Learn about pivoting the machine needle in order to get smooth machine-applique stitching.



Machine applique is a technique that many quilters shy away from because there are so many options. And quilters are sometimes unsure of how to get the best results. But I'm going to share with you a few tips and tricks for getting smooth, even results every time. It's all about learning when to pivot. Now whether you like to try applique using specialty stitches like the blanket stitch on your machine and you want the stitches to show and have lots of contrast, as on this quilt. Or perhaps you like the look of mock hand applique where this stitches don't really show. In mock hand applique you might use a blind hem stitch or a little narrow zigzag stitch as was done on this quilt. And what makes this successful and not show is the quilt maker's attention to detail. She chose thread that matches the applique shape, not the foundation. And changed thread colors often depending on the shape that she was appliqueing. She used a very, very narrows zigzag stitch -- so tiny that you can almost not see it unless you're up close. And she was careful when she was stitching to make sure most of the stitch landed on the applique and that her needle swing along the foundation went right along the edge. It didn't swing too far out. Because that's a sure sign that there's some machine stitching going on if you can see the little zigzags appearing when you don't want them to. So how do you make sure that your stitches are even so that your shapes are nice and smooth on the curves and sharp at the points where you want them to be sharp. It's all about understanding where to pivot while you're stitching. For inside curves, if you're using a zigzag stitch-- so in this case, if it was a very narrow zigzag and you are stitching in this direction, you would start to zigzag, your needle would go just into the foundation alongside your applique shape, and the bite goes into the applique and back out. When you get to a point here where you put your needle down into the fabric, you always want to pivot with your needle down so you're stitching stays even. Needle down in the fabric, lift your presser foot, adjust your applique slightly pivoting, and continue on stitching to the next point. Pivot again here, here, and here. You want to make sure that your pivots are very gentle, you're making slight movements and you want to pivot more frequently rather than less frequently to make sure that that curve stays smooth. Pivoting on the outside curve, you stop with your needle in the opposite position. You'll stop with your needle down in the foundation right alongside your applique and pivot. And here you're stitching in this direction. You'll stitch along, the bulk of the bite of the stitch goes into the applique, pivot with your needle down here, pivot slightly, continue stitching. Again needle down just outside the applique and continue on. The same rules apply -- you want to pivot frequently so that you can make sure your curve stays nice and gentle. So here you'll start stitching in this direction. Again if you're using a zigzag stitch, or a blind hem or blanket stitch it doesn't matter. You just pivot down until you reach the point where your stitch if you take another stitch going back-and-forth you'll go off the applique shape. So you don't want to do that. Here you put your needle down in the fabric. And rather than pivoting at this point you're going to adjust the width of your stitch. And you're going to narrow it slightly and take another stitch and you're going to continue narrowing your width until you get to the point on your applique piece. At this point you'll stop with your needle down and you'll pivot. You'll start stitching again with that narrow width and take a couple stitches gradually increasing the width until you get back to the full stitch width and continue stitching down that side. Pivoting and turning when you're appliqueing does take some practice. But if you practice on the actual shapes you're going to be doing and just use some scrap fabrics before you get started on your actual project, you too can achieve very professional looking applique. Give it a try.