Hello everyone! Back safe and sound from SoCal. I’m excited… this post has been cooking for over a year now! I met Australian quilter and stitcher extraordinaire Helen Stubbings at Market a couple of times, and we finally got it together for her to do a guest post on her method of appliqué! You are going to love this! Take it away Helen!

Glue stick Applique
By Helen Stubbings of Hugs ‘n Kisses

This easy or some would say ‘cheats’ method of needleturn applique takes the scare factor out of needleturn. Most of the work is in the preparation, leaving the actual stitching as the easy bit.

The method uses two products – Hugs ‘n Kisses Applique Paper and a glue pen – I use the Sewline Water-Soluble Glue Pen.

Method:
Place a sheet of applique paper with the shiny (glue) side down on top of your template or design printed sheet. It is semitransparent so you can easily see the design through the paper. Trace each design or template shape onto the paper – I like to use a Sewline Ceramic pencil which glides on nicely. Note: if your applique design is directional you need to reverse it for this method.


Cut out each shape carefully on the traced lines. This is the important part – be as careful as possible as this determines your final shape.


Fuse each shape to the wrong side of your chosen fabrics. You need to leave a large ¼” between shapes for seam allowances.


If you wish, you can fussy-cut your fabrics by positioning the shapes to suit.

Cut out each shape leaving an approximate 1/8” seam allowance.


Using the glue pen, run a line of glue along the edge of the paper template –- it only needs to be light and right on the edge.


Using your thumb and forefinger, gently press over the seam allowance onto the glue. You want to fold the fabric on the edge of the paper –- but you don’t want to fold the paper as well, it doesn’t take too long to get the feel of the edge of the paper and where to fold to.


If the end of your applique piece is going to be under another piece in the final design you do not need to glue and fold these edges over.

You do not need to clip into outer curves. Our seam allowance is small and often on the bias so clipping is not necessary. Just gently fold/pleat around curves a small step at a time so you do not get points. If you are having trouble eliminating points try trimming back the seam allowance a little further.





If you have tails like on this leaf, just leave those and they will be dealt with later.


Your prepared shape!


You will need to clip on inner curves – but not as much as you may be used to. Just clip where you absolutely need to to enable the seam allowances to fold in nicely. Inner points need to be clipped to the edge of the paper.


Continue glueing until all shapes are prepared.


Position your background fabric over the design sheet. Use a light box if you cannot easily see through the fabric.


Position and layer all applique pieces following the design you can see underneath. Use the glue pen or for larger projects Roxanne’s Glue baste it to secure all pieces at once. Just layer them up until the complete block is ready for stitching.



Now you can stitch all pieces down as you would for your normal applique method. I use Hugs ‘n Kisses applique needles and Superior Bottom Line threads but you can use your thread of choice. When stitching down those tails that are showing, stitch to the point and do a double stitch to hold, tuck under the tail with the tip of your needle and continue in the new direction.

No need to remove the papers – when it is washed they will just dissolve and soften into safe fibres in your quilt project.

All of our Hugs ‘n Kisses applique patterns include the full design sheet along with reversed where necessary templates and applique shapes for tracing. We are considering including pre-printed Applique Paper in our patterns in the future –- so you can just cut out, glue and stitch!

Happy appliquéing!
Hugs,
Helen

I’ve been waiting and waiting for this one to come out!

baltimore-garden

Our featured book this month is Barbara Burnham’s Baltimore Garden Quilt from AQS Publishing.

My maiden name is Burnham so I’ve often wondered if Barbara and I are long-lost cousins. After all, Burnham is a good old “up east” name (my dad is from Massachussetts) and Barbara is a charter member of the Baltimore Appliqué Society, but alas we still haven’t figured that out LOL.

Today I’m turning the blog over to Barbara to tell us all about her stellar new book. It’s quite something!

Barbara M. Burnham, author:

“My dear husband thought I was crazy to buy that old worn quilt I found in 1999. “But it really does have potential,” I told him. “Try to imagine that quilt as it looked in 1848 when it was made.”

M.E.C. 1848

M.E.C. 1848

“So he smiled and said “Whatever you want, dear.” (Love that!) I wanted to reproduce the quilt and make those designs come alive again. When the quilt arrived, we had fun looking over all the appliqué, some completely gone from age and wear, and dense quilting with florals in between all the appliqué. This is the quilt that became the new “Baltimore Garden Quilt.”

