Thursday, February 11, 2010

Machine Appliqué the Kim Diehl Way

After three 8-hour classes with Kim and completing  my first quilt using her method, I thought I’d note some of the tips and tricks that she shared during the classes, as well as some things I learned around the way.

First of all, the instructions Kim includes in her books are very thorough, easy to follow and consistent with what she teaches. However, as is typical in any class, she provided additional tips in response to questions and problems that class members ran into.

Preparing the Pieces to be Appliquéd
Kim uses a Rowenta travel iron to press the seam allowances to the waxy side of freezer paper.  The tip of your iron needs to come to a point rather than be too rounded. I used a Clover mini-iron which also worked fine, however because it is lightweight, I needed to put a lot more pressure on the piece than Kim did with her travel iron. After working for about an hour with Clover mini-iron, my hand was cramping up. You need to hold it just right to give enough pressure AND to avoid touching the hot area of the iron (which is the entire metal area, not just the pressing tip). Since I have not been a fan of Rowenta irons,  I picked up a less  expensive Black & Decker travel iron, similar to one someone had in class, that Kim said was a good one because of its shape and weight.

I was using my June Tailor Quilter’s Press surface (first photo below) to prepare my appliqué pieces, but  Kim indicated that a stiffer pressing surface would be better. I used her Omnigrid Fold-away Cutting Station (second photo) and it did work much better.

I wish I had done a Flip video recording of Kim demonstrating how she uses the flat of her finger to pull the seam allowance fabric over the freezer paper with her left hand and then immediately sweeps the iron tip over the fabric as she moves her finger away. She can do a small circle piece in about 30 seconds. I’ve gotten better with practice, but I still have a long way to go.

Even for those who want to hand appliqué the project, Kim’s technique for using freezer paper to prepare the pieces is great because you simply glue to the background and stitch away. The stitching goes very quickly because you don’t need to take time while stitching to turn the seam allowance under. And the results are very precise.

Glue Sticks and Basting Glue
You’ll need two types of glue for the method – an acid-free, water soluble glue stick and a liquid basting glue. Kim prefers Quilter’s Choice basting glue over Roxanne’s Glue Baste-it because the plastic tip doesn’t clog like the thin metal tip used on Roxanne’s. You’ll use the glue stick (as little as needed) to attach the paper side of freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric, and you’ll use the basting glue to attach the appliqué piece to the background (adding tiny glue dots on the seam allowance only).

Monofilament Thread
Depending on the color and value of the piece to be appliquéd, you’ll use either smoke or light monofilament thread. You can find the thread in nylon or polyester. If I recall correctly, Kim indicated that the nylon is more stretchy and a bit more temperamental. But that’s what I had, so I used it. The other big caution is that the thread can melt, so you need to be careful while pressing after sewing the appliqué pieces to the quilt.

My Pfaff needle-threader works fine with the monofilament, but the Baby Lock is automatic and sometimes it doesn't thread the needle with the monofilament. The trick to threading by hand is to put a small piece of white paper behind the needle and you can see the eye of the needle much easier.

Determining the Best Sewing Machine Settings
You need to do bunch of tests with your machine to decide what the best stitch length/width and upper tension should be set at. I used my Pfaff Tiptronic 2040 in class and found that a tension of 1 and stitch length and width of 1 or 2 both worked find. I ended up using stitch size 2 because it allowed me to sew faster than size 1 which is doing so many stitches that it was taking too long for my impatient nature.  For my Baby Lock Espire, I use a stitch length of 1.2 mm, width of 1.5 mm, and a tension of 1.8. The nice thing about my Espire is that I can save these settings and call them up with the touch of a button.

The other big reason to test your machine is to determine whether it starts the zigzag stitch to the left or to the right. If your machine has a locking stitch, you should use it at the beginning and the end because that not only locks the threads, but it also resets the zigzag to begin again in its default position.

Using an open-toe pressure foot also makes a big difference because you can see where the needle is sewing. Kim suggests just watching where the needle pierces the background fabric (which will be right next to the folded edge of the appliqué piece) and don’t bother looking at the other side of the zigzag. You can trust that your sewing machine is doing what it’s supposed to do.

That’s all for today. I’ll add more tips as I remember them.


Deb said...

Those are some wonderful tips! I'm about to venture into this, so all the help I can find the better.

Joanne said...

Fantastic tips! Thank-you so much for letting me know! ♥


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