New Orleans House Project

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Machine Appliqué with a Vintage Twist

I guess 2018 is turning out to be my Year of Machine Appliqué!

I finished the first block - Sweet Cherry - in the Gathered Harvest BOM sponsored by my LQS, Quilted Owl.  The patterns are from Fresh Picked by Blackbird Designs.  

I prepped all the appliqué pieces using freezer paper and starch.  Next I laid the pieces out on the background fabric, so I could figure out the order to stitch each piece.  I worked in sections, using fabric glue to adhere the pieces to the background for sewing.  Using invisible nylon thread on top and Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin, I stitched each piece with a very narrow zigzag stitch.  

I have started the prep work for block number 2 - Fresh Pineapple.  I'm only two months behind on the BOM process, but I'd be even farther behind if I were stitching each block by hand!

Since I've been experimenting with different machine appliqué techniques this year, I decided it was time to experiment with a different sewing machine as well.  I've had this vintage Singer sewing machine for years, but it was neglected in favor of other vintage machines.  Unlike all the other vintage sewing machines in my flock, this machine can do zigzag stitching (and more).

The machine is a Singer 503A - which was a new design, introduced in 1961.  The 503A and its cousin the 500A, are also known as the Rocketeer - at least among sewing machine enthusiasts.  It's definitely got that mid-century space age vibe going!  The two Rocketeer machines were the last of the all-metal gear Singer machines.

The 503A sews several different stitches in addition to straight stitch and zigzag.  By changing the cams included with the machine, sewists can create a variety of decorative stitches.  The cams (Singer called them Fashion Discs) drop into the round opening to the right of the thread holders.  

The needle placement can be changed using the triangular knob.  The stitch width adjustment, to the left of the needle placement knob, allows for different widths on the zigzag and other decorative stitches.  The stitch length lever allows for forward and reverse stitching.  There's also a light under the Singer logo.

Probably the best reason to use this machine for appliqué is the slant needle feature.  Singer slant needle machines have a needle bar that is slanted forward, which allows for much easier visualization of the stitching area.  The only thing that would make the appliqué stitching a little easier here would be an open-toe presser foot - which can be purchased online for a few dollars.

So - how did the Rocketeer handle appliqué with invisible thread?  Like a champ!  I used Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin and a polyester invisible thread on top.  I needed to loosen the upper thread tension a good bit, but the machine handled the poly thread just fine.  Going forward, I'll use a finer gauge needle (the machine uses standard 15x1 sewing machine needles) and I'm going to order an open toe foot attachment.  I'm going to keep the Rocketeer at our camp, so I can still do machine appliqué when we're there for the weekend.

I stitched up two more appliqué baskets yesterday to work out the process.  

This may become a project after all!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Scrappy Building Blocks

It's a new month and a new color for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  This month we are challenged to use our light green and lime green scraps.  I have plenty of scraps in that fit the description, so I got to work!

I had enough 1.5" strips to make two 49-patch blocks.  I'll keep making these 7 inch blocks for the rest of the year - maybe I'll have enough for a quilt at the end of the year!

A few more scraps made some HSTs to go in the border I'm planning for the Windblown Wishes quilt.

I made this light green Burgoyne Surrounded block last year.  I looked through the scrap stash and nothing in the lime green family jumped out at me, so I'll wait until we do dark green scraps to create another green Burgoyne block.

All of these pinwheel blocks were an RSC project last year.  I finished assembling them into 9-patches earlier this week.  Next up:  sashing and cornerstones (more pinwheel blocks!).  

For more scrappy inspiration, check out the linky party for the RSC 2018!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Machine Appliqué: Trying New Techniques

Back in January, I wrote about trying different machine appliqué techniques this year.  My plan was to use machine appliqué to complete a BOM being offered by my LQS, Quilted Owl.  Since that blog entry, I have been playing with different methods of preparing templates and the fabric appliqué shapes.

I started my experimentation by following a tutorial by Julie Baird, from her website Generations Quilt Patterns.  Her method involves using water soluble stabilizer to create templates for the appliqué shapes.  Julie's instructions are great and I can't do them justice in just a sentence or two, so if you're interested, go check out her technique.  
I had the pattern Julie used for her tutorial - Trick or Treat Baskets from When the Cold Wind Blows, and I went ahead and used that pattern for some practice pieces.  I didn't have any of the water soluble stabilizers recommended in the tutorial, so I tried what I had on hand.  The Pellon stabilizer worked fine for the template preparation technique, but after washing, the appliqué shapes remained very stiff and inflexible.  I'll try this technique again after I've got one of Julie's recommended stabilizers on hand.

Next, I used my "tried and true" method of appliqué prep: freezer paper templates and starch.   After prepping the baskets, I used a tiny bit of fabric glue to hold the pieces in place and commenced to sew.  

I used YLI Invisible Nylon Monofilament thread for the appliqué.  I already had the thread on hand, and it performed beautifully in my sewing machine.  I set my machine for zigzag stitching and adjusted the stitch length to 1 and the stitch width to 1.  It's a very narrow stitch and it mimics hand appliqué very closely.  I used Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin.  I didn't need to adjust my tension, but your mileage may vary.  I tried taking a close-up of the actual stitching, but my camera is lousy for that. 

I heard about another prep method - this one used by quilt designer Kim Diehl.  In her book, Simple Appliqué, she describes several techniques, but the one I tried involved using freezer paper in a different manner.  The freezer paper is glued to the wrong side of the fabric for the appliqué shape, then the sticky side of the freezer paper is used to adhere the seam allowance AND adhere the appliqué shape to the background fabric.  

The appliqué shape is then machine-stitched to the background, using the same narrow zig-zag stitch and invisible thread.  When the stitching is complete, the background fabric is cut open or cut away, and the freezer paper removed (the above picture shows the back of the appliqué after removing the freezer paper).

I didn't dislike this technique, but I found it difficult to remove the freezer paper.  Even though the appliqué stitch was narrow, it still caught the edges of the paper, and it took careful manipulation to remove the paper.  I can see where it might come in handy for large or simple shapes, but it was akward for the baskets.

Now that I've started making the appliqué basket blocks, I can't seem to stop!  I have no plans to make the original quilt from When the Cold Wind Blows - it requires almost 300 blocks - but I will probably keep making these just for fun!

And...with that said, I've finally finished all the freezer paper and starch prep for my first Gathered Harvest block.  I need to make a few more bits of bias tape for the stems, but otherwise, everything is ready to be glued in place and machine appliquéd.  It will be an interesting week for Fabric Therapy!