M.E.C. Remembered

M.E.C. Remembered

“Flowers on the antique quilt had been stitched on one petal at a time –- one flower had almost 50 petals! But I devised a method of appliqué to do those flowers in layered sections. Over the next ten years, I traced the designs and appliquéd the blocks. (Not that I’m so slow, but also working a full-time job). Meanwhile, my friends at the Baltimore Appliqué Society cheered me on to publish the patterns.

I kept a journal noting techniques, drawings, problems, and solutions. I wondered what the original quilter might have been thinking about her world in 1848, and what she grew in her garden to inspire these flowers. Techniques on her quilt include buttonhole stitching, woven baskets, embroidery, inked signatures, and tiny cross stitched initials.

Those techniques and more are described in my book using today’s tools and methods. The companion CD includes all the patterns for appliqué blocks, border swags with 40 florettes, quilting designs, alternate sets, and an 1848-era cross stitch alphabet.

Finally, I must give credit to my friend, Marty Vint of Dogwood Quilting, for her masterful machine quilting of all the original designs from the antique quilt. The Baltimore Garden Quilt, or “M.E.C. Remembered,” will be displayed in the Author’s Row exhibit at the American Quilter’s Society shows in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Paducah, Kentucky.”

I asked Barbara to tell us more about the intriguing topic of her appliqué methods.

Barbara: “My favorite method for hand appliqué is freezer-paper-on-top with needleturn (blind stitch). I leave the freezer paper on until the piece is stitched. I don’t mark the applique fabric or background. But this quilt required a LOT of techniques! All my techniques are in this book, plus:

• A new technique for creating symmetrical multi-layered flowers
• No-mark placement
• Buttonhole (blanket stitch) and iron-on fusibles
• Reverse applique
• Embroidery stitches
• Several ways to make a woven basket
• Bias stems
• Tricks for handling small pieces like berries and bird’s eyes
• Back-basting on the sewing machine
• How to trace designs from an antique quilt
• How to find just the right fabrics, including Turkey Red
• All the quilting patterns that appear between the applique
• How-to’s for adapting quilting motifs for your quilt
• Marking quilting motifs
• How to assemble the quilt (joining blocks, joining borders and adding corner swags)
• Backing and batting, basting the “quilt sandwich”
• Quilting by hand or machine
• Preparing your quilt for machine quilting
• Binding
• Signing and dating your work, ideas for labels

Included Patterns:

• Twenty-five 15-inch appliqué blocks
• Border Double Swags and 40 Small Florettes to join them
• Quilting Motifs from the antique quilt
• Alternate Set for arranging the blocks
• Cross Stitch Alphabet from 1848

Here’s who will enjoy this book:

• People who enjoy or collect antique quilts and patterns; Baltimore style quilts, red-and-green quilts, appliqué quilts and antique quilting patterns.
• Beginning appliquérs who could learn techniques with a simple tulip block.
• Advanced appliquérs who will enjoy the more challenging and complex designs and techniques, or modify them for their own quilts.
• Quilters searching for unique border designs and ideas.

I do hope you enjoy the book!”

Thank you, Barbara! All I can say, is WOW. I mean WOW. How much more could an appliqué enthusiast ask for??

Courtesy of the publisher, I have a copy of Baltimore Album Quilt to give away to a lucky reader. To enter the drawing, leave a comment here on this post before 7:00 p.m. California time on Sunday, March 11.

The fine print: Contest open to U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Do not reply to your email feed; instead, click over to the blog itself and leave your comment at the bottom of the post. Good luck!

Until then,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Sarah answered the call! Recently, when I put out a call for contributions to the blog, regular reader Sarah Vee of Ontario, Canada, got in touch right away. I’d delighted to turn the blog over to her today for a terrific guest post about blanket-stitch appliqué. Go Sarah!

sarah-veeSarah Vee of Sew Joy, whose motto is “I have found happiness in making quilts – and joy in sharing my quilt making.”

Sarah: I have been a patchworker for most of the time I have been quilting. Almost 14 years now! I shied away from the “A” word for many years, even though some of the first quilts I fell in love with were in the Baltimore Album style.

Eventually I started to try it a block at a time. I made a wedding wallhanging with one large appliqué block –- no one could really tell if I had left anything out — and I did, almost half of the leaves!

