Fussy Cutting for a satin stitch appliqué
One of the most common uses of fussy cut fabric is as an appliqué onto another piece of fabric. One way to stitch the fussy cut motif is using a satin stitch. Many machines come with a built in satin stitch, and you can adjust the stitch length to make it as tight or loose as you choose. For help with stitch length, check out our article, Selecting Machine Stitch Length.
- Look at the fabric and identify the motif you would like to cut out.
- Using your scissors, cut roughly around the motif. Leave a decent amount of fabric remaining on the edges.
- Now trim closely around the motif to cut it to size for sewing. If you are using a satin stitch, which is generally a wide and closely formed zig zag stitch, you should leave a small 'stitching allowance' around the edges of the motif.
- Choose the location for the fussy cut motif on the background fabric.
- Adhere the motif to the background fabric.
Note: There are many products available to help you to adhere the fussy cut to the background fabric for stitching. One easy product is a temporary spray adhesive. These are available in most notions shops. To use, simply spray the back of the fussy cut piece and stick in the desired place. These products tend to be a bit noxious, so be sure to use in a well-ventilated area.
- Use a satin stitch to stitch the motif in place.
Fussy Cutting for a raw edge appliqué
Another method of stitching down a fussy cut motif is called Raw Edge Appliqué. In Raw Edge Appliqué, the edge of the fussy cut fabric is not finished, so the the raw edges of the fabric stick out. This creates a wonderful effect, and often makes it look like the appliquéd motifs are part of the fabric itself. This technique takes a bit of practice. You need to be very careful to sew as close to the edge as possible, without sewing off the edge of the motif. Jacqueline Smerek used this technique to great effect in our project: Ruched Asian Meditation Pillow.
For this technique, fussy cut your fabric as described above, only this time, in Step 3, don't leave the 'stitching allowance.' Instead, cut as close as possible to the edges of your featured design. To really hide the lines of stitching, you may want to use an invisible thread when stitching the raw edge appliqué. This is transparent thread that is barely visible when stitched. Invisible thread, also known as monofilament thread, can be found in any sewing shop. It may require slight adjustments to your machine's tension. For guidance on determining if you need to alter your machine tension, check out our handy reference, Sewing Machine Tension Control.
Another option to adhere the fussy cut while stitching
It's important to temporarily adhere the motif to the background fabric to keep it in place while you sew it down. Above we talked about temporary spray adhesive. Another great product to use is a paper backed fusible web. This is a substance you can fuse to the wrong side of the fussy cut motif with an iron, then peel away a paper backing so the motif can stick to the background fabric. Be careful when shopping for paper backed fusible web – some can be sewn and some cannot. Depending on your project, be sure you purchase the right one.
Using a template to Fussy Cut
Another way to fussy cut fabric is to use a template. This technique is usually used when you are cutting specifically sized shapes, like quilt blocks or pattern pieces, such as a pillow front or apron bodice. To fussy cut in this way, you'll need something called template plastic. The major advantage of using this as your fussy cut template over traditional paper or tissue, is you can clearly see the motif through the plastic, and therefore, better align the design within your chosen shape.
Template plastic is sold at notions and fabric stores. It's a fairly stable, translucent sheet of plastic that can be cut to size. You can find it in a variety of thicknesses, and most can be cut with regular scissors or a craft knife. Some template plastic contains grid lines, which is helpful if you are creating squares.
- Cut the template plastic to the size required for your project. This could be anything from a square to a heart shape to a free-form piece.
Note: Be sure to build a seam allowance into the size of the template. This will be a 'stitch allowance' if you plan to satin stitch your shape in place or a regular seam allowance if sewing the shape into your project with a traditional seam.
- Place the template plastic on the fabric, framing the desired motif.
- If using a shape, trace around the shape with a fabric marking pen and cut out on the drawn lines. If using a square or other shape with straight edges, line up your ruler with the edge of the template plastic and cut the edge using your rotary cutter.
- Sew the shape using the techniques above, or using traditional sewing methods if incorporating your cut piece into a finished project.