Quilt Construction
Applique Techniques

Applique is the process of applying one piece of fabric on top of another for decorative or functional purposes.

Making Templates--
Most applique designs are given as full-size drawings for the completed designs. The drawings show dotted lines to indicate where one piece overlaps another. Other marks indicate placement of embroidery stitches for decorative purposes such as eyes, lips, flowers, etc.

For hand applique, trace each template onto the right side of the fabric with template right side up. Cut around shape, adding a 1/8" seam allowance.

Before the actual applique process begins, cut the background block and prepare it for stitching. Most applique designs are centered on the block. To find the center of the background square, fold it in half and in half again; crease with your fingers. Now unfold and fold diagonally and crease; repeat for other corners.

Center line creases to help position the design. If you have a full-size drawing of the design, as is given with many applique designs, it might help you to draw on the background block to help with placement.

Transfer the design to a large piece of tracing paper. Place the paper on top of the design; use masking tape to hold in place. Trace design onto paper.

If you don'thave a light box, tape the pattern on a window; center the background block on top and tape in place. Trace the design onto the background block with a water-erasable marker or chalk pencil. This drawing will mark exactly where the fabric pieces should be placed on the background block.

Hand Applique--
Traditional hand applique uses a template made from the desired finished shape without seam allowance added.

After fabric is prepared, trace the desired shape onto the right side of the fabric with a water-erasable marker, light lead or chalk pencil. Leave at least 1/2" between design motifs when tracing to allow for the seam allowance when cutting out the shapes.

When the desired number of shapes needed has been drawn on the fabric pieces, cut out shapes leaving 1/8"-1/4" all around drawn line for turning under.

Turn the shapes edges over on the drawn line. When turning the edges under, make sharp corners sharp and smooth edges smooth. The fabric patch should retain the shape of the template used to cut it.

When turning in concave curves, clip to seams and baste the seam allowance over.

During the actual applique process, you may be layering one shape on to pof another. Where two fabrics overlap, the underneath piece does not have to be turned under or stitched down.

If possible trim away the underneath fabric when the block is finished by carefully cutting away the background from underneath and then cutting away unnecessary layers to reduce bulk and avoid shadows from darker fabrics showing through on light fabrics.

For hand applique, position the fabric shapes on the background block and pin or baste them in place. Using a blind-stitch or applique stitch, sew pieces in place with matching thread and small stitches. Start with background pieces first and work up to foreground pieces. Applique the pieces in place on the background in numerical order, if given, layering as necessary.

Machine Applique--
There are several products available to help make the machine-applique process easier and faster.

Fusible transfer web is a commercial product similiar to iron-on interfacings except it has two sticky sides. It is used to adhere applique shapes to the background with heat. Paper is adhered to one side of the web.

To use, dry-iron the sticky side of the fusible product onto the wrong side of the chosen fabric. Draw desired shapes onto the paper and cut them out. Peel off the paper and dry-iron the shapes in place on the background fabric. The shape will stay in place while you stitch around it. this process adds a little bulk or stiffness to the appliqued shape and makes quilting through the layers by hand difficult.

For successful machine applique a tear-off stabilizer is recommended. This product is placed under the background fabric while machine applique is being done. It is torn away when the work is finished. This kind of stabilizer keeps the background fabric from pulling during the machine-applique process.

During the actual machine-applique process, you will be layering one shape on top of another. Where two fabrics overlap, the underneath piece does not have to be turned under or stitched down. Thread the top of the machine with thread to match the fabric patches or with threads that coordinate or contrast with fabrics. Rayon thread is a good choice when a sheen is desired on the finished applique stitches Do not use rayon thread in the bobbin; use all-purpose thread.

Set your machine to make a zigzag stitch and practice on scraps of similar weight to check the tension. If you can see the bobbin thread on the top of the applique, adjust your machine to make a balanced stitch. Different-width stitches are available; choose one that will not overpower the applique shapes. In some cases these applique stitches will be used as decorative stitches as well and you may want the thread to show.

If using a stabilizer, place this under the background fabric and pin or fuse in place. Place shapes as for hand-applique and stitch all around shapes by machine.

When all machine work is complete, remove stabilizer from the back referring to the manufacturer's instructions.

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