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Fleece appliqué how-to

Hug Me! Bunny applique by Elizabeth RuffingI decided I wanted to try my appliqué throw pillow designs using polyester fleece, only I couldn’t find any tips or tutorials anywhere for doing this by fusing the fleece and using machine stitching, like I’m doing with cottons. I snapped photos as I experimented so I could put together my own tips and a tutorial on the basics.

For starters, you’ll want to cut your background fleece at least 1/2 inch bigger on each side than your pattern says. When you fuse, the fleece shrinks a bit, and machine stitching pulls it in a little too. You’ll also need a paper-backed adhesive web. I prefer Wonder-Under for this. You’ll need a press cloth too. A heavy piece of cotton sheeting worked for me. I find tracing my final design onto tracing paper is very helpful for lining everything up before fusing.

I did my machine stitching both with Sulky rayon thread and regular cotton thread. I used DMC embroidery floss, sewing with one strand, for the smaller appliqués because I was using a machine without adjustable presser foot pressure, which was distorting my smaller pieces. If you don’t have adjustable foot pressure either, and you do have a walking foot, that might work for this too.

Hug Me! Bunny applique by Elizabeth RuffingTo start, using an appliqué pattern of your choice, trace the individual appliqué shapes onto the Wonder-Under, on its paper side, reversing your shapes when necessary. Your final shapes will be in reverse when you fuse, and so you need to keep that in mind. I use a mechanical pencil to trace my shapes. You’ll need to leave an additional scant 1/4 inch of fleece around any area that will be tucked under another shape, and so keep that in mind too as you trace, leaving marks where necessary, as reminders. Usually, these areas are indicated by dotted lines on appliqué patterns.

Once you have traced your shapes onto the Wonder-Under, cut them out leaving a scant 1/4 around the outer edges. Lay your Wonder-Under shapes on the wrong side of your fleece, if you are using fleece with sides that are different. I found the low-pile fleece, the non-anti-pill kind, worked better for this project. Fuse the Wonder-Under shapes on to your fleece, using the synthetic setting on your iron, without steam. This is enough heat for this part of the process.

Hug Me! Bunny applique by Elizabeth RuffingCut your shapes out of your fleece, and then trim by cutting on the lines for shapes that will be on top of other shapes, and leave the scant 1/4 inch where shapes need to be tucked under other shapes. This bunny head goes on top of my design, and so I cut directly on the line.

Hug Me! Bunny applique by Elizabeth RuffingNow to fuse the shapes onto the background fleece…This got tricky, and so be sure to do a trial run on some scrap first to get the right heat setting on your iron. You will need a press cloth because you will need to use a higher setting than is safe for ironing directly on the fleece.

Start by peeling the paper off your shapes, now that they have cooled. Arrange them on the right side of your fleece background, fusible side down, using your traced design, if you made one, as an overlay to line up your pieces. I recommend fusing only one layer of fleece at a time to the background. For this design, I started with the body, collar, and head. Then I added the details, like the eyes, buttons, and heart, once I’d fused the first parts down. It’s hard to get enough heat through the layers to get them to stick. They just need to stick enough to hold them in place while you sew.

When you are ready to fuse your shapes in place, lay your press cloth over the entire background. I found I needed to set the heat on my iron to the minimum temperature that would allow me to use steam, in order to get the shapes to stick to the background. For me, that was the lowest cotton setting. On other irons, this might be the wool setting. Test this temperature on scrap fabric first! Do not put the iron directly on the fleece at this temperature. You will want to keep your iron level as you press, using as little pressure as possible. You may need to hover the iron just over the surface, and use the steam to fuse, so you don’t make pressing lines in the fleece. It takes some experimenting.

Hug Me! Bunny applique by Elizabeth RuffingOnce all your layers are fused onto your background, you’re ready to stitch. I used a machine blanket stitch. If your machine doesn’t have this, a zig zag stitch will work. Again, you’ll want to try this out on scrap first to see how condensed you want your stitch to be, by playing with the stitch width and length. I used a stretch needle for knits. Mine was 90/14 size. If you have adjustable presser foot pressure, you are lucky! I have it on one machine but not the one with the blanket stitch I wanted to use. It helps to lighten the pressure for fleece, even to a “1”. Once again, experiment to see what works best. A walking foot is another alternative (mine fits my other machine that has the adjustable foot pressure. I’ll have to see if I can use an adaptor to fit it to the machine that has the blanket stitch next time).

