Tips & Techniques

Here are all the technique posts from Sewing Spark.

Techniques & Tools

How to Appliqué with Tricky Fabrics: Part 1

Appliqueing with tricky fabrics: a two-part comprehensive guide to appliqueing with nearly any type of fabric.

Last year I did a string of posts on appliquéing, and I promised some tips for dealing with tricky fabrics. So far I’ve demonstrated all my appliqué techniques with cotton fabrics – a nice robust cotton drill in the background and stable, well-behaved quilting cottons for the appliqué shapes.

But there are times when for example you want to appliqué onto a stretch jersey T-shirt, or when your appliqué design is crying out for a bit of sparkly organza for maximum fairy effect.

I started off writing this post, and it just grew and grew! So I’ve cut it into two parts. This is Part 1, where I talk generally about how to deal with tricky fabrics. In Part 2, I’ll give tips for dealing with specific tricky fabrics.

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How to cut small circles from felt

Cutting small circles can by fiddly - discover my tips for cutting felt eyes.
I was working on an up-coming project and needed to cut out a whole load of felt circles to make eyes. This can get fiddly, so I thought I’d share my favourite method for cutting tiny circles like this. It works for circles around 1/2 inch or less – anything larger and you can use this as a starting point, but you’ll need smooth off the edges more.

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Advent Trees: using ribbons and trim

Make these simple tree decorations using rows of ribbon and other trim.

Last year, I made a series of advent tree Christmas decorations, with different ideas for decorating the trees (you can see all the different versions at the end of this post). I thought it was time to update it, and add another variation. This year, it’s time to look at using some of those gorgeous ribbons and trims you’ve got stashed away.

There’s no real technique to learn here – we’re just going to be picking out ribbons and sewing them onto the tree. Since it depends so much on the ribbons you have available, everyone’s tree will look different, so as well as showing you mine, I’ll add a few tips on choosing ribbons to make your own.

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7 tips for appliqueing with multiple fabrics

Here's a list of tips for applque designs with different layers - including dealing with colour run, bulky layers and see-through.

All but the simplest of applique designs use multiple pieces to build up the design. The most common design is to apply fabric shapes in layers, so pieces overlap those below.

In this post I’ll talk about some of the things to think about when appliqueing with multiple fabrics, and in particular when trying to layer them.

But first, I’ll just explain what I mean by layering fabrics, and how that differs from building a design in separate pieces.

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Comparison of raw and turned-edge appliqué

A comparison of raw and turned edge applique methods for machine applique: which one is best for you?

Pressing on with my appliqué series, today I want to look at different ways of finishing the edges.

So far I’ve talked mostly about the fusible web method of appliqué but there are times when you might want or need something different.

Since I’m not an expert on some of these (mostly I stick to the fusible web method) I’m going to link to some tutorials on how to do them, and concentrate instead on comparing them. Specifically:

  • How easy they are to do?
  • How long do they take?
  • Which aspects are tricky?
  • Generally, when would they work well?

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Appliquéing round curves and corners

Appliqué is a great way to add a personal touch. Here are some tips on getting neat corners, points and curves.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an introductory tutorial on how to appliqué. I went over the basic technique, which you can find all over the internet, but I wanted to spend some time looking in a bit more detail at some of the more troublesome areas.

One thing you might run into trouble with is in sewing smoothly when appliquéing round curves and corners. So I spent some time running up some samples and exploring how best to sew round those awkward shapes.

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Left-handers: How to Cut with Right-Handed Scissors

If you’re left-handed, then left-handed scissors are the best choice. But what if you have no choice but to use right-handed scissors? Here are some tips on how to get the best from them.
Chances are, you’re right-handed in which case this post will be of no interest to you. Go ahead, click elsewhere – I won’t judge you!

But for the 10% of people who are still with me – let’s talk scissors. Specifically, that thing you’ve read not to do but do anyway – cutting with right-handed scissors. Although I’m thinking mainly of sewing scissors here, everything applies to other types of scissors too.

You’ve probably read that the best thing to do is to always use special left-handed scissors. They’re properly designed for left-handed use, they’re more comfortable and they’re easier to use.

It makes sense – if you’re left-handed, you should choose left-handed scissors. So why do us lefties spend so much of our time trying to cut things with normal right-handed scissors?!

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How to Appliqué with Fusible Web

Appliqué is a great way to customise what you sew. Follow my easy tutorial for a step by step approach.
Appliqué is a great way to add a personal touch to loads of items, transforming them from everyday into something more special. I like to use it a lot, both to adapt things I make and in my patterns – it’s a great way to add details.

This post is a tutorial for the basic method of machine appliqué using fusible web. In subsequent posts I’ll be focusing on more of the details, such as sewing round curves and using fancy fabrics. I’ll also be posting some free appliqué designs for you to play with, starting with a selection of hearts in different sizes.

There are a number of different types of appliqué; this introductory tutorial will look at raw edge appliqué with fused edges using fusible web, and sewn by machine. You can use this method to appliqué by hand as well, although you might prefer to use a method that finishes the raw edges better.

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Advent Trees: free motion embroidery

Use this quick and easy christmas tree decoration to practice your free motion embroidery skills. Includes clips of what it looks like when you do it wrong, as well as when you do it right!

I’ve been building up to this one, because it’s the first time in this series that I’ve tackled something I find a bit daunting. While I’ve done some free motion embroidery before, I’m certainly no expert, and to be honest I’ve been feeling a bit nervous at the prospect of displaying my less-than-perfect skills on this blog for all to see.

But the point about this series is to try to convince you to try something different, and give things a go even if you’re not an expert. And I can’t advocate that if I’m not prepared to do it myself. So here goes, warts and all – free motion embroidery by someone who is not an expert.

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