Before tracing around your appliques, make sure you are following the designer’s instructions about the tracing process. Some will already have the pattern pieces inverted, while others like myself, instruct you to place the pattern pieces ink side down onto the paper side of the paper backed fusible webbing. You don’t want any letters, numbers, or other images to be going in the wrong direction.
When cutting out your pattern pieces and your paper backed fusible webbing, I find that you get best results when cutting exactly on the line or at the inside of the line (still touching the line). Some pieces are so precise that if you cut your pattern pieces outside the line, they may not fit project precisely, and it makes it much easier to become sloppy.
When fusing the applique pieces to the background fabric, be sure to look at the designers photograph and/or illustration to see which edges of the pieces are the ones that overlap other pieces.
When you have designs that have several tiny pieces that are similar in shape and size, it helps to mark or number the backs of them on the paper backed fusible webbing, then don't tear it away until you are ready to fuse them. That way they all end up where they belong, and they won't get mixed up!
It always helps to gather up your thread and bobbins in advance and keep them by your machine. Let’s say I have green, red, and blue thread. I always do all one color first, then move onto the next color. I also save any straight stitching or accent stitching for last. I don’t want to change the settings on my machine mid-way through applique because I want all my stitches to be exact and even. I'm afraid if I switch stitches, I won't be able to get my stitches exactly where they were before.
Before beginning any stitching on my project, I do a test stitching on a piece of fabric that is the same type as the one that I’ll be stitching on, and has the same stabilizer I’ll be using. Sometimes it takes a few adjustment on the sewing machine setting to get the stitches the size and length I want them. I always have several of these “practice pieces” on hand.
It’s also fun to experiment with different stitch designs. For my appliques, the stitches I use most are the blanket stitch, the straight stitch, and a loose zig-zag stitch. Occasionally I’ll use some of the fancier stitches my machine has to offer as well. When I have an applique that has really tiny pieces, I find that the straight stitch on my machine works best because the other stitches are too big and overwhelming.
Always keep your needle at the outer edge of the applique piece. When beginning your stitching, manually place the needle into the fabric before stitching to make sure it lands where you want it. And now that you are ready to stitch, and you already know (as discussed earlier) to secure the beginning and the ending of all your stitches. Also be sure to set your machine so that it stops with the needle in the down position. Some much older machines don’t give you this option but you will at least be able to stop the stitching with the needle down. This is important when it comes to turning corners and curves.
Corners, curves, and points can be tricky until you get the hang of it. Just make sure that when you turn your fabric to stitch around them, you are turning when the needle is at the outer edge of the fabric applique piece. It also helps to know how many stitches your machine takes to make the stitch you are using. For example, my machine uses four stitches to complete a blanket stitch. I know that there are two stitches between each “blanket” stitch. It makes it easier to know this when I’m about to turn a corner, point, or curve. I want to make sure that my needle is on the outer edge of the fabric applique piece before turning or moving.
Most importantly, take your time. I always feel that if I’m going to make a project, I’m going to make it good and rushing through never gives you good results. Also note that mistakes are going to happen, and a stitch may not be perfect, but guess what? Nobody will ever notice this but you!
So have fun and get creative!