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Fast Fridays: Clothesline Hearts Appliquéd Napkins

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When you’re full of love, let it show! We’re hanging our hearts on a curlicue clothesline for everyone to see. The Sew4Home Fast Fridays series is all about whipping out something wonderful in no time at all. When you start with a set of purchased napkins, all that’s left is the easy appliqué. We show you a clever trace and stitch technique that will make quick work of one, two, three or a table full of napkins.

There’s a template to download below that you’ll use to trace the clothesline and well as the position of each of the eight little hearts. The clothesline is done with a simple utility Triple Stitch; we used a heavier 28wt Aurifil thread in the top and bobbin to give the line extra density.

Gather up some of your favorite quilting cotton scraps for the hearts. Petite prints and geometric classics are great options to fill in each shape. Our eight fabrics came from eight different designer collections! It takes a little extra time to make sure your colors blend well (you’ll notice are pinks are peachy rather than classic brights), but it certainly proves you can bring together lots of looks into one coherent design. 

Our Clothesline o’ Hearts stretches across almost the full width of the standard 20” x 20” store-bought napkins we used. You could certainly make your own napkins on which to appliqué. If this is your choice, shoot for the same finished size for the best fit with our template. Your hem should finish at no more than ¾” in width all around. We also recommend a base fabric that is somewhat see-through in order for the trace and stitch technique to work well.

The romantic theme of these napkins make them a great gift idea for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary celebration or a wedding shower. Of course, hearts can make you happy on any day of the year. By varying the color of the base fabric and the prints chosen for the hearts, you can create napkins for any occasion.

The hearts are adhered with raw edged appliqué, the easiest of the standard appliqué techniques. After multiple laundering, the edges of the hearts may start to slightly fray, which could give them the perfect shabby chic appeal. That said, with their small shape and because the fusible web holding the the hearts in place goes all the way to edge, any fraying is likely to be minimal.

Fast Fridays is one of our most popular series here at Sew4Home and we’re not surprised; everyone loves a project they can make quickly and with supplies they may already have on hand. Want to see more? Enter Fast Fridays into the search box at the center top of any page to bring up a full list.

Each napkin finishes at 20” x 20” – the size of our purchased linen napkins, which came as a set of six from Cost Plus World Market.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • We used, and our template is sized for, standard 20” x 20” store-bought linen napkins. As mentioned above, you could certainly make your own napkins that finish at 20” x 20”. In either case, it’s best if the napkin fabric is at least a little bit see-through for the tracing and stitching steps below to work well.
  • Scraps of coordinating quilting weight cottons for the exterior; we used 8 assorted fabrics in pinks and reds – petite motifs are the best so the pattern shows up well within the small hearts
  • Scrap or about ¼ yard of fusible web for the appliqué
  • Scrap or about yard of tear-away stabilizer – you need at least 20” in width to stretch across the napkin; we liked and highly recommend Sulky Totally Stable; it worked perfectly with the technique described below – it's a low tack fusible that is easily removed when the project is complete
  • All purpose thread to best coordinate with both the quilting cottons and the base napkin
  • Heavy-weight thread for the clothesline; we used Aurifil 28wt in Charcoal Gray
  • Permanent marker; we used a bright pink Sharpie®
  • See-through ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. Download and print out our TWO pattern sheets: Clothesline Pattern A and Clothesline Pattern B, which have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier. 
    IMPORTANT: Each page is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
  2. Following the arrows on each piece, butt them together (do not overlap) and tape to create the full template. As mentioned above, our template is designed to fit a standard 20” x 20” napkin, centered between the ¾” hems of that napkin.
  3. Collect your coordinating fabric scraps and decide which order you want them to appear on the clothesline. When mixing prints, it’s always good to vary the motif size as well as the colors for the most pleasing result. Below is one of our 1-8 designs.
  4. Find the fusible, tear-away stabilizer. As mentioned, we used and recommend Sulky Totally Stable, which worked like a charm for both application and removal.
  5. Place the assembled template right side up and flat on your work surface.
  6. Unroll the stabilizer fusible side up. Cut a piece of stabilizer to fit across the template.
    NOTE: You need the full width, but the full height of the napkin is not as necessary since the appliqué design is along the bottom half. However, most stabilizer is 20” – so it was easy to just cut a full piece.
  7. Find the permanent marker. Trace the design onto the fusible side of the stabilizer.
  8. Allow the ink to fully dry. This should only take a few minutes, but it’s important that it is completely dry. Test it by rubbing your finger over the design.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board 