When Kay’s book Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes came out, I was lucky enough to win a copy. Who could resist the possibilities! Around the same time, my sister sent my daughter a container that held all of her embroidery floss from doing cross stitch for many years. She was putting it aside to focus on quilting.

embroidery floss

My daughter never had a chance! I claimed the box of thread like it was my first box of 64 crayons! I was no longer daunted by the delicacy of appliqué – I had colour on my side.

I put my first blocks from Kay’s appliqué book into a larger pieced quilt for one of my nieces. Instead of having my stitches blend in with my fabrics, I outlined them in black like a colouring book.

picnic quilt

I use the blanket stitch because it’s easy (once you get the hang of it). You can change the size of the stitch to work on any piece, and you can work it by hand or machine. You can use it to secure pieces that are fused and also ones that are not.

I’m by no means an technical expert on supplies or technique. I use what I have, look at lots of pictures – and try stuff. Just take a quick look at these photos I took while working on my latest quilt. You’ll see how I made the colours and blanket stitch work for me to create my Bunny Lady quilt.

closeup of carrot top

The basics: I’m using DMC embroidery thread. I use two strands because that seems to give the thickness I need to cover the edge of the fabric. I use a needle that works for me — not sure if it’s the ‘right’ one. The eye isn’t so small I can’t see to thread it, but not so big that it leaves a hole when going through my quilt top. It’s a medium-length needle so that the thread doesn’t glide out of it too easily.

Tip: Use a fairly long strand of thread. You don’t want to re-thread the needle any more times than you need to – just don’t make it so long that it tangles after every stitch (this isn’t quicker – trust me).

To start: Bring your thread up from the back right at the edge of your piece to appliqué. The length of the next stitch determines the length of your blanket stitch – how far it goes into your appliqué. Put your thread into the fabric and bring it back up almost right on top of where you started.

On the leaves I used smaller stitches closer together because I had to turn a lot of corners, and the leaves are fairly small. On the carrots, I took larger stitches because there was more open space in the middle of the appliqué pieces.

You work this stitch counterclockwise (at least I do because I’m right handed). Hold your thread across the edge of the piece working to the left.

carrot closeup

From where your needle just came up, take a stitch down and to the right that lines up with your first stitch into the appliqué. Bring your needle up at the edge of your appliqué and go over the thread you are holding in place. Pull the stitch snug (but don’t make the piece pucker).

This space defines how close together your stitches will be. On smaller pieces, or going around a corner, you probably want them closer together.

green-tail

Keep going until you’re done, or almost out of thread! Make sure you leave a long enough tail so you can make a knot on the back.

two-carrots

You can see how I had fun with colour. I used different shades of orange on my carrots. Changing the colours made it more fun to go around so many carrots –- and also gives the up-close viewer a visual treat. The carrots in the border were not fused down, just pinned in place until I secured them with the blanket stitch.

bunny-lady

The bunnies and carrots in the quilt top were fused, then stitched. I used bright, fun colours on them too. I used a fairly large stitch on the bunnies so it would be more visible.

I hope this was helpful and encouraging. I stared at many magazine diagrams and pictures of beautiful quilts before I finally tried my hand at appliqué and the blanket stitch. You’ll never know the possibilities until you try. Thanks Kay for providing so many possibilities with your designs and inspiration-packed blog. I’m looking forward to including appliqué on many more quilts.

With Joy,
Sarah Vee
www.sewjoy.blogspot.com

Kay: Thanks a million, Sarah, for your article sharing the joy of appliqué! You’ve gone from “A” word avoider to appliqué enthusiast, because you found your method! I love those patched bunnies… reminds me that I have some randomly pieced hunks of patchwork sitting in the UFO pile awaiting their final destiny! Hmm…

FYI, Sarah is hosting a Placemat Party Blog Hop from Monday, June 28, to Friday, July 2. Visit her blog to find a new hostess each day celebrating the release of Sarah’s first pattern, “Eat with JOY! Placemats”. There will be prizes, fun, refreshments, and hostess-gift ideas for summer parties. Sounds like summer fun!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

wanted

Would you like to contribute an article to All About Appliqué? Come on down!

