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Applique Basics

Applique comes from the french appliquer which means to "put on". In applique, one layer of fabric is places over another layer of fabric and is sewn in place. Applique opens a whole new design world to the quilter allowing for many more possibilities than just piecing alone.

What follows is a brief introduction to several different types of applique. These are meant to give the beginner quilter some exposure to the possibilities of applique and are not a thorough discourse on each technique. A list of good resource books for applique completes the section and gives the quilter a place to go for a more through covering of the extensive subject of applique.

Applique FAQ * Selecting Applique Designs * Preparing Fabrics for Applique * Hand Applique * Machine Applique * Other Applique Techniques * More Information from Others * For Further Reading

Selecting Applique Designs

Ideas for applique patterns are practically endless. There are many books devoted to applique pattern (See For Further Reading below for some). Photographs, books, and children coloring books can contain patterns wich can be used for applique. Here are a few online sites with free applique patterns for quilters to try.

Preparing Fabrics for Applique

Before attaching the pattern pieces to the backing fabric, the pieces of fabric forming the design must be cut out and prepared so that the raw edges are not exposed. Below are several methods that can be used to prepare the design pieces and the method of joining the pieces, hand or machine, to which they are best suited.

Hand Basting

Hand or Machine Applique

Using a cardboard template, trace the applique design to the right side of the fabric. If desired, help stabilize the design pieces by stay-stitching, either by hand or by machine, just outside the drawn line using a very small stitch. Trim approximately 1/8" away from the marked line. Very carefully, clip the fabric almost to the line on curves and on inside points. Turn the raw edge to the underside of the design piece on the marked line and carefully finger press. With the right side of the fabric facing, hand baste the raw edge in place close to the edge and press lightly. After attaching the design piece to the background, remove the hand basting thread.

Freezer Paper

Hand or Machine Applique

Using freezer paper (a white butcher's paper with plastic coating on one side), trace the applique design pieces on the paper side of the freezer paper. Note: this will be the wrong side of the design, so it will be necessary to reverse letters and other similar designs. Cut out freezer paper on the marked lines. Attach to the fabric by placing the plastic side of the paper to the wrong side of the fabric and pressing with a dry iron set on medium heat. Trim around the attached freezer paper designs leaving a 1/8" to 1/4" seam allowance. Carefully clip the seam allowances almost up to the freezer paper on inner points and curves. Press the seam allowances over the paper side of the freezer paper. After attaching the design piece to the background fabric, make a small slit in the background fabric behind the design piece and remove the freezer paper.

Wash-Away Stabilizer

Hand or Machine Applique

Trace the design pieces on to a water dissolvable stabilizer such as Solvy™. Note: final design will be reverse as with freezer paper method above. Place stabilizer with traced design on the right side of the design fabric. Sew on the marked line by hand or by machine using as small stitch. Trim around the attached stabilizer fabric designs leaving a 1/8" to 1/4" seam allowance. Carefully clip the seam allowances almost up to the sewn line on inner points and curves. Make a small slit in the stabilizer and turn the fabric design and stabilizer right side out. Use a point turner or other blunt instrument to help push all the points and curves into shape. Press lightly on the fabric side with a dry iron. After completing the applique washing in cool water will remove the stablilzer.
Note: some quilters use old dryer sheets in place of the water soliuable stabilizer. In this case, the dryer sheet remains in the finished product. Be sure that the dryer sheet does not contain any residue which could stain the finished applique.

Fusible Web

Machine Applique

Trace the design pieces on to a lightweight fusible web such as transweb or wonderunder. Note: final design will be reverse as with freezer paper method above. Cut the design pieces out leaving a generous margin around each piece. Following the manufacturer's directions, fuse one side of the web onto the wrong side of the design fabric. Now cut the design out on the marked lines. Remove the paper from the other side of the fusible web and fuse to the applique background being sure to follow the manufacturer's directions. Be careful as this method of preparing the applique design is permanent once the design has been fused to the background.

Hand Applique

The art of hand applique covers a wide spectrum from primitive folk art to the sophistication of Baltimore Album quilts. Different techniques can be used create the same effect with no one technique being the "right" one. Beginning quilters should experiment with several different techniques to find the one that he/she is most comfortable with.

Blind Stitch

Materials: Prepare

Buttonhole Stitch

Needle Turn

Machine Applique

While machine applique can be used as a quick alternative to hand applique, the sewing machine can be used to open new creative possibilities in the applique technique.

Blind Stitch

Satin Stitch

Fancy Stitch

Other Applique Techniques

Broderie Perse

Reverse Applique

Hawaiian Applique

Shadow Applique

Stained-Glass Applique

Celtic Applique

3-D/Special Effects Applique

More Information from Others

The Applique Society™

Articles from Addy

Appliqueing Circles

By Rinda

I have taught applique for several years and have found the best method for appliqueing circles begins with a product called TEMPLAR - sold by Pat Andreatta. It looks and feels like plastic, however, it is heat resistent and can be used in conjunction with an iron.

Begin by drawing the desired, size of completed, circle on the TEMPLAR with a narrow line - I use a Sharpie extra fine black marker. To make sure my circle is perfectly round I use something I know is perfectly round - e.g., a coin, glass, plate, compass, or circle draftsman template. After drawing you're ready to cut. Use sharp "paper" scissors - not the good Ginghers! Take a deep breath and make as long a cut as possible without stopping. If, when finished, you run your finger around your new template and it has a few bumps take a nail file and smooth out the bumps.

Cut a circle from your applique fabric roughly 1-3/4 times larger than the template. This fabric circle can be cut freehand - does not have to be precise. With a threaded needle stitch a running stitch around the fabric approximately 1/4" from the edge. Place the TEMPLAR circle inside the fabric and pull taut. Don't stop here. You must now stitch a few wagon wheels. With your thread still coming from the running stitch, take your needle and criss-cross coming up in the little pleats that formed when you pulled the thread taut around the template. After making the wagon wheels take a couple of back stitches to secure the thread and cut the thread.

Now you have a perfect circle - but alas that little TEMPLAR circle is still inside -- what to do now. With your iron on high and a tea towel or old piece of muslin, spray starch the towel/muslin. Lay the circle face down in the pool of starch and press with iron. Turn the circle over and press right side up until dry. Make sure none of the circles are stuck on the bottom of your iron. If so use a wooden spoon to pop off the bottom of that hot iron!

Using small, sharp scissors on the back of the circle cut out the center glob of wagon-wheeled thread - making sure you have almost a 1/4" seam allowance left. Pop out the TEMPLAR and you are ready to applique.

To make things go faster I make several TEMPLAR circles at once. I have made small berry sizes up to Dresden plate circle sizes. All work exceptionally well.

For Further Reading:

© Susan E Traudt 1994-2001

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