Applique Tutorials

Tutorial #5 Rings without seams

There are a few blocks in the Maltaville quilt which have a ring as a feature, they vary from a wide to narrow width, large diameter to small.

Here’s a way to applique them without having a join (avoid the bulk where possible)

This tutorial shows block D2 which has a wide band but the principle is the same no matter how skinny or fat, large or small the ring.

This method uses reverse applique so first baste the ring fabric (green) to the wrong side of the background fabric.  The right side of the green will be against the wrong side of the background and the two squares of fabric will be virtually the same size for this block.

It’s notoriously difficult to draw circles freehand, even if you’re tracing it off the pattern sheet, so I suggest you draw your circles on your background fabric with a compass on the right side of the background fabric.

image of ring tutorial

Draw both inner and outer lines of the ring then baste again close to the inner and outer edges of the circles for ease of sewing.

Start by cutting a small slit in the background fabric (between the two circle lines) to get started and then, leaving a scant 1/4″ seam allowance, start to turn under and stitch the seam underneath as shown. Only cut a few inches ahead of where you are stitching. Your thread should match your background fabric, not your circle fabric.

image of ring tutorialonce the inner edge of the ring is stitched, sew the outer edge in the same manner.

image of ring tutorialI snipped the seam allowance of the outer seam but it wasn’t neceassary to snip for the inner seam.

Once complete, trim away the surplus green fabric on the back of the block leaving a scant 1/4″ seam allowance.

Tutorial #4  Stems ~ 1/8″  (there are two methods to try)

The first method I’ll show is by far the quickest and easiest, but it does require the purchase of the Clover Bias Maker (available in fusible and non fusible and in varying widths from 1/4″ upwards).  It’s one of my favourite gadgets – I just wish they made an 1/8″ version for these skinny stems…however, this works just fine.  (if you’re rushing out and buying one, get the fusible one, you can still use it without the webbing if you need to)

image of Clover bias strip gadgets

Clover Fusible Web 5mm wide for use with the Clover Fusible Bias Tape Maker 6mm wide. These should be available at your quilting shop or or

Cut your stem fabric on the bias at 5/8″ wide

image of bias strip for stemFeed the fabric strip and the fusible webbing through the bias maker…it’s a bit fiddly to get started, use a pin to push it at the beginning. There are instructions on the packet double check you’ve got the rough side of the webbing against the wrong side of the fabric.

image of loading the bias maker

getting started

Iron to fuse the webbing to the fabric as you pull it out of the bias maker

Tip…You really must iron on a firm surface for this…you need to iron firmlyimage of ironingI use my June Tailor ironing mat (the ‘wrong’ side)

A couple of towels on a ‘not precious’ table works just as well.

(peel off the paper and you have a 1/4″ stem to iron to you background fabric)


 iron the stem in half (sticky sides together) to form an 1/8″ stem.

image of fold in half

Press well

image of 1/8" stem

Of course it's no longer fusible so you have to pin it to the background

image of 1/8" stems

baste if you prefer before stitching

Once the shorter pieces are stitched down, lay the other stems over the top to cover the raw edges.

The second method is a little more time consuming but this method can be used to make any width stem you like….but for an 1/8″ stem cut your bias strip 3/4″ wide then fold in half lengthwise, iron.image of 3/4" wide bias strips

Position on background fabric (in this picture it is shown positioned over already stitched shorter stems) then sew in place 1/8″ from the folded edge…I have used a contrasting thread only so you can see the stitching line.

image of stemsTrim the excess seam allowance away to leave a scant 1/8″ seam.

image of trimming seamFold the folded edge over to cover the seam and stitch in place.

image of stem

Tutorial #3 Reverse Applique

I used the Reverse Applique method for the tree in the Bird block (G4)  as the branches are very narrow.  There would not have been enough space to turn under the seam allowance of the brown tree fabric so the soloution is to turn back the seam allowance of the cream background fabric instead.

Here’s how it’s done…

image of reverse applique tutorial, step one.

Place background fabric (Right side up) over the pattern page, I have ironed crease marks on the b'gd fabric to line up with the horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines on the pattern sheet. Tape in place to secure.

Using a very sharp pencil, lightly trace the tree ~ only the tree ~ on to the background fabric.   The tree and its branches are traced as one piece of applique; no joins.

image of reverse applique tutorial, step two.

The tree trunk and branches are traced as one piece.

Place the tree fabric (Right side up) under the background fabric.

image of reverse applique tutorial, step three.

Both the background and tree fabrics are right side up.

A quick press with a hot iron is usually enough to hold the two layers together well enough to do a very quick basting stitch…

…I often baste my applique pieces, not always ~ it depends on the block and technique I’m using but in this case I basted.

Image of Reverse Applique tutorial, step four.

A very rough, quick baste to secure... I wouldn't win any prizes for these stitches but they serve their purpose OK.

