The Pros and Cons of 5 different stitching options for raw edge appliqué quilts
Introduction: Raw Edge Appliqué quilting is an enjoyable technique that allows quilters to create stunning designs by layering fabric shapes onto a background fabric. One critical aspect of this method is selecting the right stitch to secure the appliqué pieces. While there are various stitching options available, we’ll focus on machine stitches in this article. We’ll dive into the three most prevalent edge stitches—Straight Stitch Appliqué, Blanket Stitch Appliqué, and Satin Stitch Appliqué—and discuss the merits of each technique to help you make an informed decision for your next project.
1: Straight Stitch Appliqué:
Straight Stitch Appliqué is a basic and straightforward method where the sewing machine creates a straight line of stitching along the edges of the appliqué fabric. This stitch offers simplicity and speed for those who prefer a more minimalist look. While it is efficient, the Straight Stitch may not be the most secure option for holding down edges over the long term, especially if the quilt is subjected to frequent use and washing. They edges of the fuse applique will fray, that is why I call this method “Soft Edge Applique”. It is an appropriate method for a quick quilt, one that gets softer and more fuzzy with washing, and may be perfect for a baby quilt. This is not a technique I would use for a show quilt.
- Simple and easy to execute.
- Provides a clean and minimalistic appearance.
- Suitable for projects with less wear and tear (wall quilts)
- Appliques that are worn or washed will have a fuzzy or soft edge (see photo #2)
- Not the most secure option for long-term durability
- Can result in fraying edges over time (see photo #2)
2: Blanket Stitch Appliqué: The Blanket Stitch Appliqué is a more decorative option that mimics the appearance of hand-stitched blanket stitch applique. When done correctly, with a tight, close Blanket Stitch, this option is durable, decorative and provides better edge coverage compared to the Straight Stitch. This technique is ideal for quilts that will be used, washed and loved.
- Decorative and aesthetically pleasing.
- Provides better edge coverage than a straight stitch.
- Adds a charming, hand-crafted look to your quilt.
- Light enough to blend in when you choose matching threads.
- More time-consuming than straight stitch.
3: Satin Stitch Appliqué: The Satin Stitch Appliqué is a robust and secure option for finishing raw edge appliqué quilts. This technique involves a closely spaced zig-zag stitch that fully encapsulates the edge of the appliqué fabric, preventing fraying. The dense stitching can perforate the edges of the fabric so closely that over time, the fabric can tear near the stitches.
- Prevents fraying
- Provides a professional, polished appearance when done well.
- Requires more advanced sewing skills to execute neatly.
- May be time-consuming due to the density of stitches.
- May cause applique fabric to rip with multiple washing
- Will show more, even with matching thread.
Zig Zag Applique:
A small zig-zag stitch is also a great way to nail down the edges of fused applique shapes. This stitch is more forgiving than satin stitch and while not as decorative as blanket stitch, it is a good alternative if your machine does not have a good blanket stitch.
- Most machines can make a nice zig zag stitch
- When you use matching thread, especially very fine (80 or 100 weight) thread, your stitches will practically disappear
- Easier than Satin Stitch
- Does not hold fraying along the edges as well as blanket or satin stitch
- Not a sophisticated look
Other Decorative Stitches:
Modern machines have hundreds of additional decorative stitches. For a unique look on your applique quilt, you can use any of these stitches! Watch for stitches that enclose the edge of the applique well, and experiment with all the various stitches on your machine. Don’t be afraid to go big and bold with both your stitch and your thread choices.
Make stitching samples on an applique sample so you can wash the sample and see how well the stitch performs in minimizing frayed edges. This week, I am working on an underwater landscape, with many rows of appliqued waves in different watery colors. Just for fun, I am working through the entire stitch library on my Elna 740 sewing machine! I have up to 9mm for my stitch width, so the pre-programmed decorative stitches are wonderful and full of exciting choices. I like some more than others, and this project is the perfect place to audition decorative stitches that I could use on future applique quilts.
Recommendation: While all stitches have their merits, the Blanket (AKA Buttonhole) Stitch Appliqué stands out as the optimal choice for most raw edge appliqué quilts. Its superior durability, edge coverage and ability to prevent fraying make it an excellent option for quilts that will be cherished and used frequently. For beginners, starting with the Straight Stitch or Blanket Stitch is much easier than using a Satin Stitch. But remember, there are dozens of other decorative stitches on your sewing machine. Give the Feather Stitch a try! With stitches that go both to the right and to the left of the center stitch, it is very forgiving for beginners who have trouble staying on the applique edge accurately! Some machines have hundreds of stitches and you can vary the length and width. Try out a few of the more decorative stitches on your machine. Every project is unique, and sometimes a unique stitch will make your quilt stand out in a crowd.
Conclusion: Choosing the right stitch for your raw edge appliqué quilt is a crucial decision that impacts both the aesthetic and functional aspects of your project. By considering factors such as the intended use, your sewing skill level, and the desired appearance, you can confidently select the stitch that best suits your needs. Whether you opt for the simplicity of the Straight Stitch, the charm of the Blanket Stitch, or the coverage of the Satin Stitch, your chosen stitch will contribute to the overall beauty and longevity of your raw edge appliqué quilts.
For more information about choosing the right thread to use on Applique Quilts, check out this blog post.
Sue Pelland is the inventor of the Leaves Galore Templates for rotary cutting applique shapes. Sue teaches Fusible, Rotary Cut Applique online in her free “Applique School” sessions about once a month. Sue leads a community of applique lovers who enjoy applique technique workshops monthly in the “Ahead of the Curve” applique community. Come join our dedicated group of applique lovers on Facebook! Follow Sue Pelland Designs on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram.