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Tips & Techniques > Satin Stitching

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Posted by: Neefer

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Member since: 4/8/02
Reviews: 138 (tips: 6)
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Posted on: 11/27/03 11:26 AM
Review Rating: Helpful by 1 people   Very Helpful by 7 people   
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Satin stitching can be difficult to get to look even and smooth. A few things that you can do to fix those problems are:

1. Make samples for every different combination you are doing. I don't think you have to do for each fabric if you are making a quilt, unless you've got a fabric that is a different fiber content. I do think you should do a sample for every thread, not just every type of thread. I haven't always done this, and I've always been sorry.

2. Stablize. I prefer Pellon mid- or heavyweight tearaway stabilizer. I do not like Sulky Totally Stable. You may need more than 1 layer of stabilizer.

3. Thread tension to prevent bobbin thread show-thru. I turn my tension to 3/4 (just lower than 1) on my Bernina 1001 when using the metallic and holigraphic threads. On my Bernina Artista 180, I have to turn the tension to zero (0) and use the embroidery bobbin.

4. Lubricant to prevent breakage. I use Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant with Teflon. "Draw" a line vertically along the metallic thread. Use as little as possible.

5. You want to use the smallest needle (to prevent bobbin thread show-thru) with the biggest eye (to prevent thread breakage). There are metallica needles available that are coated to help prevent shredding of metallic thread.

6. Look at your stitches from at least a foot (30 cm) away. A lot of the imperfections will disappear with a little distance, and unless your item is being judged for perfect workmanship, it's not going to matter that the satin stitching isn't quite perfect.

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bevaau said... (3/30/04 4:11 PM) Reply
Penelope, I'm sorry I didn't keep track of this discussion and missed your question about the title of Stewart Merrett's book. The one I have is called 'Applique Art' and his website is although he seems to have branched out into cross stitch and tapestry as well lately.
Neefer said... (2/23/04 11:23 AM) Reply
Curves: I'm not sure what stilts is talking about. I don't change needle position as I go around a curve. If it's a gentle curve, I use my hands to turn the fabric as I sew. If it's a tight curve, I will stop, needle down, and pivot. The only thing that you have to watch out for is to be sure that you pivot so that you cover your previous stitches (instead of leaving a little gap).
Neefer said... (2/23/04 11:18 AM) Reply
Threads & Stitch Length: You have to make a sample. I've found it isn't a function of threadweight. Different threads will lay down differently. The weight of the fabric and stablizer will make a difference, too. And while the settings that I use on the approximately 50 different threads that I've used so far on my specific fabrics, all the while sewing on my Bernina 180E or my Bernina 1001, with a regular zigzag satin stitch, would help someone who wanted to reproduce my work on the same type of machine, I don't think it would be particularly helpful in general. You are going to have to experiment and make samples. If you don't like the look of the stitch because you see too much fabric in the background, your stitch length is too long. If you get a big wad of knotted thread that stops your forward progress, your stitch is too short.
Neefer said... (2/23/04 11:11 AM) Reply
Stitch width: I think it's a personal choice. It depends on the look you want.
Patti B said... (2/21/04 6:44 PM) Reply
Nice summary of tips, Jennifer. And practice, practice, practice too! Stilts, for even more detail and good illustrations you might look for Harriet Hargrave's "Mastering Machine Applique." It has lots of detail. And, bevaau, thanks for mentioning Stewart Merrett -- a new name to me and an interesting website.
stilts said... (2/21/04 4:59 PM) Reply
There could be more said about thread, stitch length and width if using a zigzag stitch and position of needle when going around a curve inside or outside and when turning corners.
vickie v. said... (2/20/04 8:39 PM) Reply
When satin stitching dark on dark, I find it helpful to trace the edge with chalk. It makes the shape easier to see.
Neefer said... (12/30/03 0:09 AM) Reply
The 180E came with 2 bobbins, a regular one and one with a pigtail that the bobbin thread goes thru. The pigtail increases the bobbin tension (w/o messing with the bobbin case screw). You can buy one from your Bernina dealer, but be sure to ask if it will work with your machine before sticking it in the machine.
oldprofile said... (12/28/03 3:23 AM) Reply
Jennifer, thanks for your thorough tip. I just got a Bernina 165 and am interested in doing satin stitch projects. What is an embroidery bobbin? Is it thread or a different bobbin altogether?
JDpenelope said... (12/17/03 7:31 PM) Reply
Jennifer, this is extremely thorough and I've saved this tip. Bevaau, do you have a book title you could share with us? Merrett's applique art sounds interesting.
Neefer said... (12/13/03 6:37 PM) Reply
I use different stitch widths and lengths depending on the look I want. If I want a more subtle look, I will use a zigzag of length 1. If I want a heavy line, I use width of 2, and if I want a finer line, like for face details, I use a 1 or 1.5. Width is something you have to make samples of. Different threads will need a different width, sometimes, to get the same looking width. It's not that the fabric is drawing up. Curves are easy. If you go slowly, you turn while sewing for gentle curves. For more abrubt curves, you should pivot so that you overlap your old stitches for a little bit. When I do corners, I stitch all the way down, then do a few 45 degree (or whatever the tangential is) stitches, then turn the corner.
rusewcrazy said... (12/12/03 5:55 PM) Reply
Thanks for the tip! My biggest issues with applique are corners and curves. Also, what stitch width do you recommend?
bevaau said... (11/27/03 11:27 PM) Reply
Sorry, that should read 'satin stitch', of course!
bevaau said... (11/27/03 2:59 PM) Reply
You are absolutely right about viewing stain stitch applique from a distance! I have a book by Stewart Merrett (who does brilliant 'art' applique pieces edged with satin stitch, in which he says "slight irregularities will inevitably occur and I regard them as an integral part of this technique. Puckers can throw shadows and highlights on fabrics and a wiggly line of stitching can often give new impetus to a design".
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