November 24, 2007

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well, that’s what they taught us in 10th grade, but they were talking in terms of abstract geometry. In nature, we don’t see too many straight lines. They’re more of a man-made construct, like boxes, fences, and the sides of buildings.

Hand appliqué is not a fan of straight lines either. Gentle curves are the ticket, and nothing too perfect, like in nature. It’s when we appliqué houses, or baskets, or stems that are perfectly straight because we’ve simplified them or are interpreting them in a primitive or folk-art way, that we run into the straight line.

Straight lines are not so much an issue in machine appliqué (though you still have to mark them and cut them straight.) But in hand work, I actually find a straight line harder to get nice than a curve. Here are some strategies for dealing with stretches of the straightaway.

• The bias tape maker

Except, don’t use bias!

Cut straight strips instead of bias strips.
They wiggle less.

Below is an example from Baskets to Appliqué, where I used the tape maker and straight-cut strips with just a thin strip of fusible on the back. It looks intricate, but it was pretty easy-peasy to weave the strips, fuse them in place, then hand-stitch them down.

• Freezer paper on the back

The pot here, in this design from Growing Heart to Appliqué, is a good candidate.

Basting the margin over the template helps assure a crisp, identifiable sewing line and keeps things on the straight and narrow. For more information, see my previous photo tutorial about freezer paper on the back. Even if you’re using freezer paper on top or another method, you can mix a little of this in to deal with those pesky straight edges.

• Back-Basting

In the back-basting, aka no-template method, the pattern is drawn directly on the back of the background fabric. This means you have the sewing line marked and ever-present as a reference for your stitching. You can flip your work over to make sure you’re passing the sobriety test.

How’m I doing?

Pretty good so far.

I’ll write more about back-basting in the future.

How do you like to handle straight lines?

Until next time,


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