Applique on a Long Arm Quilt Machine

What is Applique

Applique is the term used to identify the process of affixing or adding pieces of fabric to the surface of a quilt, wall hanging, pillow, etc. The fabric pieces can be stitched by hand or with a sewing machine. I prefer to use my machine.

The process of appliqueing or attaching fabric designs is a laborious task no matter which method you choose. Machine applique yields a more uniform appearance. Typically a blanket or zig-zag stitch is used when stitching around the outside edges of the applique fabric.

IMG_1619Blanket Stitch

Long Arm Applique

While recently browsing the website for the dealer of my long arm quilt machine I noticed they were offering a class in long arm applique. It never dawned on me that I could use my long arm quilt machine to applique. My machine doesn’t have the programmed stitches used to produce a uniformly stitched edge. Being very curious about the possibility of using my long arm machine I registered for the class.

Begin Here

The instructor presented a brief discussion with samples of the items she had made. Through her illustrations I learned that she utilizes a variety of thread types to free-motion stitch around the raw edges of her fabric. The possible combinations for thread and stitches were limited only by your imagination. After finishing her brief introduction we were set loose to begin our exploration.

The Supplies

Provided for our creative adventure were fabric scraps, iron-on adhesive, a die-cutting machine to cut out uniformly shaped pattern pieces and oodles and oodles of thread cones. Here’s a photo of the die-cutting machine.

IMG_1622How Large Should I Make It?

I decided to limit the size of my project. I figured I would much rather practice on something small and have the opportunity to try out the fancy threads and stitching techniques than spend my time designing and adhering an elaborate design. This is the template I chose.


My decision paid-off quickly. In no time I was progressing through the preparation steps and moving on to sewing. Reaching this point as quickly as I did proved to be a blessing. Many of my class participants barely had time to pin their projects to the machine, let alone practice the stitches.

What Thread Should I Use?

For thread I chose a few variegated colors along with a gold metallic. All of the colors were selected to coordinate with my fabrics. I wanted to work with this thread first because it was the one I had the least amount of experience with.

Let’s Adjust the Tension

Before adding even one stitch to my actual project the instructor helped me adjust the machine’s thread tension. Metallic thread behaves differently than a typical cotton thread. We did several test runs before we were satisfied with the stitch appearance. Once we were pleased with the test stitches I, without hesitation, set my machine in motion.

Ready, Set, Go!

I directed the machine’s needle around the outer edges of my pattern in a squiggly circular pattern. Also used were an eyelash stitch, a bubble pattern and, for the very first time, a filler stitch. I had the most fun experimenting with the filler stitch.

IMG_1620Filler or Satin Stitch

Time To Quit

I reached a stopping point thirty minutes before the end of class. Satisfied that I would be able to finish the project at home, on my own, I removed my fabric from the quilt machine and packed up my belongings. I used some of the leftover time to purchase a few decorative threads.

Take A Look

This is how my item looked at the end of class.

Long Arm Applique

Once I am finished I will share an update on my blog.

Thanks for visiting.

Cindy Anderson

Blue Screen

Have you ever planned out your day right down to the last-minute only to encounter a blip that throws your whole schedule of kilter? Well of course you have! Not too long ago I had a pile of customer quilts waiting their turn on my long-arm quilt machine. The time allotted was very tight. I was racing against the clock that was ticking down the days and minutes until I would leave for several weeks at my Little Cabin In The Woods. Things were flowing along rather nicely until the day that ruined my plans.

It was early in the morning. My plan was to make major progress on the quilt that was loaded on my machine. When I had closed shop the previous evening everything about my machine was fine. Other than being a bit out of level, all of the bells and whistles were operating smoothly. Expecting everything to be as it was when I walked away the previous evening, I plugged in my machine and flipped on the switch. As is my typical habit I walked from the rear of the machine on around to the front. The control screen sits directly above the handlebars. In order to operate the machine the screen must power up. Once finishing its start-up routine the screen displays a menu listing the available options.

On this very unfortunate day things did not go as usual. The screen on my Tin Lizzie didn’t respond the way it should. Rather than loading the menu I had been accustomed to seeing, the screen displayed vertical columns of blue and red lines.

IMG_0249IMG_0247Never before had I seen anything like it. Unsure what or why I was seeing this I decided to wait a spell in hopes it would somehow miraculously correct itself. When it seemed no further changes would take place I felt the best think to do was turn the machine off, wait a while, then turn it on once again. That’s what we do with computers when they aren’t responding….right? Hopefully this time everything would return to normal.

I repeated my typical routine then waited for my miracle to occur. Unfortunately nothing changed. The same screen filled with lines appeared. This was NOT supposed to happen. Time for equipment failure was not included in the schedule. For a brief moment panic set in. After overcoming the desire to burst out into tears and throw a tantrum I gathered my wits and made a plan.

I had recently made friends on Facebook with the owner of the shop that had sold me my Tin Lizzie. Knowing that an open line of communication was now available between the two of us I thought why not take advantage of that resource. The first thing I did was grab my phone and take a photo of my screen. Next I attached it to a message in the Facebook Messenger app. Once the message was in transit the only thing I could do was wait for her to reply.

To my surprise she responded quite quickly. After trading a few messages back and forth plans were made to meet at the store early the following week. Fortunately for me the screen was covered under warranty. Even if it hadn’t been my machine was worthless without it so I would have needed to expend whatever funds were necessary to get things back in working order.

After returning home with my brand new part I went through the procedures to install it and bring the software up to date. With very little effort my Tin Lizzie was back in operating order and I was once again off and running. The equipment failure had set me way behind in my schedule so very little time was wasted. I focused all of my attention on conquering the tasks I had set before me. After working diligently, with barely a break to breathe, I finished the last quilt just in time. Phone calls were made to the respective customers and arrangements were made for them to pick their quilts up. By the time the last customer walked out the door, grinning from ear to ear, with her quilt snug beneath her arms, I had only hours left to pack and get ready to leave.

The wonders of the internet had saved the day!! Hurray!