In Baltimore appliqué, serrated leaves are often represented with embroidery: the edges of each leaf are embellished with straight stitches that stand out from the edge like little hairs. And it looks quite good and does give a serrated effect. But I wondered if there was a way to do it without the floss, and I think I’ve found a method, persnickety though it is, that will work.
If you’re interested in finicky hand applique, read on.
You will want to do a test using the fabric you want for your leaves or petals. The stiffer the fabric is, the wider the gap needs to be to get a good serration. Using fairly soft fabric I was able to make very small serrations.
Mark the leaves or petals on the outer edge of the points you want to create. This leaf is marked with back basting and partially attached.
I used back basting to mark and baste the leaves to the background, but you could trace templates too, as long as they had smooth edges to turn under. Tracing the jagged edges you eventually want to create would be a sure way to let your marking lines show. Whatever way you choose to mark and temporarily attach your leaf to the background is fine. Just make sure that the pieces are marked at the outermost edge. Your first stitching line should be at the tips of the points of the serrated edge.
Turn the raw edge under and stitch it down, leaving big (for appliquers) gaps between stitches. Take an extra stitch into the same spot for anchoring. Note the stitching on what will be the points of the serrated segments and the dots and dashes effect of the large stitches and anchoring stitches.
The first step is to turn under the raw edge of the leaf and stitch it down as in regular needle turn appliqué, but leave a larger than usual gap between stitches. Appliquers use very small stitches, so to make the serrations you want to make your stitches perhaps an eighth to a quarter of an inch apart. The length of the stitches will vary depending on how deep the serrations should be and how stiff the leaf fabric is. Take an extra tiny anchoring stitch over each stitch to be sure it is secure and will hold against the tugging you are going to do in the next step. On the leaf in the picture, I wanted serrated outer edges and smooth edges in the deep V’s in the leaf, so the stitches are long on the outer edges and very small on the V’s.
Do a second pass of stitching, bringing the thread through the background well inside the edge of the applique then through the edge of the leaf piece, and drawing the fabric back with the needle before completing the stitch. In the picture above you can see the needle going into the background to start the drawing stitch.
Bringing the needle through the edge of the leaf fabric:
Using the needle held perpendicular to the work to draw back the leaf fabric:
Once the whole leaf is attached to the background, bring the needle through the background under the leaf, near but not at the edge of the leaf. Then take the needle through the folded edge of the leaf fabric between two anchoring stitches. You can use the needle to poke at the leaf fabric to see where those stitches lie, if you’re not sure, and that’s good practice for the next step. Pull the thread through the leaf, then use the needle held perpendicularly to the work to pull the leaf fabric back between the two anchoring stitches, making a dent in the edge of the fabric. Sink the needle at that spot and draw the thread through snugly. Drawing up the stitch secures the dent, and a tiny stitch in the same spot reinforces it. Move the needle over to the next gap, take it up through the background inside the edge, through the folded edge of the leaf, draw back the leaf edge, secure it with a stitch then reinforce it with one extra tiny stitch, and repeat.
Since I was alternating smooth segments with serrated segments, I knotted the thread on the background when I ran the thread to the next serrated edge to prevent drawing up the piece too much with those long stitches bridging the smooth segments.
Here’s the underside of the finished leaf showing the two rows of stitching:
The resulting serrated leaf is a bit puffy since the fabric is pulled inward at intervals, blousing it a little. The serrated edges of the finished product are slightly rounded, so this technique could be used for tiny petals as well.
The finished leaf: