how to do invisible machine applique

The Lollipop Trees quilt has a lot of applique to do- a LOT of applique. In the early days I thought I might give a try to machine applique, so I started one of the blocks using a method I distilled from lots of reading in books and the ‘net. I didn’t actually end up using it on many blocks- mainly because I found it more convenient to hand sew them all and be able to take them with me or do in front of the television at night etc., like this one :
However, machine applique was an effective method so I thought I would show it here and see what you think. This is a close-up:
It is just about ‘invisible’ isn’t it?!
So anyway, this is how I did it. I used a product called Floriani Stitch’n Wash Fusible. As its name suggests, it can be fused, stitched through and then will wash out later so it can be left in. You can cut it out in the shapes of the pieces that you need and then iron it to the back side of the fabric. Cut out the pieces leaving a quarter inch allowance, just like you might do using freezer paper.
You then turn over the edges to the wrong side, using little tiny dots of fabric glue to keep them in place- I used Roxanne’s Baste-It glue because it has a long thin nozzle to enable little micro-dots, but any similar glue will do. Most of themn also wash out in water. Then give a quick press to the edges.
You place the applique piece on the block background using a couple of dots of glue to keep it in place. Then go to your sewing machine.
This is where some playing and experimenting might come in, as all machines are different. I worked out the ideal settings for me (using a Bernina 440QE) as these: I used Stitch #3, but you might like one of the other stitches or a zig zag better…
and changed the stitch length to .9 and the width as .7
I used a #10 microtex needle and Wonder Invisible thread in both the top and the bottom threads. Not many of the clear threads behave when used in the bobbin but I found this one really good. I also put the tension at 3.
You sew along the edge of the piece, with the straight part of the stitch right along the edge, and the little side ‘zag’ just comes across onto the applique. You don’t have to be too fussy about that though! I went crooked many a time, but the invisible thread hides it all.
It’s a method that makes the pieces have a nice crisp edge. You may want to just go slowly to begin with, and you do have to work out how to pivot at corners or going around curves.
However, I wasn’t happy with the edges of the circles, so I used a hybrid method for them. I prepared them like I did for the hand-sewn blocks, see here, using circular shapes to cut the piece out, put a gathering thread around it and pull up tight. Using those plastic shapes meant there was something to pull the fabric against. I just pressed them with a little spray starch and the edges stayed crisp enough to then machine sew them down invisibly.
Voila: a machine-sewn applique block. :)