CHQuilts: applique
Showing posts with label applique. Show all posts
Showing posts with label applique. Show all posts

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Applique--now this is fun!

applique blocks.jpgThe first three months of work on my latest quilt project, Afternoon Delight, the 2020 Block of the Month for members of The Quilt Show has included both a learning curve and skill builder. I have never really done much applique as noted in previous blog posts. But that has all changed now.

This project is just what I needed. And, it is really enjoyable to just sit in front of the television and stitch.

These applique blocks, shown above, are the result of the first three months of this year-long quilt project. I decided to hand applique these blocks, since hand works is the most enjoyable and with which I have the least amount of experience.

Shoo-fly blocks.jpg
These applique blocks along with the pieced blocks, at right, represent just three months of work. There are 64 blocks in all in this quilt.

I’m thrilled with my progress though. Not only am I current and even a little ahead, as related in my previous blog post, but this quilt is going to be lovely, and oh, so colorful. I’m using fabric from prior projects, so as I work, there is already a familiarity to this. Honestly, I love everything about this project.

I have enjoyed the applique process the most. I liken it to being a kid again. What a great activity. It was like I was back in kindergarten again, passing the time with my cutting, pasting, and sewing.

My scissors are a little sharper now; cutting is much more precise as I create templates out of thick freezer paper. Pasting doesn’t include a jar with a brush attached to the cap, but rather uses spray starch squirted into its own cap, and painted on with an artist’s paintbrush. The sewing isn’t done in holes punched out of cardboard cards using yarn and a huge, dull needle either. Today’s project uses a fine milliner’s needle, silk or cotton thread, and very tiny stitches.

There is also lots of pressing with an iron in today’s projects. I didn’t iron in kindergarten, but I did try my hand at it when I was little. My mother used to let me iron pillow cases and sometimes, my doll clothes. I loved to iron. It all came to an abrupt halt one day though when I ironed my doll’s plastic raincoat. I’ll never forget it. I was about five years old. The raincoat was light blue with double white stripes going vertically and horizontally to form a tiny checkerboard. As I put the hot iron onto the back of the coat, I couldn’t figure out why the iron wouldn’t glide smoothly across it like it did on the linens. I kept trying until I saw smoke and smelled something burning. My mother saw what I was up to and snatched the plug out of the wall. Oh, what a smelly, nasty mess.

My applique experience has been nothing like that. However, it wasn’t so easy at first. I made a couple of those blocks three times because I just wasn’t happy with how they turned out.

I tried various methods and techniques, but finally found the one that feels right for me. I’ve really enjoyed making these blocks and can’t wait until the next patterns come out in April.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

I've started a new project

CHQuilts: Afternoon Delight quilt top


I’m pretty excited about my latest quilt project, a BOM (block of the month), which is really applique-rich, entitled Afternoon Delight. This quilt will be a real challenge for me because I haven’t done much applique. Frankly, I’m not very good at it even though my very first quilt, completed back in 2003 was appliqued.

I hope I can accomplish this, since it is such a far cry from where I began, with this simple Rose of Sharon quilt top I finished 17 years ago. 


I have actually done only a little applique since then. I admit that the little I’ve done has not been stellar. 
CHQuilts: My first quilt
But, what better way to practice, with all these applique blocks. I do love a challenge, and this proves to be just what I’ve been looking for.

This pattern was originally designed by the late Sue Garman and was adapted for members of The Quilt Show by Barbara Black. Barbara does a wonderful job of explaining the techniques used to make these beautiful blocks and offers tips and hints to help her readers make this lovely quilt.

This project began in January and will take a full year to complete. The pattern is free to STAR members of The Quilt Show, one of my favorite places on the Internet for quilting how-to’s, beautiful eye-candy, and the best quilting inspiration. When I don’t have time to quilt, I just watch the shows, hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. I have mentioned previously but it is worth repeating, I am a big fan of Alex Anderson. In fact, I wrote about her inspiration in making my first quilt in a previous blog post. You can read it here.

