McKenna Ryan Pattern

Applique intimidated me. Plain and simple… I just didn’t know if I had the patience or skill to do applique and be happy with what I did. That is saying something as I had been doing needlework in the form of embroidery, cross stitch and crochet since I was seven. I would tackle anything… except applique.

I loved so many designs associated with applique, I knew I had to tackle my fear. I took a few classes, watched a few videos and experimented – a lot! The only way to really decide which method is best for you is to try and practice. Now, I like all three and use them for different purposes.

There are three typical methods: needle turn (the traditional method), machine applique, and raw edge fusible applique. There are perfect uses for each. You may be asking yourself a few questions.

What type should you use for a project and why?

  • Needle turn applique is the technique to use for show quilts or reproduction quilts. This hand quilting technique is beautiful, but time consuming. Templates are traced onto the background. Pieces are sewn to the background, turning the edges under to match the drawn line as you sew. The raw edge and stitches are hidden, so the fabric and design shine.
  • Machine applique is quicker than needle turn. The pieces are cut to shape. Seam allowances are pressed under. Then, the pieces are sewn to background fabric using a blanket, satin or other decorative stitch. Blanket stitches are less noticeable, whereas satin stitches are meant to be noticed and be part of the design. Satin stitches take much more time and thread. This is the best method for quilts that will see a lot of use and washing. A common example of machine applique is the Dresden Plate quilt block.
  • Fusible applique is the quickest and easiest of the techniques. It is used for projects that are more decorative in nature. Pieces are cut to the exact sized needed. Fabric is fused to the background and then secured with a decorative stitch as in machine applique. The difference between the two is that the raw edge is visible in fusible applique. If a satin stitch is used, it can “hide” much of the raw edge to minimize fraying. The advantage of fusible applique is that more complicated shapes are easier to use.

If a pattern specifies one type of applique, can you use a different type?

  • The simple answer is YES. However, the shapes may need to be modified. If the pattern was written for fusible applique, then a 1/4-inch seam needs to be added to each template. This may be more difficult for complex shapes (snowflakes, ruffles, etc.). If the pattern was written for machine applique or needle turn, simply trim the seam allowance off the template.

How do you know where to place the pieces?

  • There are a few methods. The old-fashioned method is to measure and place. You pick a couple of reference points (corner, center, relationship to another piece, etc.) and measure from those locations. The second method is to place a template between a light source (window or lamp) and the fabric. The template is visible through the fabric and shows where to place them. Another method is to trace the template onto tissue paper, which is laid over the background fabric. The issue can be pulled away after the pieces are appliqued. The last method is to use a projector to shine the design on the fabric. This method requires careful measurement of the projection to make sure you don’t have distortion.

Why do some patterns require freezer paper?

Starching Seam Allowance
  • Freezer paper took me a while to get used to, but I LOVE it. Freezer paper is used to make templates that simplify cutting shapes. It has wax on one side, which when heated temporarily sticks to the fabric. Thus, it holds the template more firmly to the fabric than pins or glue, allowing you to trim the fabric more easily to shape. Once the piece is cut, simply peal the fabric from the template… Not only can it be used to cut the template, but the seam allowance can be starched and pressed around the template. This makes it easier to applique the shape to the background. The templates can be used a dozen or more times, so it is an inexpensive way to make templates.

Needless to say, I no longer suffer from applique apprehension! I hope you have fun learning or honing your applique skills, like I have mine. If you want to share your applique experience, please add it to the comments.

Happy Quilting!