One of my goals for being home this winter was to do more blog posts with tutorials, and not just 'newsletter' updates. So, I'm finally doing one! I'm in a lot of quilt groups online, and I often see people asking how to quilt with appliques. There is no 'right' way, as there are some variables, which I will hopefully cover here. I'll show you four (and a half 🤣) options, so if you know of another, I'd love to hear it!
For all of these examples, I used raw edge applique and machine quilting. Most of it translates to other types of applique, and hand quilting doesn't have some of the issues these methods are trying to address, but some of it still applies! Most of them also work with the 'quilt as you go' method.
Quilt the background before adding the appliques. This is often the easiest, because you don't have to deal with the appliques at all. It's especially good if you want to use straight line stitching, as that would be extra hard to do while working around applique shapes. The drawbacks to this option are, one, you can get 'ghosting' of the quilt lines through the applique. (see second pic) With this one I had to bend it to get that to show, but washing may cause it to appear also. (But if that doesn't bother you, it's fine, no rules!) The second drawback is that you have to save all of the appliques until after the quilt is otherwise mostly done. Often people like to applique the individual blocks before even stitching them together, but you can't do that with this method. (Unless you are doing 'quilt as you go') With my designs, however, most of the stitching is done before the appliques anyway, so this would work fine, plus the wall hangings and greeting cards are unlikely to be washed.
Quilt around the appliques after they are on. This solves both issues of the first method, but creates a new one. It can be tricky to quilt around the appliques, depending on the quilting design and the applique shapes. A simple free motion design like stippling is a good option, while something like feathers might be more challenging, or even just straight lines! You may have to make decisions like whether to quilt in that little space between the second two mushrooms, which I didn't in this case. Another benefit of this method is that the appliques 'pop' up a bit more than other methods, almost a trapunto effect.
The next option is to quilt both around and on top of the appliques. This is especially important with larger appliques that are too big to be left unquilted. If you echo quilt, or something that complements the shape, it becomes part of the design.
Option three and a half:
A related option is to quilt an overall quilting design right over the top of the appliques. In my first sample, it would look better if I had used matching thread to stitch around the applique shapes, because it's competing with the quilting. I left it in to show you something to watch out for! Or needle turned appliques without visible stitching, or maybe appliques stitched with invisible thread would be good candidates. I could tell it wasn't my favorite method, because my brain had trouble doing it🤣 Longarm quilters are probably used to it!
This one is a relatively new discovery for me, I saw it online somewhere as a good option for kids, which I have found to be true! But it's not just for kids, I have definitely used it myself :-) It's similar to option three in that you quilt over the top, but with matchstick quilting (close lines). This eliminates the need to do any stitching around the applique pieces, which is great for beginners, or just to save time. It's always amazing how much the thread disappears. On each of these examples, I only used one color of thread. For the crane, I used the color of the head, since that was the part I least wanted dark lines to show on, but the light ones don't really show on the dark. I should try one with dark thread to see what happens! The lines show, but not really the thread color. The drawback to this one is it makes for a stiffer quilt. That's fine for a wall hanging, but maybe not for a snuggly quilt.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there is no right way. It depends on a lot of things... what the quilt will be used for, your skill level, and what you want it to look like, to name a few. I hope this was a helpful explanation of the most common options. If you have another, please let me know! And of course, check out our kits and patterns (click photo below) while you are here! Happy Sewing, Beret
Beret Nelson's On The Trail Creations Blog Page
I am a homeschooling mom of three fun kids, who are now old enough that I have a little time to pursue my passion for sewing! After several years of making quilted cards and art quilts, I'm now designing kits and patterns. Some of them have even been in Keepsake Quilting! I teach classes at local quilt shops, and am starting to do more traveling and teaching. I also have many tutorials, including some on YouTube. I am blessed to live in Alaska where I am surrounded by the inspiration provided by the beauty of God's creation!
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