You can show us a special tip or trick, give us a photo tour of your method, demo a product, review your favorite book, etc. etc. Any method of appliqué is great! Use anybody’s pattern, or your own, just be sure to give the pattern source. Shoot me an email to kay at kaymackenzie.com (you know the drill, use the @ sign and no spaces) and let me know what you have in mind.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to know how to blog! If you can write an email and attach a photo, you can do this! I’ll turn your material into a fantastic post.

Many thanks!
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

I recently received a beautiful flier from Arlene Lane of Quilted Comforts in Sandpoint, Idaho, featuring appliqué designs with an “ethnic peasant flair.”

Boy, does this appeal to me! I’ve always loved the look of tole painting, Pennsylvania Dutch, Scandinavian, and every look of that sort.

I asked Arlene to tell us a little more.

Arlene: My unique perspective on design comes from my Slovenian heritage. I have always been attracted to the folk art of many European cultures and this is reflected in my applique designs.

slovenian-splendor.gif

Slovenian Splendor by Arlene Lane.

In Slovenian, as with other European cultures, the women would embroider their costumes with bright colored flowers and shapes. I transposed some of these shapes into appliqué and arranged them into a pleasant layout and designed the quilting to fit the quilt.

Here’s a tip: When designing an applique piece, I usually incorporate a good number of small shapes or filler shapes as I call them. These smaller shapes offer me an opportunity to add a splash of color where needed and also fill in gaps between larger shapes.

Kay: Thanks Arlene! There are many more beautiful patterns at the Quilted Comforts website. Enjoy.

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

I’m delighted to present this guest post from Barbara Brackman, esteemed quilt historian and author. Barbara has some news to share that is of great interest and excitement to the appliqué enthusiast!



Barbara Brackman

This just in from quilt scholar
Barbara Brackman

Encyclopedia of Applique, first editionTwenty years ago I published my Encyclopedia of Appliqué, which indexed all the appliqué designs I could find before 1970. It’s been out of print for years.

This month, C&T Publishing is bringing out a revised edition. The index will be the same but the introduction is updated.

cover.gif

Applique artists will love having the inspiration that the 1,800 black-and-white drawings provide. Born organizers like me will enjoy seeing all that exuberant design classified and numbered.

Page from Encyclopedia of Applique by Barbara Brackman

Here’s a scan of one of the pages on Reel quilts (they are all numbered 17). I’ve been having fun lately by finding block designs from online auction quilts and making myself digital files with color pictures of actual quilts like the page here. (I am a born organizer so that’s my idea of fun.)

The reel is one of the oldest appliquéd block designs, with examples dated in the early 1830s. It remains popular today. Here are a few quilts made by me and my friends using variations of the pattern.

app-finley.gifOak Leaf and Orange Peel (Bowden Family Quilt) by Bobbi Finley, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2003-2005.

Hip Hop Hickory Leaf by Carol Gilham Jones.gif
Hip Hop Hickory Leaf by Carol Gilham Jones, Lawrence, Kansas, 2007.

Hickory Leaf by Barbara Brackman
Hickory Leaf by Barbara Brackman, Lawrence, Kansas, 2003. Quilted by Lori Kukuk.

Kaw Valley Quilters Guild Opportunity Quilt.gif
Kaw Valley Quilters Guild Opportunity Quilt
by Georgann Eglinski and Roseanne Smith, Lawrence, Kansas 2009. Quilted by Lori Kukuk.



Thank you so much Barbara for sharing this sneak peak with us! The new edition of the Encyclopedia means that not only is it in print again, there’s an updated introduction about the history of appliqué, plus it has color pictures accompanying the black-and-white reference drawings, and, five quilt projects!

You can pre-order your copy at amazon.com. Here’s the link: Encyclopedia of Appliqué on Amazon.

If you have an interest in quilt history and fabric dating, you’ll definitely want to read Barbara’s blog, Material Culture: Information from a Quilt Historian About Quilt Fabric Past and Present.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Pubications & Designs

Kay has graciously invited me to be a guest on her blog, but before I begin, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Mary Warner-Stone, appliqué designer, lecturer, and teacher.

Mary Warner-Stone
Here I am, appliqué in full swing, in front of my Fire Flower pattern.

