The big quilt: different applique techniques

Banner picture patchwork pieces
Just some random parts of the quilt, because this post needed another picture

Simply said applique is sewing a piece of fabric onto a background. This is different from patchwork where one sews the pieces of fabric together. The benefit of applique is more possibilities for shapes and such.  For example, the musical notes and the moon phases below would not have been possible without applique. The downside of applique is that it is much more difficult to do neatly. In this post I’ll talk about three different applique techniques: applique with fusible interfacing,  reverse applique and raw-edge applique.

Technique 1: applique with fusible interfacing

Fusible interfacing is a sewing aid which sticks on both sides when you iron it. This makes it ideal to attach tricky pieces of fabric on a background and helps to get a neat finish. First, you iron the interfacing on the fabric to be appliqued. After that, you cut out the right shape. Next, you iron the pieces on the background fabric. Firmly press down with an iron and voila! You have appliqued some pieces. To be absolutely sure the pieces are attached well and good use a zigzag over the edges. The benefit of this zigzag is that it prevents fraying of the pieces. Also it makes the backside of the pieces look really nice. Not that anyone ever sees that once the quilt is finished, but still it is pretty. Here are the front and bottom together:

Back phases of the moon and music applique
Back phases of the moon and music applique using fusible interfacing.
Front phases of the moon and music applique
Front phases of the moon and music applique using fusible interfacing.

We included the moon phases and the musical notes in the quilt because both things mean a lot to her. My friend, who is very musical, hummed the music for me and it sounded nice.

Technique 2: reverse applique

My friend likes to leave her handprint behind on her paintings, so it seemed fitting to include one in her quilt as well. So I asked her to trace her hand. The white fabric of the hand we chose because it looks a lot like handwriting, and that fits with a hand you know. We are funny people.

As technique, I decided to use reverse applique.  I hadn’t tried it before and really wanted to. With reverse applique, you first trace the shape you want, the hand, on your background fabric. After that you cut out the shape, leaving about 0.5 centimetres (1/4 inch) from the marking. After that, you cut into the leftover fabric at an angle until you reach the markings. This will make little ‘flaps’ you fold under the background fabric while your sewing. This will give the edge of your applique a neat finished look. Also it prevents fraying.  Some people suggest first ironing the flaps under so it stays in place, but I don’t like ironing so I skipped that step. In the picture below, unfortunately of terrible quality, you see the marking and the cuts to make the flaps. After you’ve prepared your background fabric you pin the fabric of the shape on the back, also visible in the picture.

Reverse applique quilting method
Reverse applique quilting method. Here you see the cuts into the shape of the hand

When both fabrics are in place you start sewing. I did this by hand, which helped a lot to fold the flaps under. I started somewhere on the flat of the hand because that meant a large part of the sewing would be done when I reached the fingers. This helped to give the work a bit more structure with the fiddly parts. When sewing tricky parts it always helps to have as much fabric safely secured in place as possible. I used a lot of pins, so sewing the fingers wasn’t as tricky as I feared. Below you see the result in a better picture. Overall I liked this technique a lot and will probably use it again in the future. It is easier to make it look neatly compared to sewing pieces on top of the background fabric, such as with needle turn applique.

Reverse applique hand
Reverse applique hand

Technique 3: raw edge applique

This is the easiest technique in this post because you sew the fabric on without having to worry about much.  For one thing raw-edge means you don’t finish the edge of the fabric. The idea is that it will fray with time, adding a nice element to the quilt. The only thing to take care of is to leave enough fabric to allow for fraying without it causing the fabrics to come apart. The benefit of using raw edge in a quilt is that fabric will be attached through the quilting as well so this will be less of a problem. Still, to prevent your quilt from coming apart you can use a zigzag stitch. To prevent movement of the fabric prior to quilting, I basted the fabric because it’s from a sweater which is very stretchy.

The circle is from a sweater from the band ‘the Ramones’ she is a fan of. Look them up, they are very good.

Ramones raw edge applique
Ramones raw edge applique

So that’s the update on The Big Quit! It is going to be a memory quilt for one of my best friends. In the scheme below all the finished blocks are coloured in. I am so excited to put this thing together and start quilting through all the layers. Seeing the progress we’re making it looks like that won’t be too far away!

Scheme The Big Quilt 18-03-2018
Scheme The Big Quilt 18-03-2018

Would you like to know more?

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blogpost every Sunday or Monday.


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