Start at the bottom of the tree trunk (the fattest part) and make a small snip in the background fabric, just enough to get the point of your tiny scissors in there to cut a little background away… leave a scant 3/16″ seam allowance but in some parts of the tree you will have a very scant 1/8″ seam allowance…it’ll be fine.

image of Reverse Applique tutorial, step five.

Use the tip of your needle to turn under the background fabric to reveal the tree fabric underneath.

  • Turn under the seam allowance just a little ahead of where you are sewing.
  • Use thread to match your background fabric.
  • Don’t cut away too far ahead of where you are stitching, parts of the branches are narrow and the background could fray.
  • It’s OK if the very narrow bits of the branch end up a little wider than on the pattern.
  • It is important that you turn under the background so no pencil marks are showing.
  • Once the stitching is complete remove the basting stitches and cut away the excess brown fabric from the back of the block, leaving a scant 3/16″ seam allowance.

Tutorial #2 Perfect Circles

The Bird block (among others) requires circles for the apples in the tree.   This is how I like to make circles…perfectly round, every time.

image of Perfect Circles tutorial, step one.

The name says it all...

I invested in the two packets of Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Circles templates last year and looooove them.  They should be available from your local quilt shop, but if not you can find them here

If you don’t want to puchase those you can cut a circle out of Mylar (a heat resistant template plastic available from your local quilt shop) then proceed with the steps in the tutorial.

image of Perfect Circles tutorial, step two.

The circle on the right is the finished size of the circle on the pattern, the circle on the left is the slightly larger one I traced around.

Trace a circle a little larger than the one you need for the pattern, one which adds an approximate 1/4″ seam allowance.

image of Perfect Circles tutorial, step three.

Cut out on the drawn line then, with a knotted thread, sew a running stitch near the edge of the circle as shown.

image of Perfect Circles tutorial, step four.

Place the circle template in the centre of the fabric circle and pull up the thread to gather the seam around the template in readiness for starching.

Now this is where I’m a bit lazy… the (correct) way to apply starch is to brush a bit of spray starch around the edge of the circle…there are two ways to do this nicely

  1. Use Best Press (a liquid starch) and pour a little in to a saucer then carefully brush it on to the edge of the fabric in readiness for ironing.
  2. Use Crisp (a foamy spray starch) and spray a little in to a saucer, it will become more liquidy and, likewise you can brush that on to the fabric before ironing.

I don’t have a photo of either of those steps because after the photo above I just spray the whole thing with starch.

image of Perfect Circles tutorial, step five.

This is my wet circle having been sprayed with starch.

It’s a jolly sight quicker than messing about with saucers and paint brushes, probably not ideal in a class situation though with all those CFCs going everywhere…use your discretion.

image of Perfect Circles tutorial, step six.

A hot iron will soon dry it out, the template is still inside the circle at this point

It creates a really crisp edge, then you can gently loosen the stitching enough to pull the template out.  Pull up the circle again, and one final press to complete a perfect circle.

image of Perfect Circles tutorial

Voila...a perfect circle.

Tutorial #1 Scherenschnitte

It means papercut and actually refers to the method of cutting the template from a twice folded (and sometimes thrice folded) piece of paper in order to get a symmetrical shape once the paper has been opened out.  Exactly like making rows of paper dolls as a child.

But it’s sort of morphed (although not truly correct) into also refering to the method of sewing that applique shape to the background which was traditionally done as a cut as you go technique.

This is how I do it…

  1. Cut a 12″ x 12″ square of both your background fabric and your applique fabric.
  2. Trace the applique pattern on to the right side of your applique fabric.
  3. Place your applique fabric (right side up) on to the right side of your background fabric and sew around the outside edges to secure.  Add a few pins around the applique design as well to secure the fabric for basting.
  4. With a contrasting thread, baste exactly on the traced line of your applique design. Baste the entire design (photo 1)
  5. Decide where you are going to start stitching – usually along a straight edge or a smooth curve, not a tight little inward curve – and, leaving a scant 1/4″ seam allowance, cut away some excess applique fabric, enough so it can be pinned back so it won’t get in your way.
  6. Unpick just a couple of basting threads.  With a thread to blend with your applique fabric (not your background) start turning under your seam allowance and stitch in place.  Continue to unpick about an inch ahead of where you are working. (photo 2)
  7. Continue in this way, cutting away fabric and clipping inward curves where necessary until the applique is complete (photo3)
Image of Scherenschnitte Tutorial

Photo 1

Image of Scheresnchnitte Tutorial

Photo 2

image of Scherenschnitte Tutorial

Photo 3


2 Responses to Applique Tutorials

  1. Mary says:

    Love your instructional style on the tutorials….very clear and concise! Thanks for your work.

  2. Pingback: Quilt Station » Blog Archive

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