I’ve been sewing since I was a kid. I discovered while trying to sew for 4-H and junior-high home-ec classes that sewing clothes just didn’t appeal to me. It was about that time I discovered the cathedral window quilt block in a women’s magazine. I fell in love with selecting fabrics from my mother’s stash, folding, ironing, hand stitching the seams. The entire process of making this fascinating block excited me. Rather clever to show the raggedy faces in the windows for a 12 year old kid wasn’t it?
cathederal-window.jpg

I didn’t realize at the time that my passion for quilting was just beginning. I experimented with different quilt patterns and sewing on the machine, but always fell back into the rewards that hand sewing gave me. While in my early thirties, I took a class from a master appliqué artist, and I knew then that hand appliqué was the style of quilting I wanted to pursue.

I’ve since published six appliqué patterns, available on my website. I’ve been teaching both machine and hand appliqué, and just this year I’ve been invited to lecture at guilds.

Much as I like hand sewing, I have to admit I am not a notions junkie. I grew up with parents who were handy, creative, and frugal. If we could make it, or make it work, then there was no need to buy new. But I also understand the value of good tools, and I would like to share with you my finds and opinions about what works best for me. I’ll start with the use of a lap board for hand appliqué.

Good Tools for a Good Job

My dad taught me that working with the right tools will make any job easier. I’ve learned that also applies to hand appliqué. With the right tools, good tools, working on your project will be easier, quicker, and you’ll have fewer frustrations.

One of those tools I use every time I sit down to appliqué is the June Tailor Quilter’s Cut ‘n Press II board. It serves multiple uses for me, and is well worth the money.

When I start the set up of an appliqué block, I use the cutting side of the board to trace designs onto the freezer paper. The cutting side is also rough enough to act as a sandpaper board while tracing the designs to the fabric without the fabric slip-sliding around.

When I start to sew, I flip the board over to the padded side to lay my block on while I’m stitching. I prefer a board that is 12” by 18”. This is large enough for my blocks to lie flat without too much over-hang, but isn’t so big that the board teeters and falls off my lap while sewing. It’s important that you control both the block and the appliqué you’re sewing to the block. If your work flops around while you’re sewing it will have the tendency to warp, and the appliqué may pucker. Never a good thing! Laying the block on the June Tailor Quilter’s Cut ‘n Press while sewing will help eliminate this problem.

I also enjoy how it makes my sewing time more comfortable. My elbows and forearms rest on the cushioned board. No more scrunched arms close to my chest and tired hands from supporting the block during long stretches of sewing. I sit either cross-legged or with my feet resting on a footstool so that my knees are elevated closer to my chest.

close-up-w-board.jpg

The press side also works as a pincushion. When I first started doing appliqué, I had very young children, an infant and toddler to be exact. I allowed myself one straw needle and six sequin pins, which were stuck in the edge of the board when not in use in the block. If one of those pins were missing I was down on the floor searching so that one of my kids would not find it first. Now that my children are older – and not likely to swallow a pin – I still find it convenient to have my pins and needles handy at the edge of the board.

The June Tailor Quilter’s Cut ‘n Press is one of the handiest, most practical tools that I have in my sewing room, and I’m sure that you will find that it makes your hand appliqué sewing time more enjoyable.

May you find joy in all you do.
Mary Warner-Stone
www.marywarner-stone.com

Thank you Mary for an excellent article! I agree completely with the use of a lap board, down to the exact kind! I only have the smaller one, though, and I’m so glad you showed yours because mine is so old and well loved that it’s too disgusting to be seen in public.

Two notes I’d like to add… one, if you’re creaky in the knees like me and can’t sit cross-legged like Mary, use a footstool to bring your lap up closer to your eyes.

And, a word about the pincushion aspect… don’t flip your board over while it has needles in it… ask my kneecap how it knows :).

More from Mary in the future.

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Here’s a fabulous guest post by Diane Dixon of Metro Quiltworks about how your choice of thread can work a little magic on the look of your machine appliqué. Thank you, Diane, for this wonderful article!

Let’s Have Some Fun with Thread Color!

Thoughts about thread choices by Diane Dixon of Metro Quiltworks

The color of thread can be a very important feature for you to consider with your next appliqué project. The way the thread color interacts with the fabric can make the stitching either stand out in a bold contrast, or it can create subtle outlining of the appliqué piece without much contrast at all.

Some basic points to consider:

Matching thread color to fabric color:
Do you want the thread color to match the color of the fabric? This will create a subtle look that blends well with the appliqué pieces and may emphasize the overall look of the project since the thread color blends much more into the background.

Here’s an example of a lily flower having the thread in the same color family as the fabric. By using the blue thread in the center, the flower is more formal and contained. Notice the use of yellow thread on the yellow petals. Although both fabric and thread are in the same color family, there is still a subtle contrast because the fabric is lighter in some places than in others. Subtle, but not dull! Also, the lily pads are sewn with green or brown stitches to keep the pieces from getting too “busy” since the batiks used here are quite wild.

lilypad.jpg

Contrasting thread color to fabric color:
Do you want the thread color to contrast with color of the fabric? Using contrast can create a wonderful visual look that can define edges and give excitement to individual appliqué pieces.

Here is an example of two pears on a plate. The purple stitching in different shades really defines the green pear from the green plate. Notice the yellow stitching on the green leaf, the outside plate stitching, and the effective purple on the stem as well.

pears.jpg

In the close-up of the red floral appliqué example, there’s a combination of techniques to make this flower sing! Notice the center has a bright red center that uses the same thread color on both the center, and on the interior petals. By using the same thread color on different fabrics, another subtlety comes out. The bright blue stitching on the outside petals, and the red on the green leaf brings all of the colors to another level!

redfloral.jpg

I sometimes enjoy using this technique specifically with smaller projects such as miniature wall hangings, pillows, or table runners because the thread choices really stand out in a more intimate piece – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try this out with larger pieces as well!

Thread colors play important roles and can change the look of any project. Don’t be afraid to go for it and have lots of fun!

Diane Dixon

Kay here again — be sure to visit Diane’s website to check out her colorful contemporary patterns for quilts, table runners, and wall hangings at Metro Quiltworks – A fresh look at quilt design. Thanks again Diane! I’ve been a “matcher” so far but now I’m inspired to try mixing it up!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Syliva Landman Rasmussen, esteemed quilt designer and writer and fellow appliqué enthusiast, has posted a review of what she calls “the most fabulous book on the subject,” Luminous Landscapes by Gloria Loughman. Sylvia sent me a snippet of the review, below.

“Gloria Loughman, author of one of February’s books, Luminous Landscapes, begins her book’s acknowledgments by listing her husband, Tony. ‘What a partnership we shared as we worked together on this project,’ she writes. One lingering, inspiring visit with this stunning book in hand justifies her mention of him as photographer for her book. C&T Publications, known for outstanding photos of quilts, further enhances this book, making it truly an art book with Tony Loughman’s skilled photography. The uninitiated to the quilting world, leafing through the pages of inspiring landscapes in the book, may mistake the realistic photos as coming from magazines such as National Geographic or travel magazines.

Luminous indeed are Gloria’s quilts. So thorough is she as she explains and shares her technical secrets, that the “Table of Contents” alone outlines them in perfect sequence. Quilters all know that design is the primary issue when planning a new quilt and this is where Gloria begins her book. The first quilt in the book appears to be a group of fantasy trees from another world. The quilt, Kimberley Mystique, depicts the most unusual vegetation and trees knotted and twisted in all colors of the rainbow. However, they do not come from another planet. The mysterious, fantastical trees grow in Gloria’s native Australia.”

Be sure to go to Sylvia’s Studio to read the entire review. “There’s much to say about it!” reports Sylvia.

Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing a bit of your review. There will be more good stuff coming from Sylvia later this month!

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

You won’t believe what a fantastic post I’ve got for you to start out the new year, courtesy of appliqué designer Kaye Moore!

I’ve met Kaye a couple of times at her booth at Pacific International Quilt Festival. (I joked with her that she’s one of the reasons quilters want to put an “e” on my name.) This last October, I was drawn into her booth once more by the beautiful appliqué samples hung everywhere.

Kaye works exclusively with wool now, and I asked her if she would be willing to talk about some of the wonders of wool for appliqué. Wow! Kaye, who admits to being “a little bit passionate about wool,” sent me a fabulous, info-packed article! Here it is, in her words. Take it away, Kaye!

“The discovery of wool is simply one of the most wonderful stitching discoveries I’ve ever made. Without a clue to the new path I was about to travel, I purchased a wool kit for a pennyrug at a quilt show several years ago. I completed it quickly and purchased another and another and so on.