Create the clothesline

  1. Find the napkin. Steam and press it well to remove any creases or wrinkles.
  2. Place the napkin right side up over the stabilizer, positioning the napkin so the point of the first heart outline on the far right is 1¾" up from the lower edge of the napkin. Center the design between the napkin’s side hems. Pin the napkin to the stabilizer.
  3. The fusible side of the stabilizer, on which you traced the template design, is now against the wrong side of the napkin.
  4. Making sure the template does not shift, flip the layers so the plain side of the stabilizer is now facing up. With a dry iron, fuse the stabilizer to the napkin from this side.
  5. Thread the machine with the heavy-weight thread in the top and bobbin (we used Aurifil 28wt in Charcoal Gray).
  6. Attach an Appliqué foot if possible, and select a Triple Stitch.
  7. Place the napkin under the presser foot with the plain side of the stabilizer facing up. The outline of the clothesline should be clearly visible. Start the stitching by pulling the bobbin thread up to the top. Hold both ends of the thread (top and bobbin) and drop the needle down at the start of the clothesline.
  8. Start stitching slowly, carefully following the drawn line. On the tight curves, it may be necessary to stop, with the needle down, in order to lift the foot and pivot a bit for the next stitch.
  9. Continue stitching all the way to the end of the clothesline. Raise the needle and pull the fabric away from the needle.
  10. Trim the threads, leaving a tail about 3” long for both the top and bobbin threads.

    NOTE: If your machine has a built-in thread cutter – a feature we LOVE on many of our Janome studio models, you can use a quilting technique. Move the needle 3” from the last stitch, lower the foot and then engage the cut function. This will leave 3” tails of thread.

Create and place the hanging hearts

  1. Collect your eight different quilting cottons.
  2. Find the fusible web.
  3. Place the fusible web over the template and trace an outline of one of the hearts on the paper side of the fusible web. Repeat 7 more times.

  4. Trim around each heart, leaving about ⅛” beyond the outline.
  5. Place one heart, fusible side down/paper side up, on the wrong side of each of the fabrics. Following manufacturer’s recommendations, fuse each of the eight hearts in place.

  6. Cut out each heart along the drawn outline.

  7. Place the napkin right side up and flat on your work surface. The template design should be faintly visible through the napkin (Remember our note above about choosing a napkin that is at least somewhat see-through? It helps a lot now). Peel away the paper backing to reveal the second side of the fusible web and place a heart right side up on the napkin over each outlined position.

  8. Place the hearts in your previously selected order. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse all eight hearts in place.
  9. Re-thread the machine with standard thread in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch. Drop the needle into the point of a heart.

  10. Edgestitch around the heart…

  11. … ending back at the point. As you did above with the clothesline, leave long tails of thread at the start and end.

    NOTE: This is called “raw edge” appliqué. If you are brand new to appliqué, check out our full step-by-step tutorial, which covers this technique along with several other options.
  12. Insert the thread tails at the either end of the clothesline through a hand-sewing needle. Insert the needle through to the back of the napkin, pulling the thread tails through as well.

  13. Knot the tails together several times.

  14. Trim the tails close to the knot.

  15. Repeat to pull through and knot the thread tails at the bottom point of each heart.

  16. When all thread tails are knotted, gently tear away the stabilizer.
  17. The Sulky Totally Stable, tore easily along the perforations created by the stitching, leaving a neat finish across the back of the napkins.

  18. Re-press and re-fold the napkins.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler

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Comments (3)

norskie3 said:
norskie3's picture

The napkins are sweet.   I do not know what a triple stitch is on my Janome machine as is suggested in the instructions

Is it for an embroidery machine?   I have a 6300P Memory Craft.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ norskie3 - Thank you so much. The Triple Stitch is a standard utility stitch commonly used for stretchy fabric. The machine takes its first stitch then sews over that same stitch twice more before moving onto the next stitch. Check your machine manual or stitch guide, it should be right at the beginning in the utility section with the straight and zig zag stitch options. Although used for stretchy fabric, we often use it when we want a "beefier" straight stitch, such as for this clothesline. 

norskie3 said:
norskie3's picture

Thank you, Liz.  I will take a good look in my manual.  It will be fun to try it out!