Hug Me! Bunny applique by Elizabeth RuffingWithout the presser foot adjustment, I was able to sew around all the larger shapes. I used an open-toe foot so I could see what I was doing. With a blanket stitch, be careful to pivot at the right times. My machine went over each stitch twice, and so, if yours does this, you’ll want to pivot after the second pass the needle makes, or the machine will back stitch right into your background fabric, which looks messy.

I tried to machine appliqué the small parts, but my foot kept shoving the little pieces out of whack. I did a lot of complaining over this! I believe there was just too much pressure from the presser foot to do this right, and so I used a single strand of embroidery floss to blanket stitch all the small pieces. I have a tutorial on doing a blanket stitch by hand here. The entire design could be done by hand, if you preferred to do it that way.

Hug Me! Bunny applique by Elizabeth RuffingAnd finally…all appliquéd! I’ll need to trim and square this later, since it pulled in somewhat in the middle areas. In all honesty, this was a difficult project with the machine I used. It took a lot of trial and error, but next time, I will be so much more ready!

Some day, I hope to again have a sewing machine with all the features I wish I had, and did have on my poor ill-fated Viking. But, again, hand stitching works fine for this too, if you aren’t making a lot of appliqués, which I hope to do. I’ve been checking out the various sewing machines on the market, but the the ones that are equivalent to what I had are all so expensive. I’m not done looking yet though. Hopefully, one will have my name on it.

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Started fusing my appliqué designs onto fabric

Hug Me! Siamese Kitty by Elizabeth RuffingI, of course, redrew parts of my drawings from yesterday, playing around with bunny, kitty, and puppy clothes, and thinning my Hug Me! Slug down a bit. I have to fuss over what I do or I just wouldn’t be myself. Hug Me! Kitty can now be a Siamese or a tuxedo kitty. Today she is Siamese. I really like how her dress came out too. These are photos of the fabric after it was fused onto the background pillow fabric, before I’ve added any machine stitching embellishment.

Hug Me! Slug by Elizabeth RuffingI cut out and fused these two slugs before I thinned them down in my drawing. They’re well-fed slugs. I must be polka dot happy this week. I’m thinking of ordering some solid color cottons too, for variety.

Hug Me! Slug by Elizabeth RuffingIt feels good to be making something with my hands instead of typing, clicking, and moving a mouse around. I’m enjoying “dressing” these little animals too. Once I have the other two characters fused, I’ll start embellishing them with machine appliqué and some decorative stitches as well.

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Took a break and made some appliqué designs

Hug Me! Bunny and Hug Me! Kitty by Elizabeth RuffingI got one of those long-running headaches last week, and decided to let up on my push to get our web site relaunched this week or next. I’ve gotten a lot done, but I was working too hard. My eyes needed a break from the computer too. While surfing the web (I know…I never really leave the computer for good), I was inspired by some fun throw pillows by Robin’s Egg Blue and so I wanted to give that idea a try with my own designs. I found my own favorite throw pillow, and used its 13 x 14 inch size for my drawings.

Hug Me! Puppy and Hug Me! Slug by Elizabeth RuffingThese are the first four designs I’m working on, “Hug Me! Bunny”, “Hug Me! Kitty”, “Hug Me! Puppy”, and “Hug Me! Slug”. I think throw pillows are good for hugging too. These have been modified from previous designs I’ve made of the same characters. I may modify them some more, depending on how they look once they are done up in fabric. I’m starting by picking out quilting cottons for the appliquéd parts, and I’ve got a few yards of a natural cotton I’m using for the background. I’ve been debating over whether to make the pillows with an insert so the covers can be washed, or making them spot clean only, without the insert. Personally, I really like things to be washable, but I know I’d have to charge a little more for the time and supplies involved. Given my own inclination, I will most likely start with covers with pillow inserts.

