Bobbin Work Sew Easy Lesson

Getting Started

Try Janet Pittman’s technique to embellish quilt appliqué using pearl cotton in your machine’s bobbin.

Photo A 

Photo C


Photo B 

Photo D



Photo E

1. Arrange and fuse appliqué pieces to background.

2. Straight stitch a scant 1/8″ inside edges of appliqué shapes such as flowers and leaves with matching thread in top spool and bobbin (Photo A). Straight stitch down middle of appliqué stems. Bobbin thread must be a color that will show up on wrong side of background (Photo B).

3. Wind bobbin with size 8 pearl cotton. Loosen tension on bobbin case. (Make note of initial position of screwdriver slot so it can be returned to this setting for regular sewing.) If you prefer, keep an extra bobbin case on hand to use for bobbin work.

4. To place appliqué in embroidery hoop, lay outer hoop on flat surface, place appliqué, wrong side up, atop outer hoop, and insert inner hoop. Lower or cover feed dogs and put a darning foot on your machine to prepare for free-motion stitching.

5. As you begin stitching, hold threads firmly rather than making anchor stitches. Using the previous stitching as a guide, stitch around appliqué shapes as if you were sketching them (Photo C). Stitch double veins in large flower petals and short double center veins in leaves. Stitch a wavy line over stems and add wavy stems connecting smaller leaves to fabric stems. Leave a 3″ to ­4″ tail of pearl cotton.

6. Using a chenille or tapestry needle, pull pearl cotton tail to wrong side (Photo D). Knot with back thread, trim thread tails to 1/2″, and secure to back with fabric glue.

Sew Smart™
• Practice bobbin work on a sample to find proper tension.
• Bobbin thread will not come up and meet top thread at the normal halfway point in fabric.
• Thicker thread looks more interesting if it does not lie flat and smooth and has some indent where top thread catches bottom thread (Photo E). Tighten top tension if necessary, to achieve desired look.
• Speed of stitching and movement of the fabric will also affect the look of the bobbin thread. —Janet

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