Charlotte's Fusible Web
- Fusible Applique
- Raw Edge Applique
By Charlotte Warr Andersen for Superior Threads
Why I love Fusible Applique
Not many quilters are familiar with fusible thread and I have not seen very many ways in which it has been put to use. This is a shame, because it can be such a helpful tool when it comes to machine applique. Fusible thread has the appearance of dental floss (you'll be disappointed if you switch them though). If you take a length of Charlotte's Fusible Web on your ironing board and place your iron close to it (not on it) and steam the thread, you'll see it shrivel up. The reaction this thread has to heat is to form a tacky bond in a very small space (only the width of the thread) and act as an adhesive between layers of fabric.
Fusible thread replaces fusible webbing for many of my applique projects. While there are instances where fusible webbing is the medium I want to use in a particular project, I much prefer the use of Charlotte's Fusible Web because it's supple and doesn't make my applique pieces stiff or crinkle. By using fusible thread for my applique, I retain the flexible nature of my fabrics and this keeps the quilt hanging properly and avoids unwanted stiffness.
I don't recommend using fusible thread as a top thread. If you touch the thread to your iron, it will melt (trust me.. I've learned the hard way). I wind my own bobbins with fusible thread on my home machine. I wind at a slower speed than when winding non-fusible sewing and quilting thread, so I can ensure an even wind. Charlotte's Fusible Web doesn't have a twist to it. It's a unique thread with a fantastic chemistry. Who'd of thought that you want to stitch with a thread that is going to melt and not retain its stitch? With fusible thread in my bobbin, I stitch with MonoPoly as my top thread. I love MonoPoly for many reasons. One of these reasons is that it's made of polyester instead of nylon. It's nearly invisible with low-sheen and I can use a tiny needle, such as a Microtex #60/8 or Topstitch #70/10 when sewing with MonoPoly.
How to use Charlotte's Fusible Web
Once your applique pieces have been cut and you're ready to place them on the base layer of fabric, it's time to put the bobbin of fusible thread and a spool or cone of MonoPoly on your machine. The purpose of using fusible thread is to retain the flexibility of the applique pieces (and for layering in general). Please do not stitch through more than one layer of fabric or there's no reason to use fusible thread.
Sew a test stitch and make sure that your machine's tension is even and the stitch lies flat (no puckering). You do not need to backstitch at the beginning or end, because we're going to finish the applique with a decorative blanket or satin stitch to secure it in place. Once you've validated your machine's tension is correct, take the applique pieces and stitch a straight stitch outlining the shape. If you can stay within a 1/4" of the edge, that's fantastic. Once you have traced the entire shape by stitching, trim the threads and tails and repeat for all applique pieces.
When you're ready to place the applique on the base layer of fabric, turn your iron on to medium/medium high. Set the base layer on your ironing board and lay the applique pieces in their final place. Firmly set the iron on top of the applique piece for 10 seconds. Don't hover over the applique or move the iron back and forth. We're not giving the fabric a massage. After 10 seconds has passed, remove the iron and you will be able to pull the MonoPoly thread straight off the fabric. This is because the bottom thread, Charlotte's Fusible Web, has melted and there's nothing keeping the top thread, MonoPoly, secure. You now have a temporary bond keeping your applique in place on the base layer of fabric. Remember that fusible thread creates a temporary bond and it's recommended that the applique pieces be stitched in place via the quilting process or with a blanket stitch or satin stitch.
If you want to have a clean look to the applique, you may trim the excess fabric from the applique piece once it has been adhered to the base layer. Take a pair of embroidery scissors or other small scissors and give the applique piece a quick trim. I've done many different types of fusible applique with Charlotte's Fusible Web and MonoPoly. One of the more complicated quilts I made was created from independent applique pieces assembled together by fusing each applique shape to each other, not on a base layer of fabric. While this particular quilt was tedious, it was so much fun to finish!
This process has become second nature to me after following the above instructions it a handful of times. The difference between fusible thread and fusible webbing or fusible stabilizer is palpable. I enjoy the flexibility of my quilts and the fact that they're not rigid when folded, rolled, or laying on a bed.