Here's a guaranteed way to up-level your quilts: appliqué. Sew fun shapes, bold lettering and other eye-catching textural elements right onto your pieced quilt.
You can choose from a bunch of different appliqué methods that will get you equally fabulous results. We'll go over three excellent techniques, so you can decide which one works best for you.
Fusible Appliqué, aka Raw-Edge Appliqué
Fusible appliqué is the easiest of the three methods we'll talk about here. You just create your appliqué on a sheet of fusible web, which has paper or webbing on one side and a fabric adhesive on the other side. You'll print or trace your design on the non-adhesive side, attach the fabric for the appliqué, cut out the finished design and adhere the entire thing to your project.
You can decide to leave the fusible appliqué as is, or to finish the raw edge with a blanket stitch, a zig zag stitch, or any decorative stitch you like. It's your call.
You'll need freezer paper, which is a thick paper with a shiny, waxy coating on one side. You can buy it at the grocery store, or seek out the kind that's made especially for sewing. Some quilters swear by the stuff, saying that freezer paper gives them smoother lines and sharper points.
To try the freezer-paper appliqué method, start by placing the freezer paper, shiny side down, on your pattern. You should be able to see the pattern through the paper and easily trace it with a pencil. Then, cut out the image along the line you traced around it.
Lay the freezer-paper appliqué on the wrong size of the fabric so it's aligned with the bias. Use an iron to press the freezer-paper image onto the wrong side of the fabric. (Keep in mind that when you're pressing the image onto the wrong side, it will be reversed when you see it from the right side.)
Cut away the excess fabric, leaving about a three-sixteenth-inch seam allowance. Clip all inverted or inside curves, up to but not through the seam allowance. You may want to clip tiny notches on the outer curves to distribute the bulk, too.
Now, take an iron and press the seam allowance over the the freezer paper. Carefully peel away the paper, and position the appliqué piece onto the background fabric.
Baste, pin or glue the appliqué over the background fabric, then hand-stitch it into place, turning the pressed edges under along the way.
The needle-turn appliqué technique is much more intricate than the others, so you need to be confident in your skills if you're going to tackle it. You'll use your sewing needle to sweep the seam allowance of your appliqué under, so it's not visible on the front of the project.
Here's how it works: Trace the shape you want onto freezer paper, and press the paper onto the right side of the fabric. Then trace around the freezer paper with a water-soluble marking pen. This line becomes the edge of your fold.
Cut around the appliqué shapes, leaving about ¼-inch seam allowance, then baste the pieces onto the background fabric.
Finish by hand-stitching the appliqué into place, and using your needle or your fingers to sweep the edge under the appliqué fabric. Done!
Which technique do you like most? Try all three and pick a favorite — or better yet, master them all and let your project (or your mood) lead the way!