Applique is one of many techniques that are used in quilt making. The reason why applique is popular is because applique gives a quilter so many different and unique design possibilities. The word applique is a French word and it means "to apply." When you applique in quilting, you layer specific cuts of fabric on top of a background fabric. You then secure those layered fabrics by stitching them in place. Applique can either be hand stitched in place or it can be machine stitched. Because applique pieces can be any shape that the quilter prefers, they are often used when a curved design is desired in a quilt project.
The background fabric that the applique is applied on can either be a previously made patchwork piece or it can be a basic plain or printed background fabric. To ensure that the applique piece is exactly where you want it, mark an outline of the appliques placement on the background fabric using a water soluble fabric pencil or tailors' chalk. The tracing lines will disappear when the project is washed at a later time.
It is important to mention that the fabric that you choose to applique with should be a lightweight quilters' cotton fabric. If you use any heavyweight fabric, it would be harder to sew through. Make sure that you choose fabric that has minimal shrinkage potential. You would not want to add applique pieces to your quilt and then discover when you wash your quilt, that a shrunk applique piece has pulled sections of your quilt all out of shape.
There are two common methods of securing applique pieces, hand stitching and machine stitching.
Hand stitched applique usually has turned under seam allowances. It is important to add a 1/2 inch to 1/8 of an inch seam allowance when you cut your hand stitched applique pieces. You need to ensure that you will have enough fabric to turn under to keep your applique dimensions the size that you want.
Freezer paper applique (also known as English paper piecing) is the method of choice when preparing hand stitched applique pieces that will have seam allowances. It is preferable to use this technique because you can gather the seam allowance of your applique around a well defined inside shape. The defined inside shape will allow you to have smooth accurate seam lines in your applique with little difficulty.
Glue stick applique method is another method used in hand stitched applique. It is similar to the freezer paper method as it also gives a well defined inside shape to gather your seams around. In glue stick applique, you use plain white printer or copier paper and using a glue stick, you secure the seam allowances directly to the paper prior to stitching.
When the hand stitching of the applique is nearly completed in either the freezer paper method or the glue stick method you are going to pull out the paper when you reach about 3/4 of an inch of stitching remaining in your applique piece. You can pull this paper out using your fingernails or you can use a pair of tweezers. After you pull the paper out, you will finish the hand stitching on your applique.
Machine applique technique sometimes utilizes the turning under of seam allowances but in the majority of the cases, there are no seam allowances required. You finish the applique by sewing a satin stitch around the raw edges. You also have the option of using another decorative machine stitch if your machine has the capacity to do so.
To secure your applique prior to machine stitching, use a light fusible transfer webbing. The transfer webbing temporarily holds the applique piece in place prior to stitching and it will prevent any possible fabric tucks from happening prior to the piece being permanently stitched in place.
It is important to have a piece of tear-away stabilizer that covers the applique area prior to machine stitching your applique in place. Secure this tear away stabilizer on the wrong side of the background fabric. The stabilizer will add support to your fabric and it will prevent your fabric from getting pushed into the hole of your sewing machines throat plate. After stitching with a satin stitch all the way around the applique, tear off the stabilizer and your applique is completed.
Applique in quilting opens your world to so many creative possibilities. I encourage every quilter to try this technique in some of their future projects. Once you start creating with applique, it will be soon become one of your favorite techniques to use.Applique in Quilting