Punctuation serves an invaluable duty, creating clarity in our sentences. The simple comma is all that separates the heartwarming sentence, “Let’s eat, grandma!” from the macabre, “Let’s eat grandma.” In this quilt project, I used the over-sized punctuation mark as an applique design element. Take a look:
I made this quilt in February 2010, and it is still my go-to comfy quilt even after making several after this one. (It’s been through the wash quite a bit, so it has that lovely soft quality now.)
To make the comma shapes, I went into Photoshop and created an oversized comma to print out. I traced them onto a product called Steam-a-Seam Lite. It’s a double-sided fusible webbing that you can use to stitch two pieces of fabric to each other. After tracing it out, I followed the directions on the package to adhere the applique design to my quilt block fabric using an iron.
In this quilt, I had a log-cabin inspired centre block that I wanted to offset with a comma block near each corner. This means that I had to be sure to flip some of my pieces so that the fusible webbing would be on the correct side.
Although you can safely leave the edges unfinished after using Steam-a-Seam, I love the look of a thick satin stitch. If you’ve never done one before, don’t worry: it’s easy to change your sewing machine settings for this type of stitch. The key is to switch your machine into a zigzag stitch.
Increase your stitch width (on my Kenmore I usually set it around 3 or 4), and decrease your stitch length (nearly zero, but not quite zero, otherwise your fabric will not move through the machine). This can be tricky to set up, so be sure to test out the satin stitch on a scrap piece of fabric of similar weight. Trial and error is your best bet.
Once you are happy with the look of the stitch, slowly follow the edge of the applique, making sure to catch the applique at all times. Your satin stitch will ideally hide the edge of the applique in its entirety.
If you mess up and it’s not able to be stitch-ripped neatly, don’t be afraid to start over on a fresh block. I ended up making five commas and used the best four in my final design.
Inspiration can come from the strangest places, and for me, it was the punctuation symbols on my keyboard. I would love to (someday) make an applique using an ampersand (&), my favourite punctuation mark.