I am a big fan of applique and reverse applique quilts, and especially the fusible web raw edge applique. Using this technique you can sew complicated designs in record time and with ease. It is great for beginners (the success of your first quilt is guaranteed!) and for busy quilters alike.
How to quilt applique quilts
How do you quilt applique quilts? Raw edges intimidate some quilters. If this is you, I hope some of the ideas below help you and inspire you to give this WONDERFUL technique a try.
For small to medium size quilts (up to 40”, 50”)
While you can secure the applique pieces to the background fabric as soon as you finish the quilt top, usually I don’t do this; I layer the top of the quilt with batting and backing and I secure the applique pieces by stitching through all the layers- either with the walking foot or with free motion quilting. This method offers two advantages:
– this stitching will outline nicely the applique pieces and once it is done, all you will have to do is the background quilting;
– the thick sandwich acts as a stabilizer, helping you sew a good quality zig zag stitching.
For big quilts and especially when using the walking foot, it may be difficult to move the bulky sandwich under the needle and then it would be easier to secure the applique by stitching only on the top of the quilt.
When you choose the way you quilt, you must consider two things:
- what type of quilt you are quilting (a baby quilt, a bed quilt, wall hanging…)
- the design
When it comes to raw edges in quilt designs, many quilters are concerned about fraying. There are ways you can quilt those designs so the quilting STOPS fraying or MINIMIZES fraying.
1. Satin Stitch
The most secure way to finish the raw edges of a design is by using a satin stitch – a very dense zig zag stitching, that covers entirely the edge it is stitched on.
I rarely use the satin stitch; I use it only when I need it to be part of my quilt design and not as an utilitarian stitching, that prevents fraying.
See below what I am talking about:
You see below pieces of the same color laying next to each other and I chose to use the satin stitch to define the design.
If you choose to use the satin stitch, you have to think about these two things, too:
– how wide to make this stitching
– what color and what type of thread you use
– I think it is best to match the width of the satin stitch with the size of your applique pieces. On narrow pieces, use a narrow stitch, do not make it wider than necessary.
– If you don’t want to draw attention to this stitching, use thread in the color of the fabric.
I think the satin stitching is very popular among quilters, but it is not always the RIGHT answer or at least, it is not THE ONLY answer; sometimes, if not planned carefully, it could RUIN your design! I will show you some examples of how I did not ruin my quilts with satin stitching.
2. Zig zag stitching
If I don’t want to use the bold satin stitching in my quilts but I still want to secure the applique pieces the best I can, then I use a fine zig zag stitch. I don’t use a wide stitch, usually 2-3 mm (for wall hangings) and wider for pieces that need washing.
This stitching can be made almost invisible. You can use monofilament thread…
or a fine thread in the same color as the fabric.
The next quilting options do not cover (entirely) the edges of the applique pieces, still they are great options: they keep the applique pieces in place, while the fusible web minimizes the fraying. Some fraying will occur in time, but to me, it is something that adds charm to my quilted pieces.
3. Straight stitching
Sometimes, the design limits what can be used to secure the pieces to the background and then you have to be creative.
This is a wall hanging. As you see, the lattice pieces are narrow, you just can’t add a satin stitch on the edges – you would ruin it.
So I chose to quilt this way…
It was quick and easy…
and here is the look after I washed the quilt!
One more example…
On the lattice design of the mini quilt below, instead of a straight stitch I stitched a wavy stitching.
This is free motion quilting but it is easy to do it with the walking foot and a simple, decorative stitching you have on your machine.
4. Echo quilting
Echo the center shape and continue quilting following the previous stitching and you will end up with a concentric design (it could be a spiral, too) that will cover the entire design.
Space the quilting lines as close as you want.
It works on reverse applique quilts…
and on the applique quilts, as well.
This is an easy quilting for beginners and a great way to keep the applique safely in place, with minimal fraying.
5. Grid quilting
This option is quick and easy and great for beginners, as you do it with the walking foot.
Stitch vertical and horizontal lines, spaced as desired; these lines are spaced at 3/8”.
Below, a lovely grid stitched on the center of the hexagons’ edges. A zig zag stitching covering all those edges is just not viable. Look at the beautiful texture! I gladly accept all the possible fraying!
The grid below is a little bigger but as I said, the smaller the better.
6. Heavy quilting on the applique pieces or background
For applique quilts
Quilt heavily over the applique pieces, as close to the edges as possible.
I quilted feathers on this design and this is how it looks after washing.
The quilt below was also washed after quilting.
I quilted it in the same way as the quilt above: feathers, close to the edges.
Close up of the quilting after washing – I ADORE the look!
Below you see another quick and easy option: dense wavy lines stitched with the walking foot.
On reverse applique quilts
Do the same dense quilting, but on the background, as close to the edges of the design as possible.
The reverse applique design remains unquilted and the heavy quilting outside it will make it pop.
Rather utilitarian than decorative, stippling works great in this example. Stitch as close to the edge of the hearts as you can.
I think it is a nice way to create texture and emphasize a design- see below.
7. Outline quilting
For reverse applique quilts
This is one of my favorite ways to quilt the reverse applique quilts. The reason? It’s all free motion quilting so it is easy to do it on bigger quilts.
You could zig zag all these edges, but it will require some serious patience! You will have to rotate this piece a lot under the needle, in order to secure the edges with zig zag/satin stitching, so this is one of those cases when it is easier to secure the appliques working only with the quilt top rather than with the quilt sandwich.
The quilt below is a wall hanging and this quilting is just perfect.
I like to outline letters with this type of quilting.
For the applique quilts
See below how the outline quilting looks when done inside the letters, on applique quilts.
You could zig zag these edges as well, just do it gently, use a fine stitch. Do not kill it with a bold satin stitch!
Some more examples of stitching inside the patches:
- With my reverse applique technique, most of the quilts (reverse applique and applique) don’t need washing when finished, because you don’t mark anything on them. If you don’t have another reason for washing the quilt, when you finish the quilt, the raw edges will be almost intact, with no fraying.
- I haven’t used it yet, but batik fabric is recommended for the raw edge applique technique, as it frays less than the regular cotton fabric.
I hope some of these ideas help. I think there is not a RIGHT or WRONG way to quilt applique quilts. There is a way that works for you and could not work for others! But this should not stop you from trying it!
Do you want to try these ideas on designs just like these ones? Click below and find details about: