The simplest explanation of appliqué is to place one layer of fabric over another larger piece, and sew it in place. It’s a creative way to bring design elements to the forefront and make them the stars of your quilt.
There are many ways to make beautiful appliqué, and no technique is the best. It IS always best to use the type that is most comfortable for you. Often, patterns say “appliqué as desired,” so the options are wide open! Try a few different methods and find out how fun appliqué can be!
Here are a few examples of the basics:
Kathy McNeil uses traditional needleturn appliqué along with some machine stitching in her beautiful Audubon’s Christmas quilt.
In needleturn, there’s no need to turn under the fabric edges until you take the appliqué stitches. The iquilt.com course Audubon’s Christmas Tutorial will be a valuable resource if you’re interested in making this wall quilt alongside Kathy! (For more appliqué and a world of landscape appliqué information, Kathy is also teaching Step-by-Step Quilted Landscapes on iquilt.com!)
If you would prefer the edges of the pieces turned under before you start to stitch, you can trace the appliqué design pieces (reversed) on the paper side of freezer paper. Cut along the lines and press to the fabric using a dry iron. Trim the fabric to the shape, including a small seam allowance. Clip the curves and points, then press the seam allowances back over the paper side. Slip the freezer paper out and it’s ready to stitch! Stitch them invisibly by hand—a blanket stitch by hand—or by machine using any stitch you prefer.
Fused Raw Edge
This popular method of machine appliqué is quite different from any type of hand appliqué. The design pieces are traced (reversed) onto lightweight fusible web and pressed into place on the back side of the fabric. Some quilters, like Sue Nickels and Pat Holly, cut away the fusible web in the centers of each piece so that the quilt does not become stiff. Again, a blanket stitch can be used, or any edge stitch on your sewing machine, including a zigzag stitch.
Melinda Bula creates gorgeous art quilts using fused raw edge appliqué and then thread paints as she quilts over the entire quilt. The appliqué pieces provide the base color but the threadplay creates colors and dimension that are unbelievable! Watch for Melinda’s class, Fabulous Flower Photo Quilts, coming soon on iquilt.com!
A step and a few leaps further…
Painted Appliqué is a design style that Linda M. Poole uses.
With colorful ink pencils, she paints the design elements on the piece of fabric that will be later invisibly machine appliquéd onto the quilt. Besides eliminating multiple pieces of appliqué—while retaining a basic appliqué style—the paintings become artful objects, obtaining colors and gradations that could not be achieved with separate fabric pieces. You can learn all of Linda’s secrets. She’ll be teaching a lesson series, Artistic Painted Appliqué, on iquilt.com. (No, you don’t have to be an artist! You’ll love the ink pencils!)
We’ve only touched on a few types of appliqué. There’s so much to talk about! There’s freezer paper on the back, or freezer paper on the front. Do you starch baste? Some people love the laser cut kits with all the pieces ready to sew, and fusible, too! I have a soft spot in my heart (on my fingertips?) for appliqué English paper pieced designs like Grandmother’s Flower Garden. You can sew circles like Karen Kay Buckley and you can stuff circles. And reverse appliqué. And you can appliqué wool—you don’t have to turn the seams!
What have I missed, and what’s your favorite?
(The Back Porch Stitcher is stitching inside this week because it’s far too hot to enjoy sitting outside!)
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