Of course, I am running late. There were six blocks to be completed in January and six more to make in February. I have two more to finish before starting on the six for March. I will detail my progress and show pictures in subsequent posts. But for now, suffice it to say, I plan to learn plenty as I enjoy hone my applique skills. I plan to do all of the applique by hand. I’m making it very scrappy, using fabric I already have on hand. It will be very colorful. I look forward to sewing in the evenings while I watch TV. 


There is no better way to watch television than by not actually watching it as I sew.


The only real challenge is trying to maneuver a lapful of tiny pieces of fabric with needles, thread, pins, and my favorite cat who loves to snuggle on my lap. No worries! I’ve got this!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Happy Quilting New Year

My quilting life seems to be shaping up for the New Year. Only 13 days in and I can envision a completed quilt top in the near future. I am also contemplating a new project, another Block of the Month (BOM) quilt from The Quilt Show—entitled Afternoon Delight. ..more about that in the coming days.

This quilt—Sizzle, a design by Becky Goldsmith for The Quilt Show—should have been completed in a year, and I am a bit behind, but that’s of no concern to me. I try not to fret over time because I just don’t seem to have enough of it and because I so enjoy every aspect of quilt making. It would be just wrong to put pressure on myself to finish a project on a schedule. That would detract from the pleasure I derive from the process. Quilting is not a one-step endeavor. There are many steps. I try to face each one with exhilaration and excitement. There is no dread in quilting because I know I will either learn something new or practice something that I want to improve upon. That is a kind of pressure too, but it is not a negative. Trying to conquer my untested skills is just a part of it. I like a challenge and tend to pick projects that will eventually make me a better quilter.


Yesterday I finished the first side border on my Sizzle quilt. Today I will finish the second. The top and bottom borders will take a little longer simply because they have more applique pieces.

There was some time between finishing the quilt blocks, sewing them together, and starting on the borders. I was hesitant. Although the applique pieces were already cut out and prepared with the raw edges glued under, I was concerned about a design issue. I didn’t have quite enough white-on-white fabric, the same one I used in the quilt top. I tried to determine how to cope with this. I could have used the off-white background fabric. I could have used one of the colors already in the quilt. Or, I could have made smaller or different borders.

Then I found that I had a very similar white-on-white fabric that read the same shade of bright white as the one I had used in the quilt. Without a magnifying glass to identify the pattern, the two looked very similarly. Once quilted, the difference might not even be discernible close up.

Once I found my color confidence, it was time to cut the fabric. Eight pieces cut to 7” wide by the width of fabric were all I needed. The white paisley print is lovely. Being a 60’s child, I just love paisley. I will have to replace this next chance I get. I love working with fabric that I love.

My next decision was about the color thread and the stitches to use. I settled on two colors of thread and three different stitches. I practiced sewing them until I was pleased with the results.


My applique is not perfect, but isn’t bad. The stitches will hold the pieces in place, which is their purpose. The overall effect is good. So, all-in-all, I’m happy with how this is going. On to finishing the borders and thinking about backing fabric and batting for this lovely quilt.

I hope this quilt speaks to me as my others have because right now I have no idea how I am going to quilt it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Always have to have a Plan B

With the holiday in the middle of the week, there have been just too many things to do to get to quilting, but now, the errands are done, the house is somewhat liveable, and most of the chores are done. It is time to get to it.


I was so excited to finally start working on the end of my quilt top--laying out my applique pieces for the top and bottom borders of my quilt. I have yet to cut the fabric for the borders. That was where I planned to start. That was yesterday.

Time for Plan B
Thing is, I realized that according to the pattern, the side borders were to be positioned first. I hadn't even started to work on all those applique pieces. That means I had to cut out and prepare (gluing all the raw edges) them. Thankfully, there aren't as many, however, those swirly shapes are a bit more complex.

Once I cut out all the pieces, I was anxious to use my double finger press method to prepare all the applique pieces expeditiously. 

I recently purchased a new glue stick from Sewline. It is much smaller, and easier to hold like a pencil. It is much less clunky than the giant Elmer's glue stick I had been using. The smaller surface made it less messy. The glue stayed where I put it. 

