Sew many stems

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It was a delight to talk to Mary Owens, the quilter whose wonderful Rose and Sage is in the December issue of TQL. Mary makes her quilts entirely by hand, because she loves hand sewing. Imagine that!

One of the charming little (yes, only 4”) blocks is a tulip, with an appliquéd stem. We left it up to our readers to decide how they will prepare the tulip stem for appliqué when they make their own version of Rose and Sage. I like to think there is a “Rose and Sage” quilt in my future, too, and I started to wonder which of the many methods I will use when I appliqué those stems.

With such a small patch, I might be tempted to simply do needleturn. Would the stem turn out even? I could cut the shape from freezer paper, press it to the back of the fabric, and cut out the patch, adding a turn-under allowance. Then I would apply starch to the seam allowance and press it under, using a stiletto to keep from burning my fingers. Forty-three times for this quilt.

Some quilters make a turned bias tube and appliqué that in place. It comes out neat and precise and adds nice dimension. You can fold a bias strip in half, the way you would for a binding. Position the strip with the raw edges facing the inside (concave side) of the curve, stitch ¼” inside the raw edge, trim the excess fabric, flip the bias strip over, and press. You can appliqué the folded edge in place now, or wait and do it when you quilt. (Alex shows you how to do this method for the handle of a basket block in the August 2011 TQL.) I like this method a lot and use it often.

For my tulip blocks, though, I think I will turn to an old, low-tech friend I admit I’d forgotten about for years–a bias tape maker. I discovered one that makes ½”-wide bias strips a few months ago when I was inspired to organize my sewing space. Pretty quick and slick, with no burned fingers. Perfect for this fat little stem. I’m glad I didn’t decide to give it away.

How will you make your stems?…Jan Magee, The Quilt Life

A bias tape maker is low-tech, but it still works great!
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