I commenced a delightful applique project this week. As you know, I LOVE applique! Because I am a realist and a perfectionist (!), I like my applique ... well, to look, REAL! This means that generally needle-turn applique just doesn't work for all the small detail I want to portray and therefore most of my applique designs look best if they are done by using fusible webbing.
That all leads to the issue of how to finish off the edges of the applique. When I first started out on my career as a designer, I blanket-stitched by hand around them:
When my 35 year old sewing machine wasn't quite up to it any more, I bought a lovely new one and guess what, it had blanket-stitching built in! No more unpicked stitches that weren't evenly spaced or of the same length - the machine sails around sweetly on my appliques:
Sometimes, I experiment with different coloured threads. Instead of using matching white thread on the the saucer and the inside of the cup below, I used a contrasting pink so that the applique stood out from the pale blue and white check background:
The cream applique panels on this garden caddy stand out well already from the background, but I used a contrasting thread for the blanket-stitching here for a decorative effect:
However, what do you do if you have an applique that doesn't stand out from the background with a lot of contrast and you don't want a lot of little 'caterpillar' legs from blanket-stitching on your applique? The method I developed is very simple but I think it works really well. The applique is first blanket-stitched with matching thread, then I work a backstitch in contrasting colour around the edge of the blanket-stitch:
That gives me the best of both worlds - the applique edge is secure, I don't have little burgundy legs hanging down from the edge, but there is plenty of contrast colour to make the applique stand out from the background.
Some times, the applique may be too small or too detailed for blanket-stitching, so in those instances, I machine stitch a straight stitch around the edge:
I have even started including applique in my silk ribbon embroidery designs! (told you I was hooked!) As these are meant to be hand-embroidered projects, I can't use the machine to obtain perfectly even blanket-stitching. I can never reach perfection with my hand-done attempts on this stitch, so my alternative has been to use a totally different decorative stitch. For my fan embroidery, I used a twisted chain stitch:
So there you have some of my journey with blanket-stitch and appliques. I'd love to hear anything you have learned on your applique journey.