Monday, April 21, 2008

EQ6 Tip: Simulate satin stitching

Satin-stitch appliqué once reigned supreme in the world of machine appliqué, but today it often loses out in favour of machine blanket stitching and invisible-thread mock hand applique. I'm hoping to post a gallery of satin-stitch appliqué from my growing collection of vintage craft books soon, but for now I thought I'd share how I simulate this under-appreciated stitch in EQ6.

One of the benefits of appliqué with a satin stitch (or even a fairly dense zigzag) is that the heavy bead of thread gives a definite boundary to the fabric shapes. This can work wonders when you're appliquéing lots of busy and/or large scale prints, which have a tendency to blend into each other.

EQ6 lets you adjust thread colours and styles on screen so you can audition different effects on your blocks before sewing. Though more likely designed to approximate heavier quilting threads, the heaviest weight can be used on the edges of appliqués to check the look of satin stitches. With the Set Thread tool chosen, make sure the color, style, and weight boxes are ticked. I like to use the solid-line style with the heaviest weight to simulate a satin stitch.

The Thread Library is programmed with the actual colour numbers (and usually names) for several brands of thread. Because computer monitors can't precisely duplicate thread colours (much less textures), I don't make actual thread decisions until I'm holding the actual thread against the actual fabric, but I like adding threads to a project's Sketchbook once I've bought them to keep track of what colour numbers I'm using for a particular quilt. In the design phase, I just pick colours willy-nilly, ignoring the brands and fiber types indicated in the software.

Anyway, here's how a sample block looks by default, which none of the threads messed about with:



The skinny black lines show patch edges. You can print with or without them, but they're just there for guidance. Clicking the Set Thread tool (using the settings shown in the screengrab above) on each of the black lines gives you this:



I used three different thread colours, each a shade or two darker than the patch it surrounds. This gives me a pretty good idea of how my lemon slice would look appliquéd with a satin stitch. (It can be hard to click exactly on the thin lines; usually clicking within the patch, near the edge, does the trick.)

But maybe I want to try a contrasting thread instead to define the shapes even further. I can test that out easily too:



Here I used the same settings with a black thread to give the appliqué a cartoony look.

This simulated satin stitching works best when you're zoomed in pretty far—the thread doesn't read very heavy if you have a whole queen-sized quilt on your worktable. I like to try out satin stitches on individual blocks instead.

As for simulating blanket stitching, I haven't a clue. But my machine won't sew a blanket stitch, so I can't say I'm really bothered.

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