It seemed to me though that the glue wasn't quite as sticky, but once it was pressed with the iron, it seemed to hold even better. 

I spent the day yesterday cutting all of the pieces and preparing all but the swirlies. I hope to finish those today. Perhaps this quilt top will be completed by the end of 2019--stay tuned. 


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Easy applique with the double finger press method

When trying to prepare pieces for applique for the border of my quilt, I have tried using various tools to help with this somewhat tedious task. But, I realize the old adage that the best tools are my own hands.

I’ve tried many different methods of preparing shapes for applique using a template, but I’ve finally settled on the one that works best for me. It is the simplest method I’ve found and is the one I am the most comfortable with. It is my own double finger press method.

I have been using an Elmer’s School Glue stick to glue the raw edges under and a portable iron to press the finished pieces. I then use my double finger press method to create nice shapes that resemble my template.

I’ve attempted to illustrate my favorite applique method below:


This small leaf shape was cut out of freezer paper and pressed to the right side of the fabric. Once adhered, I roughly cut out the piece with a small seam allowance. Precision isn’t important here as long as there is enough fabric for a turned under edge.

The next step is to simply finger pressed the fabric to the back of the shape, all around it. Firmly finger press the piece all around the edges along the shape. I used to have little respect for finger pressing, but in this instance, it paves the way for a nice rounded finished piece. This extra step only takes a moment and makes all the difference.

When the shape is pressed, apply glue to one side of the shape at a time, and again, finger press as was done earlier. Gently move around the shape to make a nice rounded edge. 

When all the edges are finger pressed, and the point is secured with the glue, just snip off the excess to create a perfect point.

Turn the shape over to make sure that all the parts are glued securely. If not, apply a bit of glue where needed. I generally use a manicure stick for this purpose, though it is rarely needed if enough glue is applied correctly at the onset.

Once completed, remove the paper and give the shape a quick press with a hot, dry iron. The leaf is now ready to be applied to the surface of the quilt, either by hand or by using a machine applique techniques. 

I’m pretty pleased with how these tuned out as shown below. 




Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Getting comfortable with applique

I’ve always been a little intimidated, yet intrigued by applique; you know, those beautiful quilts with hundreds of tiny pieces that make up scenes, patterns, and motifs on quilts.

I’ve dabbled in the art of applique, but was never really good at it. The first quilt I ever made used applique pieces. I’ve learned however, that in quilting, as in life, practice makes perfect. Thankfully, I’ve also learned that nothing is really perfect, and that is okay. I still love this quilt because it was my first, but it is certainly not my best work.

I have done a few more applique pieces since then, and my skills are improving, but I am still not comfortable with it. I need more practice.

One of the things I love about quilting is how much there is to learn. And with each endeavor, my skills continue to improve. This first quilt was just a jumping off point, and I haven’t stopped jumping yet. I doubt I ever will. The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to learn. I knew when I sat at the edge of my bed, in the sunlight, quilting this quilt that I would be a quilter for the rest of my life.

I know I will get plenty of applique practice with the border of this, my latest quilt project. It is the block of the month for 2019 designed by Becky Goldsmith for The Quilt Show of which I am a proud member.

This quilt screams precision, so I want to make sure I get the appliqued borders just right.

My first attempts at perfect circles took some time, a little study, and a bit of practice, but I’m getting there. Perfecting those petal shapes with their sharp points is getting easier as I go too. By the time I finish gluing all the edges to prepare them for sewing onto fabric, I should be an old hand at this.

Hand or machine applique—on no—another decision. When the time comes, I’ll figure that out too. But for now, I have some work to do.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Stability in life and in quilting


Stability is such a fleeting thing. Just when you think things are going along swimmingly, something happens to alter your course.

Mine was altered when my husband became ill. I've had to switch gears a little, going from quilter to caretaker.

John had a stroke in mid-January, so all my energy of late, has been devoted to tending to him and his needs. In addition, I've been doing all the cooking, cleaning, chores and errands, many of which he used to handle. For a while, it was overwhelming, but I must be getting more efficient, since I've found a little time to get back to my sewing machine.