I can imagine these as quilted wall hangings also, or maybe even painted designs with a name incorporated somewhere.

Pear pieMy dad was given seventeen pounds of pears recently, and I tried my best to do something with them. My first challenge was a pear pie. The recipe was very much like one for an apple pie, only my pears needed extra cooking time. They were very crunchy to start with, the homegrown kind you see in lots of back yards in our neighborhood. A friend suggested poaching them first, which would probably have been a good idea. I put apricot preserves in the bottom of the crust, before layering in the pears, to waterproof it a bit. I got my recipe from The Perfect Pie by Susan G. Purdy.

Pear pieMy second challenge was going to be pear jam, but that’s when my headache got me. I’m feeling better now, but the pears are passing their prime. I think I may just eat some, and share the rest with the wildlife.

I will continue to work on our web site, but I’m going to alternate doing that and sewing. I will be happier that way. As much as I’ve been excited about having a newly designed site, mixing things up works a lot better for me.

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Hug Me, Sock Kitten!

Turquoise Polka Dot Hug Me! Sock Kitten by Elizabeth RuffingI was trying to get my act together this morning, intending to head out for a while, but nothing came together properly. So, I stayed home and sewed up this sock kitten! I took some tips from the two sock doll books I have by Daniel, which are great books for anyone wanting to experiment with free-form toy creation. It’s fun, like making balloon animals. I say that not remembering if I’ve ever made balloon animals, but what they have in common is the idea of taking a tube shape and seeing where you can go with it.

Turquoise Polka Dot Hug Me! Sock Kitten by Elizabeth RuffingI was debating over adding the fleece heart, but once I’d thought of it, I felt I needed to give him one. You can’t go back on giving someone a heart.

I took him outside to photograph him, and of course, he ran right up a tree.

Turquoise Polka Dot Hug Me! Sock Kitten by Elizabeth RuffingOnce I got him back inside, he stretched out for a nap, taunting all the slugs a little first, by waving his paws around. They haven’t got any appendages, and so, he was doing some showing off.

Turquoise Polka Dot Hug Me! Sock Kitten by Elizabeth RuffingI think I will make some more kittens, and call them “Hug Me! Kittens”. This sock kitten is in my Etsy shop.

My own, much larger kitten helped me with another project, removing the overly-scratched carpet from the legs of our cat gym. The plan is to cover the legs with new carpeting and sisal rope. The legs were looking very disreputable. This is only a human opinion.

Kitty investigates cat gym reupholstering projectThe feline consensus of opinion was that they looked perfect, as they were. Here is one of the mournful looks I was given after removing the beloved carpeting. She got over it quickly and found something else to do. She’ll be happy when she sees the new carpeting and the sisal rope. I was joking with my mom, saying the cats would be just as happy if I threw the rope and a piece of carpet on the floor. But that wouldn’t look nice. Again, just a human opinion.

Kitty investigates cat gym reupholstering projectOne sorry note for the week…my Viking sewing machine made a return trip from California, where it went for repair, having never been claimed at the Post Office. I have no idea why the seller had his repair technician call me to go over the repairs, and then sent me the address to which he wanted me to ship my machine, and then never picked it up. I’ve received no reply, so far, if indeed I ever will. I’ve had issues before, as you may have already read on my blog, and I’ve had him not answer for a long time, because he’s been in and out of the country. But you would think someone would be there to claim packages at least. Not looking good. Not that it has been looking good, at all, ever, but that is the current status on my Viking sewing machine nightmare. I’ve heard from people who have had similar problems. I don’t know what to say other than I’ll never be getting a Viking sewing machine again.

Using my Kenmore sewing machineI’m still using my Kenmore, pictured above, that I got as a spare. It’s been behaving very well. Once I have some extra money, I’ll ask around some more, to see if I can find someone honest who might be able to replace the faulty and broken parts on my Viking. A friend has suggested a Viking Funeral for the machine, but I’ll wait to see what develops.