I recently attended a digital stitch conference for my Gammill Statler Stitcher. I had an “aha” moment at least three times in each lecture. For those of you not familiar with the long-arm machine, it uses a CAD software program called Creative Studio to motorize and maneuver the quilting machine head. I thought, before the conference, that I was using a lot of the functions and features; however, 90 percent of my “aha” moments came when the instructor demonstrated how to do something in one or two simple steps.
I did learn a new trick that I thought was brilliant and wanted to pass along to you: machine appliqué using your long-arm machine. What a great way to add a dimension to a quilt top without struggling with either hand-turned edges or satin stitches on your domestic machine! What I learned was specifically for the Statler Stitcher, but any long-arm could accomplish a similar outcome.
Last week I thought that I would put the long-arm appliqué technique to the test and take photos along the way. I had recently received the new Monaluna collection “Under the Sea” and was anxious to whip something up.
I couldn’t get the idea of portholes off my mind. I chose which fabrics I wanted to feature in the body of the quilt and which one I wanted to have peeking through my port holes. Once the improvisational body of the quilt was completed I loaded my long arm with the backing fabric and floated the top of the quilt. Under the Sea has a fabulous orange in it that I had aKona solid to match in my stash. I decided that the Kona orange would be the frames of the port holes and got to work.
I had chosen ahead of time to do two large portholes along the top of the quilt and two small portholes on the left-hand side, next to the improvisational design I did to highlight the fun collection. I backed the fabric that I was using inside the port holes and Kona orange with very light weight fusible interface, but did not press the fabric with the interface on it to the quilt.
The next step was to position the orange fabric and gently mark with a soluble pencil where I wanted the portholes to be stitched. I pinned both fabrics at the same time to the floating top and back to secure it during sewing.
Stitching the circles was simple. I took three trips of stitching around each circle to secure the fabric since it would become a raw edged appliqué. I echoed the inside circle with three more rounds of stitching so that my porthole frames would be about an inch wide.
After stitching, I roughly cut the fabrics back to the outermost stitching lines and proceeded to quilt that portion of my quilt (everything but the port holes).
After that portion was quilted. I advanced the quilt top on my table. I chose to quilt the improvisational part of the quilt at this point to secure the quilt sandwich before repeating the raw edge appliqué of the two smaller port holes on the left hand side. I repeated the same procedure with the appliqué as above and then quilted the negative space around those two smaller port holes. When all of the quilt had been quilted, I removed it from my frame/table and delicately snipped the orange fabric back to the inside sew lines, exposing the fabric selection in each port hole, essentially performing a reverse appliqué. I did this after taking it off of the frame because I chose not to quilt the inside portion of the port holes. I thought leaving them free of stitching would help with the overall effect of sea creatures floating past the windows.
It might sound intimidating but it was truly easy and delightful to do. I have never been a fan of appliqué because I thought it was a technique that would take too much time to master. Doing it this way allowed me to produce a quilted 45” x 55” top with a brand new line of fabric in two days and feel like I was able to be truly creative. I don’t know about you, but normally I buy the new fabric collection and spend too much time deliberating how I want to make it come to life. Completing a quilt this quickly was very satisfying.
And don’t you just love the portholes?!