Vintage Handkerchief, Elmer’s Glue and a Sewing Machine; Embellishing With Decorative Stitches

Embellishing your quilt blocks can take on many forms, one of which is utilizing the built-in stitches on your sewing machine. But sometimes you might want to stitch on something as sheer/light weight as a vintage handkerchief. You have a few options, let me take you through two similar techniques I like to use. They each involve using my friend Elmer…Elmer’s Washable School Glue. (I only have experience using the white glue, not the clear.)

Many of the sewing machine built on stitches are dense and it is the density that sometimes gets us into trouble by causing the sheer/light weight fabric to pucker and/or distort.

This technique also works well with machine embroidery on a very sheer washable fabric where no underlay is possible.

Use this glue ONLY on items/quilts that you plan to MACHINE quilt (never on potential hand quilting) and LAUNDER. If you wish you can easily use this technique and then launder your embellished piece before adding it to a quilt block.

My recipe: 1 to 1 ratio of Elmer’s to water, stir until well blended. If you want a stiffer piece to stitch or for machine embroider, considering a mix of two parts glue to one part water would be a good place to start.

Cool completely and clean the sole plate of your iron when finished.

Before you jump in and use a beautiful sheer piece, do a bit of experimenting. Hopefully you will like this method as much as I do.

In this picture I have backed my vintage handkerchief with laundered and pressed bleached muslin. Using an artist paintbrush, I lightly wet the area with the water/glue mixture where I plan to stitch. No need to over saturate. Have you noticed I am working on a white Teflon pressing sheet? I want to protect my ironing board surface from the mix.

You can either allow your fabric to air dry or carefully press it with a dry iron. Why a dry iron? If you use steam you will be adding moisture to existing moisture that you are trying to dry.

I sew mostly on a Bernina 550. For my first example I have chosen stitch #602.

I get a beautiful stitch with no puckering.

So let’s choose a stitch that has a greater stitch density, #414.

Again, the glue/water stiffened fabric gives a beautiful stitch without any fabric distortion.

But what happens if I reduce the #414 stitch length to make the design even more compact? Not a thing!

The view of the back of the handkerchief muslin block.

What happens if I choose not to back the sheer handkerchief with muslin? Because I am going to cover a larger area this time with the mix, I choose a larger paint brush.

I was a little heavy handed with the glue, next time I will use more care.

I can either carefully press or let my piece air dry. I have pinned the handkerchief as straight as possible to my wool pressing mat and because I was impatient I carefully dry pressed.

Choosing a very dense stitch #407 for my “glue/water only handkerchief”, I begin my test.

Absolutely no puckering of the sheer handkerchief.

Another stitch, another example.

I love being able to stitch on sheer fabrics using glue mix as my inexpensive stabilizer.

Sometimes it is unusual household items that prove very helpful!

Happy stitching and blessings! Stay safe during this ugly pandemic!


7 thoughts on “Vintage Handkerchief, Elmer’s Glue and a Sewing Machine; Embellishing With Decorative Stitches

  1. Thanks for the warn about hand sewing. Given that is my go-to. What I use, odd as it is, is recycled dryer sheets. they give a sturdy stabilizing effect, and if you’re careful, you can cut off the excess when you’re done stitching. Now, if I could just find more hankies.

    Liked by 1 person

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