Water Soluble Thread for Applique

September 9, 2011 in Tips & Tricks

I thought I’d take a minute to highlight one of my favorite lesser known products around the quilt store. Water soluble thread is exactly what it sounds like. Use it in place of regular thread when basting and it dissolves when laundered or steamed. It can replace the top thread, bobbin thread or both to fit your needs. The way I use it most frequently is with applique. I’ll walk you through it:

Fabric, Thread, Pattern

For this project you will need a base fabric*, applique fabric*, scrap fabric* (at least as big as your pattern piece), an applique pattern and water soluble thread. There are a number of different water soluble threads on the market. To be honest, I’ve not noticed a huge difference in quality. For this project, I just went with the most affordable option my quilt store had.

*You will want all of the fabrics you use in this project to be iron safe at the highest steam setting. Cottons are best.

Traced pattern.

Trace your pattern onto your scrap fabric. I traced it onto the back to make it easier to see. Now load the water soluble thread into your machine. I wound mine onto a new bobbin and then used black thread on top to help my stitches stand out in my photos. You can use any all-purpose thread you want. Now might be a good time to break out that olive green spool that you bought three years ago to sew that one pillow that has been collecting dust on your thread stand ever since. You know the one.

Sew along your pattern lines.

With your machine properly threaded go ahead and sew the whole way around your traced pattern. Do NOT lock in your stitches at the beginning or end of your stitch path! A little overlap won’t hurt, but our end-goal is for these stitches to disappear. Keep it simple!

(*Note the ugly brown iron stain near the top of my pattern. Any time I find a stain or snag on some fabric in my stash I always cut out the bad patch and throw it into a scrap bag. I then use the scraps for projects like this or when I want to rag roll my hair!)

Trim excess fabric.

Trim off all excess fabric. Depending on the type of applique you are doing you can leave anywhere from a 1/4 to an 1/8 of an inch of fabric around your stitch path. Like any applique, Trimming off any corners and notching curves will give you the best results. I was a bad kid and focused on photos instead of clipping corners and notches. You will see my mistake later. Do as I say not as I do, right?

Turning hole

Now pull your two sewn layers apart and snip an “x” into only your scrap fabric layer. You have just created a turning hole!


Using the turning hole turn your entire piece inside out. I usually use a chopstick to push out the corners of my pieces because I’m fancy, but feel free to use any turning aid you’re comfortable with. I like chopsticks because they are long, narrow enough to get into most tight spaces and dull enough not to puncture my fabric as I turn it.

Here you can see my mistake. Had I trimmed those corners I would have nice sharp mouth points. Now I am stuck with a Mona Lisa grin. Lesson learned, hopefully.

Are you ready for the exciting part?!? Crank your iron up to it’s highest steam stetting & press.

Press and Presto!

Once your entire piece has been pressed gently pull the fabric layers apart. If they aren’t releasing freely lightly spritz your piece with water and then press again. Look ma, no stitches! You should find that your water soluble thread has disappeared leaving only your top thread to simply pull off and discard. We’re finished with the scrap fabric now too. Edges neatly concealed without hassle or headache, fun stuff!

Line Up

Now we’re ready to sew. Line up your applique piece where you want it on your base fabric and pin in place.

Stitch in place

Use the stitch of your choice to applique your piece onto your base fabric and we’re done! I used a standard blanket stitch for mine. The possibilities are endless! What would you use water soluble thread for? Let me know in the comments!

1 response to Water Soluble Thread for Applique

  1. that’s cute! 😀

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