Way back when, like in the late 20th century, I took a class on hand applique and ended up with this quilt.
Aside from one of the long stems that was first stitched to the background by machine and finished by hand, the whole thing is hand appliqued, mostly with the classic freezer paper-and-thread-basting technique. I won’t lie, it was time consuming — I finished the reverse-appliqued border months after the class ended, and then it sat around for a few years until I added two more rounds of borders. And then it sat around for a few more years until I finally (hand) quilted it.
Now it’s back at my parents’ house, where I was living when I took the class all those years ago. In fact, I picked my fabrics based on how much that border print reminded me of the living room couch, so it only made sense to actually give it to my parents when I’d finally finished it.
If you look at it closely, you’ll see that it’s far from perfect — most of the leaves have fairly blunt tips and some of those curves could be smoother. But no matter. Hand applique has a tactile and organic appeal that I think supersedes imperfections.
What I didn’t know when I took the class was just how many different techniques fall under the heading of “hand applique.” Just as there are many ways and tools available to applique by machine, so are there for hand applique. If you’ve ever wanted to try something different, take a look at some of the different looks you can achieve just with needle and thread.
To start, let’s take a look at a couple of the best-of-the-best hand-appliqued quilts that we’ve been lucky enough to feature on our cover in recent years. In the issues themselves you can see more close-ups and read about the quiltmaker’s process.
One basic technique, but two very different and equally inspiring quilts.
If you’re looking for a resource on basic hand-applique techniques, check out The Quilter’s Appliqué Workshop by Kevin Kosbab. It covers raw-edge, prepared-edge, and needle-turn applique techniques, and each section includes detailed instructions, tips and illustrations. The raw-edge and prepared-edge chapters discuss both hand- and machine-sewing techniques. Several projects illustrate each technique and explore more specialized techniques, such as broderie perse and felt applique. Click here to learn more.
If you love traditional floral applique, you may want to take a look at Garden of Applique by Peggy Waltman. Designed for needle-turn applique, the book features four projects: Clover Patch wall hanging, Rosy Dreams large throw, Saidi’s Flower Garden wall hanging and Polka Dot Blossoms large throw. Click here to learn more.
Designer Alison Glass offers a fresh twist on hand applique in her recent book Alison Glass Applique, such as large-scale applique and how to applique on crocheted, embroidered and patchwork backgrounds. The book includes instructions for 14 modern projects. Click here to learn more.
We taped an episode of Quilters Newsletter TV: The Quilters’ Community with Alison in which she showed a couple of hand applique techniques, such as using knit fabric for an easy throw. Click here to view the episode on QNNtv.com.
We also featured author and teacher Barbara J. Eikmeier demonstrating two different hand applique techniques on The Quilters’ Community. In “Front Basting Applique,” Barbara demonstrated a technique using a sewing machine and die-cut applique shapes without fusible backing. She finishes the applique with a needle-turn technique and shows how easy it is to turn the applique edges on the perforated line created when the basting stitches are removed. Click here to view the episode on QNNtv.com.
In “Learn to Back Baste Using Reverse Applique,” Barbara uses the traditional Latin American mola technique, which showcases multiple layers of fabric, to give step-by-step instructions for back basting using a reverse-applique technique. Click here to view that episode on QNNtv.com.
If you’re interested in wool applique, be sure to check out Lisa Bongean on Quilt with the Stars. In the first of two free episodes, Lisa talks about the simplicity of wool applique. In the second, see Lisa’s studio and then watch as she gives you a trunk show of some of her quilts, including her wool applique and flannel quilts. Find out why and where she uses flannel versus wool. Both episodes are free to view on QNNtv.com.
Put your hand applique skills to work with one or more of the following digital-download patterns:
And be sure to check out the following free patterns: