In the Call for Topics, Debbie asked,

I need to know how to tackle (handle the excess background fabric) of an appliquéd ‘whole cloth’ piece — in other words, one design on a large (say 36 x 42) background. Do you start at the top, middle, random, where? How do you keep that background fabric stable? Do you appliqué the vines first?

Debbie, there’s a reason that appliqué projects are usually done in block format LOL! Working on blocks is more manageable than working on a big honking project, with all of that excess fabric to deal with.


If you do have an appliqué project that’s one design on a large background, never fear… it can be done! I’m thinking we’re talking about hand appliqué here, and your question ties in with the recent post Support for your appliqué. The information given there on support for the background fabric is totally relevant to tackling large appliqué projects.

What area to start in? It’s not like machine quilting, where the conventional wisdom is usually to start in the middle and work your way outwards. I use the back-basting method, which ensures that your motifs end up stitched exactly where you marked them, so no worries about migration of pieces. Using this method, I personally wouldn’t be worried about what section I started on, but knowing me, I would probably work all over as opposed to finishing one section and then moving on to the next.

As for what order to go in, it would be the same as any other appliqué pattern. Start with the motifs that are in the back, and work your way forward. Vines are often the first things to go down, because they are usually behind other elements. You’ll need to study your pattern to see if this is the case.

Another tip about handling appliqué projects: Hold the work from the bottom of the target area. Make sure your wrist is not twisted or bent. Fold or roll the project in your non-sewing hand until you can get a good over-and-under grip on the area that you’re working on.


If your project is large, there’s the true challenge. You might have quite a bit of fabric rolled up in your hand, and that’s why the block format is so popular! You’ll need to unroll, reposition, and reroll as you work.

Suzanne recently wrote and asked, “Please review for all of us how you mark the pattern on the back of the fabric w/o using templates. Very interesting approach that I must try.”

Suzanne, go the the back-basting link above and that’ll give you all the information :).

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

I am in awe. The ingenious Darcy Ashton has done it again! You have got to go and see her fabulous new design for making an appliquéd clock!!!

Sewing Room Clocks

Who knew?

By Kay Mackenzie

Maddie asked, “I need help on a good method to keep the appliqué flat when working on large pieces. Currently, I have to keep my piece flat on a tabletop, yet I see other people working in hand. If I work in hand, the final project is not flat.”

Maddie, this is one of my favorite pieces of appliqué information to share. It isn’t something that’s typically covered in appliqué instructions, but I’ve always included it in my books because it’s an important piece of the puzzle in getting pleasing results.

First of all, let’s start with vision and lighting. Bear with me… it all ties in.

For good appliqué results, you have to make sure that your vision is good. Is your glasses prescription up to date? Do you have the proper glasses for close-up work?

Take me for example. My whole life I was so proud of my better-than-20-20 vision. But at a certain point, when we got a new computer system at my day job that ONLY printed out in 10 point type, I had to admit that I needed help. I entered the era of reading glasses.

Groovy granny glasses.

Groovy granny glasses.

Now I could read the computer printouts. But the glasses were such a pain! Put ’em on, take ’em off. Put ’em on, take ’em off. Where the bleep are they?? Argh.

I mentioned this to my eye doc and he told me I was a good candidate for monovision contacts, so I went to see the optometrist and got me some. Hallelujah!

Now I could stick the contacts in in the morning and get through the whole day without putting on a pair of glasses! That really improved my quality of life! However, monovison contacts means you have a strong lens in your near eye and a weak lens in your distance eye, and your brain blends the two together. They’re great for general seeing but not so great for very precise, detailed, close-up work. So when I really need to see, I put on reading glasses on top of the contacts! That’s right, I go from two eyes to four eyes to six eyes LOL! Oh well, you do what it takes.

You may have a different vision scenario. You need to be able to see the eye of the needle and the grain of the fabric. What I’m saying is, do whatever it takes to get your vision corrected for stitching, and not just at two inches from your face.

Let’s move on to lighting. Good lighting goes hand-in-hand with good vision. You need to be able to direct a strong light right on your work. It’ll make a big difference!


The reason I bring up vision and lighting is that you need to be able to sew in your lap, not up next to your face. I see it all the time… people bringing their project up close to their eyes, stitching up in midair with the background falling away. This encourages buckling of the appliqué.

Put your feet up on a footstool, sew in your lap, and provide support for the background fabric. The June Tailor Quilter’s Cut ‘n Press is an excellent appliqué aid. The cushioned side comfortably supports your underneath hand and the project as you stitch. I’d show you a picture of mine but it’s ancient and “well-loved” in its appearance.

Mary Warner-Stone feels the same way as I do about the Cut ‘n Press, except I use the smaller square one and she uses a longer one. Check out her guest post, Support Your Work.

Maddie, I hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

At Spring Market, I stopped by the Lizzie B Cre8ive booth to visit with Beth Hawkins. Beth is half of the Lizzie B team. The other half, Liz, was manning a booth at another show the same weekend.

These gals are sisters-in-law who are both named Elizabeth Hawkins. Besides the name, I think they share a brain! They have the same design sensibility, the same upbeat humor, the same sense of whimsy and fun, and they even have identical handwriting!

This team seems to have a boundless supply of energy. They design and make quilts, they have a huge line of fun patterns, they have their own fabric with Henry Glass, they have books with the Kansas City Star, they publish an on-line magazine, and now I find out they’ve put out their own new book, Quiltin’ Happy!


The subtitle is “simple hip quilts to make ya smile.” There are seven fast, fun, fresh quilts included, with complete instructions, easy-to-follow diagrams, and full color photos of all the projects All the quilts in the book are made from the Hip Happy collection of fabrics designed by the Lizzie B girls. Hip Happy offers colorful brights combined with blacks and whites to make modern-looking quilts that pop.

Playful Posies and Happy Dancin'

Playful Posies and Happy Dancin'

Their links:

Lizzie B website
Lizzie B on-line store
Lizzie B blog
Lizzie B magazine

Beth gave me a copy of the new book for a giveaway. Thanks Beth! If you’d like to win a copy of Quiltin’ Happy, leave a comment on this post by 7:00 p.m. California time on Wednesday, August 10. Contest open to U.S. and Canada addresses only.

Remember that if you are subscribed by email, you’ll need to click over to the blog itself to leave a comment. Replying to your email feed won’t get it done :).

By Kay Mackenzie

Do you know who these good-looking gentlemen are?


On the left that’s Orion Burns, son of the illustrious Eleanor Burns. On the right that’s Chris Burns, Orion’s half-brother-from-another-mother. Both of them are instrumental in running Eleanor’s Quilt in a Day store in San Marcos, California.

These guys are a hoot! Both just as friendly as can be, as cool as cucumbers, 100% knowledgeable about quilting products, and comfortable (to say the least) around the ladies. They kept me entertained all weekend. They let me take their picture once I promised to say how smart and handsome they both are.

I was right across the aisle from Eleanor this time at Festival-Long Beach.


The lady herself!


Rubbing elbows with a quilting luminary.

At one point Eleanor came over and asked if I had an extra plug so she could charge up her phone. At first I didn’t think so, but then I realized that the extension cord for my cash register had a couple extra outlets on it, so we plugged it in. Awhile later it rang. Eleanor was surrounded by her adoring public, and for a wild second I thought of picking it up and saying, “Eleanor Burns’s phone,” or “Joe’s bar, Joe ain’t here,” or something equally clever, but I was too chicken so I let it go to voicemail LOL.

After that, Orion came hustling over, handed me his cell phone, asked me to tell his wife how to get there, and fled back to their busy cash register. Thanks goodness I used to live in the area a long time ago! I directed her as best as I could. I think she still managed to go the wrong way on the 710. After a couple more calls and helpful passersby, she finally arrived with the baby.

I had such a great time this year! I felt that the energy and spirit in the quilting world was really up. And I enjoyed my neighbors very much.


Eleanor gave me a hug and made me promise to tell the cell-phone-charging story.

Back soon with a very cool book from the Lizzie B gals!

By Kay Mackenzie