Must-Try Trends: Collage Applique Quilts


We’re celebrating our 35th anniversary here at American Quilter’s Society, and it has us looking back at the trends that have shaped the quilting world and the trends of the moment fueling the future of quilting. This month, we’re trying Collage Applique Quilts.

Collage is a technique borrowed from the fine arts world, and in quilting it is paired with applique to create unique creations that take advantage of print fabrics, an abundance of methods, and imagination. One of the great quilt collage artists right now is Laura Heine.

collage applique quilts
The Birch Street Collage by Laura Heine


collage applique quilts
Featherweight Collage by Laura Heine


collage applique quilts
Poki Mini Giraffe Collage by Laura Heine

Heine utilizes low-volume backgroundsbroderie perse and fuse applique in her quilts. Scrappy fabric choices create texture and movement within the quilts.

How to Try The Trend

Collage Foundation

To begin making the collage foundation upon which the applique will be built, choose or create an applique motif, like this stag pattern available for free here at AQSblog.

collage applique quilts

Secure the applique guide to a window or light table for tracing.

Secure a piece of muslin over the applique guide.

Trace the guide.

collage applique quilts

On a more complicated pattern like this, it may also be useful to make duplicates of smaller sections for detailed work. Play around and find what works best for you.

Use Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 or other double-sided fusible, on the back of the muslin for fusing to the background fabric layer.

To do this, peel the backing paper off the Steam-A-Seam 2.

Place the fusible on the muslin.

Place an applique pressing sheet over the Steam-A-Seam 2 to protect your iron.

Press following the manufacturer’s instructions to adhere the fusible.

Here we can see the fusible covers the area of the applique motif.

You can mark out the order in which to build the applique. Objects at the back should make up the first layers, with subsequent layers building over it.

Fabric Preparation

When choosing fabrics for the applique, gather a mix of prints and blenders in a range of values (light, medium, dark) in the colors needed for the applique. Blenders have subtle patterns with little contrast and are good for covering large areas. Prints can create texture and even be fussycut using a broderie perse technique for variety and interest.

Fuse Steam-A-Seam 2 to the back of the fabrics and cut out shapes. You can draw any shape needed onto the fusible paper back. Serrated scissors like Karen Kay Buckley’s Purple Perfect 7½” Scissors are excellent for cutting out fabric with accuracy.

Building the Collage

Here is a blender cut into the shape of the large area at the rump of the deer. Remove the paper from the fusible. Steam-A-Seam 2 is adhesive and can be repositioned, making it excellent for this technique.

Place the fabric, covering the area. It is better for the fabric to go outside of the lines than inside the lines, because the outline will be trimmed later.

From there, have fun cutting out shapes and extra pieces that can go on top of the base fabric. Adhere them as with the base piece.

Press to fuse once satisfied with a section. You can also wait until the very end if you would like some time to change your mind.

In collage quilts, you decide how intricate to make the applique.  Here I’ve decided to the leave the throat a single piece of fabric, but used a batik print with a lot of movement.

collage applique quilts

You can also use the print within a fabric to serious advantage. Here I’ve cut around the edge of a scrolling leaf print to create a more organic line between sections of the applique.

Finishing Touches

Continue building the applique in sections like this. If you need to build a section and then add it to the collage base, check out this tutorial for using an applique pressing sheet to build sections.

Once all the sections are built and fused to the collage base, flip the base over, and trim around the applique outline. Remove the backing paper from the collage base and fuse it to the background fabric of your choice.

Thanks to the fusible, the individual pieces of the collage do not have to be stitched down. However, quilting a tight grid can help ensure a collage that will last for years to come.

Ready for more inspiration?

Check out our Must-Try Pinterest board full of trendy eye-candy to get inspired by other collage applique quilts.

Have you tried this trend? Show us your creations in our Facebook group, AQS Quilting Project Parade. We can’t wait to see what you make!

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Linda Bonnett

Do you have to reverse the pattern to trace it? I’m so confused. I’ve been told I have to trace the back of the pattern – not the front. The reason was so that the pattern would come out the right way. I am going to build Abeline, one of Laura Heine’s patterns.