He is doing much better, but will have a long road yet to travel. 

I hadn't started on my Pink Flamingo quilt, the (Dancing Butterflies) quilt-as-you-go project with Leah Day, but I have done lots of thinking about it. All the planning in my head made it easier to dive in when I found a little spare time.

It felt good to get back to my project, which at this point was a pile of fabric. First, all the cutting. It was easier than I thought to cut out all those flamingos, as well as the background squares onto which they would be appliqued.

I've never used fusible web before, but that was in the pattern, so I carefully read the directions. I think I love it. It was easy to applique all the birds in place where I wanted them. I decided not to have them all facing the same way or to have all of them standing upright on each block.

I see lots more applique projects in my future!

I wasn't so sure I liked the idea of satin stitching all those shapes onto the background fabric either. But it really wasn't so bad. In fact, I think I like it. Letting the machine do the work is so much easier and turns out so much better than my attempts at needle-turn applique.

Speaking of stability...That reminds me of the tear-away stabilizer I was to use to secure my flamingos onto the background fabric. The stabilizer keeps the dense stitches from distorting the fabric.

I have a little tip. I have no idea if this is a common practice when using tear-away stabilizer, but I quite accidentally came across it.

When I did the first few blocks, I cut a huge square of stabilizer, the size of the motif and stuck it to the back of the block. It worked well, in that the stitching was uniform and without puckers or bubbles. But, when I went to tear it off, it was very difficult. Still, I muddled through for 4 of the blocks, cussing and tearing, tearing and cussing.

On the fifth one, it occurred to me that each square contained a large amount of unused stabilizer. I was worried that the roll I was using wouldn't be enough to finish the 12 blocks I had to do.

So, in my frugal way, I decided to improvise. When I put the square of stabilizer onto the back of the block, I held it up to the light and trimmed away that which was not near where I was going to stitch. On the sixth block, I pieced those remnants together, completely covering the area that needed stitching. It worked. In fact, it worked well because it was easier to tear it off.

So now, I have decided to just cut strips and place them where needed.

I wish I would have done that in the first place. It is so much easier. Once the piece is stitched, it is no problem to tear away these few pieces.

This is one of the things I just love about quilting. There are always new things to learn, new techniques to try, and new ways to do things that make the process all the more enjoyable.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It is all about the tools

It has been some time since I mentioned the progress I and many others, are making on the Building Blocks Quilt Along, a project hosted by free-motion quilting instructor and free-motion quilting extraordinaire, Leah Day.

Black and white and pink all over quilt
A random sampling of quilt blocks ready to be sewn together into a quilt
The blocks for this quilt which I'm calling "Black and white and pink all over," for obvious reasons, are stacking up nicely, with new blocks being completed regularly. The quilt should be completed by Thanksgiving.

Pressing seams open  

One thing has really confounded me about this project. Leah has instructed us to press our seams open. While I get the concept, actually doing it requires a change in habit and in thinking. It is a little more time-consuming to press the seams open, but it does help the quality of the free-motion quilting stitches when there aren't huge bumps to guide the needle over.

Since I've been heavily engaged in quilting, I have come to realize that the pressing is nearly as important as the cutting and piecing. If pieces aren't pressed well, things just don't go together as well.

But pressing seams open; I was having trouble with the discipline. I had learned to press seams to one side, and have always done it that way, as do most quilters. Pressing to one side makes nesting opposite seams fit together, which is essential in matching seams, angles, and points. I've found though, that when pinning two adjacent seams together, is is even easier to match. I hated maneuvering my iron over the sometimes multiple seams. And, working with a hot iron was pretty uncomfortable for my fingers.

Being the problem-solver that I am, I thought I'd try a mini iron. Up until this point, I thought they were just silly gizmos that only people with lots of money bought. I am a frugal quilter, so I rarely entertain the idea of buying gadgets. Then one day, I realized this might be the solution to my dreaded open seams problem.

