I thought since my time is a little limited this week, I'd post some hand applique "lessons" for those of you who have had questions. Tonight I'll just show you the basic stitch I use--where to place the needle and how long the stitches are. In the next couple evenings, I'll show you how I make my points and how I treat the "valleys."
I told you awhile ago about the methods I use to prepare the applique pieces and glue them into place. These "lessons" will pick up where I left off.
First, you should select a thread color that blends as well as possible with the color of the fabric you're appliqueing--not the background. I like to use cotton threads, just as I use for piecing and quilting. Some appliquers prefer silk thread. I DO like silk, but I don't have a very good color selection. I also find the thread slips out of the eye of the needle, although silk is fine enough that you should be able to knot the thread onto the needle and still pull the needle through the fabric without noticing the knot. Experiment and see what you like best.
I've also known appliquers to stitch in the oddest directions! I'm right handed and I prefer to stitch from right to left, but you may find you prefer something different. I think it was Robert Callaham who stitches with his needle pointed toward himself. You will need to be able to see the needle and your stitches, but go with whatever is comfortable to you, as long as it works well.
Cut your applique thread about 18" long and knot one end. Use a fairly fine, sharp needle--again, try out a few sizes and find something you like. I find that some of the needles that are recommended for applique have a tendency to bend, but you may love them--again, experiment. You'll probably note in my photos that the needle I'm using is bent a bit.
The first stitch should be somewhere on a fairly straight edge of the applique piece. Come up from underneath and just catch a thread or two of the edge of the applique piece. Bring the thread straight back down, just outside the edge of the applique fabric, through the background fabric, angling the needle just a bit underneath the applique piece. (This is what I'm doing in the photo below. I've turned the edge up for the photo, but I see it looks like I'm going further under the applique piece than I truly am.)
Bring the needle back up again about 1/8" of an inch further along, catching just a thread or two of the applique piece. (You can either bring the needle down and then back up again in two separate steps, or you can just rock the needle back up and through the fabric as shown here.)
Continue on in this manner until you come around to where you started. Knot off the thread on the back of the fabric, and snip the excess thread, leaving just a short tail.
Here's the back of the teacup I was appliqueing--you can see the stitches. They are just slightly offset from being in a straight line because I've brought the needle up through the background and applique fabric and gone back down just outside the applique fabric.
Don't pull your stitches so tight that the fabric puckers, but DO pull them tight enough so the applique thread "melts" into the applique fabric. One way to do this is to take three or four stitches and then pull firmly on the thread to make sure there isn't any slack in the stitches.
Tomorrow I'll show you how I do my "points."