more fraying. And as a last emergency measure on fabric you really love but seems determined to fray, I find nail polish works better for me than fray check. Check in the nail polish section of Walmart. They make pens filled with nail polish for "nail art". You can get greater "precision" and accuracy of where you place the polish and less wicking into areas where you don't want the polish. Any "wet look" should be limited to areas you have appliqued into the "seam allowence".

• An additional idea is to cut the leaf on the bias; it seems to help keep the curves smooth and easier to fit around the freezer paper. • Becky Goldsmith at Piece o Cake has some clever tips for doing those 'innies'.

• Yes, these leaves are small. Your seam allowance is very narrow it appears. I would not use fray check, it makes the fabric very stiff. Here are my thoughts:
1. When you are positioning your leaf on the fabric is it on the straight of grain or slightly turned so it is on the bias? I couldn't tell from the photo. Having it on the bias helps.
2. For something so small I would use the cut away method. If you are not familiar with that it means you draw your design on the fabric and rough cut it out leaving about a 1/2" all around. Position your leaf on the background and then trim your seam allowance as you stitch. Trim just a little ahead of where you are stitching. This helps keep the fabric stable.
3. Are you turning with the needle or a toothpick? If you haven't tried a toothpick you want a cheap one, and then you moisten it. The moistened wood will grab the fibers and make the turning easier. You are handling it less and therefore there is less fraying.

• As others have already mentioned, sometimes its better to switch to a more tightly woven fabric. I have seen that some folks use Fray Check to solve this problem. However, Dritz says, "Fray Check is a nylon plastic in an alcohol base." And, "Because Fray Check is a plastic, it may yellow over time." They also say that alcohol will remove Fray Check. I've used Fray Check for non-applique purposes and found that after it is applied, Fray Check felt like a plastic to me and that it also made the fabric look darker. However, that may just have been the fabric that I was using.

• Pearl Pereira, of P3 Designs, recommends using just a tiny bit of "Aleen's OK to Wash-It" permanent glue on the tip of a needle in those situations. It is supposed to dry clear and flexible, is non-yellowing and holds through repeated washings. I have never used this product. I found the following caveat on I Love to Create: "Glue dries clear but is visible with a darker appearance on some colors and fabrics," which is probably why Pearl says to use just the tiniest amount. I also found that the following products can remove this "permanent" glue from fabric: Goo Gone, Spot Shot, and Tough Stuff. I've seen "Aleen's OK to Wash-It" at my local Jo-Anns Fabrics. If you have any questions about it, you could try asking Pearl Pereira; she has a "Click Here to Email Me!" link near the bottom for the following web page: If you do want to use one of these products, then I highly recommend reading the label carefully and testing on a scrap of your fabric, before using in your applique.

• My suggestion would be to change fabrics. Some of them are so loosely woven that they fray no matter what you do. They aren't worth the aggravation. Look for fabrics with a tight weave, i.e. at least 70 threads per inch. I like using the freezer paper under method and spray starching the edges then turning under with a small iron. The problem with putting a lot of stitches in a valley is that sometimes that makes the fabric fray even worse. My experience with Fray Check has varied depending on the fabric. It left a bit of a dark mark on some and not others.

• I use the freezer paper method and do not use any starch - when stitching the seam allowance down onto the freezer paper, i avoid a lot of stitches in those little tight spots. When appliqueing the piece down, I take two tiny stitches before the inside point, and then at the point I take two tiny buttonhole stitches on the curve/point and then two tiny stitches on the left side of that point. This works quite well. And I use only YLI silk thread - usually taupe but sometimes black or white - no other colors.

• Admittedly this will vary by fabric - some work very well, others don't. At the point of losing my patience, I switch fabrics. It's always a good idea to buy a tiny piece of fabric first, rehearse a few of your app pieces and see how it works!

• I think the issue of the fabric is really important here. You have to be willing to change the fabric if what you start out with just won't work.

• Have you tried a wet toothpick to sweep the fabric under? That usually works for me. I would just put extra stitches in the valleys also.

• When you lay out your oak leaf on your applique fabric make sure that it's on the bias. That will make it easier to turn. Also I sometimes use a glue stick. If it's fraying slightly I stick the needle into the glue stick, then 'sweep' the seam allowance under. The bit of glue will hold the threads as you stitch.

• Yes fray check leaves a stiff/hard wet look. Use liquid starch instead. It may slightly discolor when dry, or not, so test, but it WILL wash out.

• Before you cut out the leaf, use a very small amount of clear nail polish in the seam allowance of the caves. Now cut it out and clip through the polish and use a wet toothpick to get the turn just right.

• Tina, I have used several of the "stop fraying" products on the market and found they can react different on types dyes in the fabric. I would suggest testing on a scrap before using, wait at least 24 hours before checking to see what effect if any it has on the fabric.

I opted not to use Fray Check based on the suggestions and advice from above. I did try the fingernail polish. At first I used a little too much and it wicked into the surrounding fabric and did become stiff. I gave it another try, though, this time with a much lighter hand and trying to keep it only on the edge of the fabric. This worked much better but did leave a "wet look" in a few spots.

Because the fabric for this table runner came in a kit and was so nicely coordinated, I didn't want to go searching for tighter weave fabric. Instead, my ultimate solution was to modify the shape of the leaf so that the concave areas were not so deep or narrow. This made them work much better.

block with the original leaves

second block with modified leaves
I can live with the leaves being slightly different. But on my second block, I discovered a nifty method for piece placement on the block. Can you tell on the first, I just kind of winged it? I'll show you that little trick on a future post. I'll wait until I have all four blocks finished before I decide if block number one is going to stand out as being too different.

And finally, a BIG THANK YOU! to my Dear Jane email group. I really appreciate all the help and support -- even on non-Jane related projects.

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