I wrote mini iron on the shopping list. My husband John, who hates being cooped up in the house, likes to run errands. I am a home body with a capital H, so I prefer to stay home. It works well for us. John is always good about sticking to my list. He asked me what a mini iron was, so I explained it to him. He brought home a Dritz Petite Press mini iron.

Once I tried it out, my life was changed forever. Not only is it easy to use this tiny iron to press seams open, but it has done wonders for my applique abilities as well. I've been able to put away my iron, which saves space in my small sewing area. And I haven't burnt my fingers once. This has been a great solution. I don't know what I ever did without it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Love it when projects are completed

I feel as though I've been gone a long time from this blog. It occurs to me that it is very difficult to write about quilting when you are so busy quilting. 

Sailing QuiltI just completed another project though, which leaves me a little free time. I made a wall hanging for my daughter, Jenny, who will turn 35 this week. She and her husband have recently relocated to the Boston area, so I made her a quilt I thought might be appropriate.  

I had a great time working on this, although I didn't give myself much time. I started it on the 13th of August and just finished it yesterday, the 24th. Her birthday is in a couple days. I am grateful to Debbie Mumm for the design and pattern, as it is just what I was looking for. I searched the Internet, knowing I wanted something with a lighthouse. This was perfect. 

Completing this quilt gives me the courage and inspiration to do more like it. 

Discovering applique

I have always been a little shy about applique. The sea shells, ship's wheel and anchor are all appliqued, while the ship and lighthouse are paper pieced. The rest is just pieced. 

Quilted seashells
I've never really been good at needle-turn applique, so when I saw the curves on those shells, I wondered what I was letting myself in for. But, I took it one step at a time, watched lots of You Tube videos, and finally jumped in with both feet. The shells are now my favorite part of this quilt. The ship's wheel really gave me pause too, until I figured out I could do it in two phases, the pegs first, then the wheel appliqued on top of it. I'm really pleased at how all the pieces turned out. 

Then I thought I would quilt it sparingly, until I got started. I was like a drunk who just took his first swig of whiskey. Once I started, I couldn't stop. The sashing is really densely quilted. But, that's OK, because it toned down the brown fabric. The white thread on top of the brown was just what it needed to blend the color a bit. 

The only fabric I didn't have in my stash was the border fabric. I actually went to the quilt store to pic out something. What I wanted was a nautical-themed neutral color. No such thing existed, however, so I settled on this mottled gold color. I think it further helped the dark brown blend as well as tying in the color of that one golden sail and the anchor. 

One more thing, cats just love quilting, as shown. Thanks JR for helping hold this quilt for the picture!



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Applique--need practice

applique 1

applique 2I need to practice my applique technique.

That was the lesson I gleaned while working on my latest project--Dresden Flower Pot, as previously mentioned.

I have a bit of a deficit when it comes to hand-sewing, since I've been all about practicing free-motion quilting at the sewing machine lately. I'm a bit rusty with my hand-work. I haven't even hand-quilted anything lately, which is a shame because I love hand-quilting. Perhaps I need to get some projects together anyway, to enhance my television viewing. There is no better way to watch TV, than to work on a lap full of fabric.

I now know I need to do a little more applique as well. I can probably count the number of applique projects I've done. As the pictures at right indicate, my pieces are not completely flat and the stitches are not uniform and too visible.

applique 3 
My skills will get by, but they are not where I want them to be. 

I find applique much easier when the edges of the pieces are finished, as opposed to raw edges. It is much easier to sew them than to turn raw edges under and then sew. I think one of the problems for me is I'm too impetuous to start sewing to take the time to properly prepare the pieces to be appliqued. I did these leaves by needle-turn applique, turning and sewing as I went, but I'm thinking I needed to prepare the edges better before I begin to sew. Even though it takes a little more time, I think it might serve me well to baste the pieces. Live and learn!

A good iron and some starch will do wonders for my problem, however. And, some quilting in the ditch will cover my sins as well.

I look forward to quilting this wall hanging. I've never free-motion quilted anything larger than a 12-inch block before. If this goes well, I may think about quilting an entire quilt. However, I make no predictions. Stay tuned!