I had been in the quilt business, vending at quilt shows around the country, but had not found my “niche”. Thankfully my niche found me. Very quickly my booth became an all-wool booth.

What’s so wonderful about wool, you ask? For starters, you can appliqué without turning the edges under as you must do in traditional appliqué using cottons. Since the wool has been felted during the dyeing process, the edges will not ravel.

What is felting? Felting is the process of washing the wool in hot water, shocking it in cold and drying it in a hot dryer. Wool from old garments or cut from a bolt at a fabric store can be felted using this method. Felting compresses the fibers, making them very tight, thus no raveling.

While many designers recommend fusing the appliqué pieces to the background, I do not recommend that. To me, that defeats the purpose of wool, which is supposed to be soft and easy to sew through. I simply cut out the images to be appliquéd, pin them to the background, and buttonhole stitch them in place. Details such as veins in leaves and flowers, French knots, etc., can be added using simple embroidery stitches.

There may be an occasion when you get a wool that is very loosely woven and no matter how many times you felt it, because of the way it has been woven, it will never felt to the point where it will not ravel. In that instance, I do apply a bonding agent to the back of the piece to be appliquéd, but then I do not bond it to the background fabric, but simply stitch it to the background.

I do tell my customers, however, that if they have used a bonding agent in the past and are pleased with the results, then by all means do so again. Purchase the bonding agent of your choice and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

The traditional stitch for working with wool is the buttonhole stitch, but a primitive overcast stitch can also be used. Wool appliqué can be done by hand or machine.There are a lot of threads available and it’s best to try several to see which one works best for you. I like to use a variety of threads, often mixing them on the same project. Perle Cotton No. 12 and DMC floss are my two favorite threads. Perle Cotton No. 8 works well if the piece you are making has a primitive theme. I think No. 8 is too thick for most projects that are a little more sophisticated. There are also some wonderful hand-dyed wool threads available, many that have been dyed to match the wool. You can also add beading and ribbon embroidery to your wool projects.

Using hand-dyed wools for the appliqués is a delight for those of us to are enchanted with wonderful colors, which vary in depth and hue on a single piece of wool fabric.

All the quilts I have designed using wool appliqué have backgrounds from flannel. My favorite two flannels are Marcus Brothers flannel and Moda’s Marbled flannel. I do not pre-wash the flannel as it often has a sizing agent in it which gives it good body and makes it wonderful to stitch on.

I use flannel for the background of my quilts for three reasons:

1. It is much easier on my customer’s pocketbooks than wool.

2. When you sew the blocks together, you have a traditional seam. With an all-wool quilt, you either have lumpy seams or you must butt the edges of the blocks together and zigzag them. Then you must find a way to cover up where they have been joined.

3. If this is a quilt you are going to hang, you do not have to worry about it sagging. An all-wool quilt can be very heavy and possibly sag with time if it is a wallhanging.

While it would seem logical that quilts made from hand-dyed wool can be washed, I do not recommend washing your wool quilts. Depending on how the wool was woven and how it was felted, there is a possibility it can continue to shrink. I simply don’t think it’s worth taking the chance of ruining your quilt by washing it.

So, how to you care for a wool quilt? About once a year or so I put my quilts in the dryer on “Air” to remove the dust and refresh them. Should your quilt become soiled, you can have it professionally dry-cleaned or use a dry-cleaner packet you purchase at the grocery store. Pennyrugs and table toppers can be spot cleaned. Wool naturally repels water, so a spill can often be blotted up before any harm is done.

Wool projects are great “take along” projects. If you are waiting at the dentist’s office or for a child at an after-school activity, working on a wool project is a great way to pass the time and when completed you have a beautiful gift or treasure for yourself.

If you have not tried working with wool, I suggest you purchase a small project that can be completed quickly – one that has simple details. Once finished, I think you will be anxious to get that second project. I often tell my customers wool projects should carry a warning label because working with wool is addictive. It has certainly proven to be true for me!”

Thank you so much, Kaye! This is great information and all of us appliqué fans appreciate it. Please visit Kaye’s website to see her wonderful wool designs plus some fabulous patterns by other designers.

Here on the blog, hover your mouse over the designers and pattern companies in the sidebars to see others who specialize in wool.

Until next time,
Happy New Year,
Kay