Did you know you can use a standard sewing machine to machine stitch eyes on your applique blocks?
The eyes are often the most difficult part of any of my appliqué patterns.
It can be tricky stitching around those small pieces!
(Tips – shorten your stitch length, go sloooooooooow, raise your presser foot often to spin the piece in tighter turns.)
But with the new Paper Doll Quilt I have reached new lows in tiny eyes.
These eyes are too small to appliqué. Don’t even try it.
So what to do?
You have a few options for the Paper Dolls quilt.
1. You can draw on the eyes with a marker. This is totally ok to do! But please test your marker first – and test it on every fabric you’ll be using because the results can vary. For bigger eyes (like all my animal quilts) I like my Marvy fabric markers. For smaller eyes like these paper dolls I get the best results with a small Sharpie. The worst bleeding I’ve ever had was with official “laundry” markers – go figure. (I share my favorite markers and paints here.)
2. You can embroider the eyes by hand. I really like this stitch for eyes. If you’re using Quilt As You Go you won’t even need to worry about a visible thread carry between the eyes because the batting should completely block it – even with a light color background block and skin color.
3. You can machine stitch the eyes. By machine! And you don’t need an embroidery machine, though it will need to have some fancy stitch options.
(Update – if you DO have a fancy embroidery machine, there are some free downloadable files for embroidered eyes here.)
I’ve heard from a lot of you who have arthritis and appreciate as many machine options as possible – so I think a lot of you are really going to like this method. I loved it!
Here’s how I did mine. . .
Scroll through your decorative stitches and find one that is a series of round or oval satin stitches.
On my Bernina it’s stitch #407. My much-less-fancy Pfaff has an identical stitch #26. Most machines with decorative stitches will have something like this.
Now comes the slightly tedious part. Start playing around with the length and width of the stitch until you find one that’s right for your project. Once you find the settings you like – write them down! I actually make a little sample of the stitch on white fabric and write the settings directly on the fabric.
I stitched up one eye and made a note of the stitch number, the length and the width. See how this matches the settings on the screen above? Now I can make eyes all the same size whenever I want – and skip the playing around with settings step. 🙂
I have a whole stack of these swatches for any decorative stitch I think I might possibly use again.
When you’re ready to machine stitch eyes, you’re all set!
- Check to make sure your bobbin is full. You don’t want to run out in the middle of an eye.
- Put your block in the sewing machine and carefully lower the needle right into the top of the eye.
- Lower the presser foot.
- Stitch one oval. Watch carefully and stop stitching when it gets to the bottom of the oval. Backstitch just a stitch or two and remove it.
- One eye done! Pause to admire the neat (easy!) stitching and be excited that we live in a time when such wonders are possible. 🙂
- Repeat for the second eye.
Troubleshooting tips. . .
The combination of fusible adhesive and batting behind the block makes a great stabilizer. If you’re not using those (of if you find the fabric is bunching up under your eyes) use a stabilizer behind your stitching. It can be as simple as layering a piece of tissue paper behind the block. You might also need to adjust your tension.
Don’t push or pull or hold back the fabric going through the machine. You really need to just let it go through on its own or you might find that you are making the eyes longer or shorter than what the stitch really should be – and it will be nearly impossible to match every time. Just let those feed dogs do their thing. 🙂
The examples in the post are from the Paper Dolls quilt pattern – but you can use this method to machine stitch eyes any time the eyes are really tiny. In the cover image for the Peekaboo Mouse pattern you can see I used applique eyes on the cat, and machine stitched eyes on the little mice.