Friday, November 8, 2013

Seven Tips for Fusible Web Applique

Some of the earliest quilts in the American tradition were made with beautiful hand stitched applique such as seen in this amazing Baltimore Album quilt from around 1845.

I love the smooth perfection of hand applique. When done well, it's simply gorgeous. If done poorly, though, it looks pretty awful. Unfortunately, my hand applique skills fall in the second category. Downright horrid! Sigh...
I don't have the patience this lovely work requires and I don't have the skill.

But, all is not lost! There is another way to add applique to quilts.  It's fast and looks quite acceptable!

Fusible web to the rescue!!
I ADORE fusible web. I use it on all of my mug rugs and many other quilts, as well. Here are a few of the tricks I've learned and some the products I've used with success. I hope you find these little ideas useful.

1. Buy the right fusible web.
There are so many kinds of fusible web on the market that a person can easily become confused. For quilts you definitely want the lightest weight, stitchable, paper backed, web you can find. This isn't the only good product out there, but I've had excellent luck with Pellon Wonder Under 805. 

2. When cutting the web out, leave some space around the template tracing. 
When the fusible web is ironed onto the wrong side of your applique fabric, this space1/4" or so around the tracing makes it so much easier to cut the web and the fabric together on the template lines. Doing it in one step is so much neater as well. 

3. Protect you iron and ironing board cover.
Your iron works beautifully on the paper side of the fusible web, but should it accidentally touch the other side, you will have a messy, gummed up iron.

I often lay a piece of scratch paper on top of the before I iron the web onto the fabric. In this photo I just grabbed a handy Kleenex tissue.

Any edges of the fusing that may peek out will attach to the paper instead of the iron. I also lay a piece of an old sheet over my ironing board cover whenever I work with the web.

4. Remove the paper backing from the fusible web easily. 
Don't waste long minutes trying to pry a fingernail between under the paper to pull it away from the applique piece so you can fuse it to the background fabric. Grab a pin. Score the paper and pull it off. Slick, isn't it?

5. Use a stabilizer when stitching around applique pieces.
Sometimes, especially with small piece that are being appliqued, the zigzag stitching will pull and cause the background fabric to pucker. A stabilizer placed on the wrong side of the background fabric will prevent that from happening. There are many stabilizers available. They come on rolls and in precut packs. Some are water soluble, others are tear away. Choose whichever is most comfortable for you. Because I'm making so many applique projects, I buy my stabilizer on a roll.

6. Choose the best thread for your applique .

Thread comes in a variety of weights designated by a number. These weights become thicker as numbers decrease and thinner as numbers increase.  

50 weight thread is the standard all purpose sewing thread. This thread works fine for almost any sewing project, including machine applique. Special threads will have a different look and texture, but you really don't have to use them. 

A 60 weight thread will be finer than the standard weight. This is the one I prefer to use for most of my machine applique. It doesn't feel bulky and thick in the very close zigzag stitching and in a color that matches the fabric it blends so well that it doesn't stand out. I like to use a polyester such as Sulky's Polylite because it is strong and has such a nice sheen. 

A 40 weight thread is a bit thicker than standard thread. It's lovely when you want the stitching to stand out. I used 40 weight black thread on my Elephant Walk baby bib. This blanket stitch looks more like hand stitching than it would have if stitched with a lighter weight thread. 

7. When marking your fabric, use a good, removable fabric marker.
I have used chalk, air erase markers, and water soluble markers. Each of them has been fine for specific purposes. Recently, though, I happened across the marker than has become my favorite.

Marks made by this Frixion marker by Pilot will last as long as you need them, and, and they erase with the heat of an iron. Honestly, when you want you marks to disappear just press a hot iron over them and they'll be gone! Do test it first, though. I've never had a problem, but I've heard that the ink leaves a pale mark on some darker fabrics. The markers come in 8 colors, but I really rely most on standard black.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins

Yesterday I said that I was going to bake pumpkin muffins. Well, I lied. It wasn't intentional, but I did tell you a lie. 

First of all, I ran out of time to bake anything yesterday because I got carried away with my heart mug rug. The little problem I was having is solved, by the way, and just thinking about it makes me smile. I'll be posting that very soon. 

In my excitement, I totally forgot the baking until I was getting ready for bed. It became a goal for today. I tied on my apron and I was all set to bake up the pumpkin muffins. It seemed like such a waste, though, to open the big can of pumpkin in my cupboard when I only needed 1 cup. What would I do with the extra pumpkin? My mother had taught me well that food should not be wasted. And then it dawned on me that I had some leftover cooked sweet potatoes in the fridge. They'd been boiled in their skins, peeled, and sliced for a side dish. 

If you've read the "About the Author" section of this blog you'll already know that I can't stick to a recipe! I read several recipes for pumpkin muffins, did some combining, added here, altered there, and came up with this recipe, all my own, for Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins. 

The recipe makes a dozen, but I now have only 9 ½ muffins on a cooling rack in the kitchen. My son dropped by and grabbed one while it was still warm, and I watched nervously while he ate it. "It's okay," he said, reaching for another. I tasted one, too, and they are better than just "okay"! They are absolutely not bad at all. Do you see me grinning from ear to ear. Thought I'd share the new recipe with all of you.

Mixing up the batter.

Ready for the oven.

Spiced Sweet Potato-Buttermilk Muffins
Recipe by 2 Strings


2 cups white flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
¼ cup softened butter
2 large eggs
1 cup cooked, pureed sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup chopped walnuts
course granulated white sugar for topping


1.            Preheat oven to 400° F.
2.            Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper cupcake liners
3.            Puree cooked sweet potatoes in a food processor
4.            In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together. Set aside
5.            In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter.
6.            Mix in eggs, one at a time with mixer on medium speed.
7.            Add molasses, vanilla, and pureed sweet potatoes. Mix with mixer on low speed just until blended.
8.            Using a wire whisk or fork, mix in flour in two batches alternating with buttermilk. Do not over mix.
9.            Stir in walnuts.
10.        Divide mixture evenly among the twelve muffin cups.
11.        Sprinkle the top of each muffin with coarse granules of white sugar.
12.        Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

13.        Cool on a wire rack.