Longarms are full of tricks. Gina Perkes uses her Gammill to create this fun, free motion appliqué project that’s just perfect for the holiday season! Gina says:
Did you know that your longarm machine can be used for more than just quilting? For over a decade, I have been exploring appliqué techniques using my longarm machine. Not only is it quick and easy to create small projects, gifts, and seasonal home décor items, but it is the ultimate multitask technique. I love to, for lack of a better metaphor, “kill two birds with one stone.” With my FMA technique, not only are you creating a free motion applique’ stitch, you are quilting simultaneously. The appliqué stitching secures the appliqué shapes while the quilting adds texture and dimension to your piece all in one step.
I have always loved the freedom of appliqué. The ability to create with fabric and thread any design which can be drawn or photographed has always fascinated and intrigued me. I learned how to appliqué by machine. I explored many different machine applique techniques including invisible, blanket stitch, and satin stitch. These methods utilize feed dogs and a domestic sewing machine. With traditional domestic machine sewing, your stitching is limited to one direction: back to front. With FMA, you are not limited to one direction of sewing. Instead, you have complete free motion. You can place your stitches wherever you see fit. This is empowering and fun. Let’s jump in!
Download the appliqué pattern here. Be sure to enlarge it to 129%.
Your appliqué shapes can be prepared using your preferred method. You may choose to turn the edges of your fabric, leave the edges raw with fraying, or use fabrics that do not ravel. For the design shown in this article, I will be using a raw edge technique. I enjoy using fabrics that do not ravel, such as ultrasuede, felt, felted wool, etc. For the examples shown, I will be using ultrasuede fabric.
It is very important to secure the appliqué shapes to your background fabric. I use a washable glue stick for the technique shown. I use a liberal amount of glue, especially on the points and edges of my shapes. The glue has no negative effects on the machine. I have been stitching through washable glue for fifteen years with no repercussions. Now for the fun!
Any domestic machine stitch can be mimicked with your free motion longarm stitching. Have fun experimenting with some of your favorite stitches. You will be surprised at how easy they are to recreate with your longarm machine. Choose your threads according to the desired finished look. If you would like to direct attention to the actual stitching, select a contrasting thread. If you simply want the appliqué stitch to serve a practical, non-aesthetic role, use a fine weight invisible thread or a color that coordinates with your appliqué piece.
It will be necessary to adjust your speed based on the intricacy of the stitch design in order to stay in control. Experiment with both the regulated and constant modes. For some stitches, such as the blanket stitch, I prefer to use the constant mode. I set the constant mode’s speed very low so that I am able to retain control. I also find that the hum of the machine puts my movements into a nice rhythm. Many of the FMA designs have abrupt directional shifts. It can be hard to develop a fluid rhythm when using regulated mode. If you prefer regulated mode, select a small SPI (stitches per inch) setting. I choose 15-18 SPI. When stitching intricate designs, it is important to use a smaller stitch length for two reasons: The machine can accommodate the directional shifts more accurately; and, simply put, it looks better. For example, if you attempt to quilt a tiny circle using an 8 SPI, it will turn out resembling an octagon instead. If you stitch that same tiny circle at 15 SPI, you will have a beautiful, smooth shape.
Always set your machine so that when it stops, the needle lands in the down position. This will hold your place should you need to stop and regroup. When starting, begin with your needle down right along the outer edge of your appliqué shape.
For the appliqué or blanket stitch, you will essentially be outlining the shape while taking a small bite into the actual appliqué fabric every 1/8″ or so. The “bite” stitch should be at a consistent 90 degree angle to the edge of the appliqué. As your applique’ shape shifts, adjust the angle of the “bite.” You may choose to branch off of your appliqué to add designs as you go as shown above. There is so much to be excited about with this technique! My favorite part—the outlining—is done and the appliqué design comes to life all at once. Texture galore in one step!
When I have completed one shape, I can simply travel to the next using free motion quilting to get from one stopping point to a new starting point. In keeping with my “winter” theme, I have chosen to add curly Q designs. They are so versatile and add a great deal of motion, enhancing my chilly theme.
This is an excellent opportunity to play with those gorgeous yet persnickety decorative threads such as the metallic gold shown above. Metallic threads favor slower speeds, as does this technique. A perfect match! Experiment with different types and colors of threads. The results will be quite different based on your thread color and weight.
One of the most wonderful aspects of the quilting process is the dimension that is added. With this in mind, you can quilt background designs prior to adding the appliqué shape.
Adhere the appliqué shapes once the background quilting is finished. Now you have a continuous background design with no breaks or interruptions. Proceed with the FMA technique. You will be finished with your project in no time at all!
I have added embellishments to my quilted piece. Any appliqué pattern may be used for this technique. With the holiday season among us and winter quickly approaching, I have decided to create a pillow using this design. I love to change my home décor based on the holidays and seasons. My Gammill makes this process extremely quick and easy!
This project can be created in just a few hours. Quilted pillows make great gifts!