When I am out speaking to quilt guilds, I always ask, “WHO LOVES TO MAKE APPLIQUE QUILTS?” A few uncertain hands raise slowly, sometimes wavering or giving me the metza/metza signal. The other 95% of the room lets out a low groan!
On the other hand, if I asked, “Who loves the look of Applique Quilts?” I imagine that every hand in the room would enthusiastically shoot up in the air.
Applique has a bad reputation. Some call it the “A” word, not to be used in polite circles! Quilters think that Applique is a difficult task that takes a great deal of skill.
That may have been true back in the dinosaur days of quilting, but with modern methods, applique is easier than precise piecing.
EASIER THAN PIECING? You betcha! There are no seams to match, no ripping seams, no pressing plans, no bias edges, no 1/4″ seams, and no lumpy, bumpy intersections! Every block ends up the perfect size, leading to easier quilt assembly and a flatter finished quilt.
Applique is Design Freedom
When I started quilting in 1976, I immediately fell in love with Applique. Way back then in the dinosaur days of quilting, there were no rotary cutters and accurate acrylic rulers for cutting pieced designs. Both applique designs and pieced quilts were made with cardboard templates made from cereal boxes. The patterns were traced and cut with scissors, then the shapes were pieced or appliqued by hand (a method I still enjoy today!)
Applique was easier for this 12-year-old quilter to get right. I could cut any shape out of fabric, baste it to a background fabric, and hand stitch the edges. I’d make flower gardens with birds and butterflies, or fill the seas with fish and shells. If I could draw it or trace designs from a coloring book, I could make them into an applique quilt! Applique was creative, it was free form, and nothing had to match. I was in heaven!
Modern Piecing Methods Left Applique in the Dust
Olfa introduced the Rotary Cutter for home sewists making garments back in 1979. The tool was quickly adopted by smart quilters! Rotary cutters revolutionized the way quilters cut pieced designs starting in the early 1980s. A new industry developed around laser-cut, screen-printed acrylic rulers for extreme accuracy in cutting. These rulers quickly replaced cardboard cereal box templates. Suddenly, anyone could accurately cut and machine sew pieced quilts in a fraction of the time with extremely accurate results. Strip cutting and speed piecing methods took the quilting world by storm, and applique was left to those traditional quilters who were not interested in modern gadgets.
Like every other quilter, I was enchanted by the new-fangled tools that made piecing one hundred percent easier! I spent the 1980s perfecting my strip piecing and chain piecing skills. But I quicky tired of piecing quilts as the tops started piling up in my sewing room.
While I don’t think I appliqued, anything in the 80s, I had three kids in the 1990s and all of the sudden, I wanted to applique every children’s book I read to them!
Eves’s Garden, based on God’s Gift with permission, 1998
Yet I knew that with three toddlers, I would never get anything accomplished if I hand appliqued all my quilts. My undersea world inspired by “Rainbow Fish” took me nearly 6 months to complete during naptimes and late night hand stitching sessions.
I turned to fusible applique in the late 1990s and I have never looked back! God’s Gift was my first fusible applique quilt. After making this quilt with hundreds of fused leaves, I invented Leaves Galore to make cutting applique easier! Just like Omnigrid and Olfa revolutionized accurate piecing, Rotary Cut Applique templates called Leaves Galore and Hearts & More take the hard work out of fusible applique.
The Best Fusible for Quilters
Not all fusible are created equal. After my disappointment with the stiff feel of my first fusible quilt, I set out to find the perfect fusible web. Mistyfuse was the result of a year of searching out and testing every fusible on the market! I just love the drape of the fused fabric, I like that it is made in USA and that it does not have any harsh chemicals in the mix. It is simply a heat activated adhesive with nothing else added.
Changing Fusible Applique’s Bad Rap
Fusible applique has a bad rap. This goes back to the old fusibles like Stitch Witchery and Heat and Bond Ultra. These fusibles were fine to put a patch on a pair of jeans, but when quilters used them for fusible applique, the results were just awful! The quilts were cardboard stiff and the sewing machine needle left big holes on the applique edges. Gummy fusibles made machine stitching difficult as the adhesive collected on the sewing machine needle and caused the thread to break. Raw edges frayed and fusible applique was dismissed as “hand applique’s ugly step sister”.
Mistyfuse has solved all the problems with old, stiff, gummy fusibles! For a video of how to apply Mistyfuse to your fabrics, click on this link.
Since then, I have designed an eclectic mix of quilts that range from modern to traditional, with the look of applique or curved piecing. There are designs for beginners as well as designs for experienced quilters.
Now armed with Mistufuse and a few modern cutting tools, I incorporate a bit of applique in every quilt I make.
For more information about the SPD, Rotary Cut Applique method, tune into our Free Facebook Live sessions on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month. Not on Facebook? Follow me on YouTube and watch the Rotary Cut Applique demonstrations there!
I hope this applique method will revolutionize fusible applique and help quilters realize that applique is just as easy (if not easier) than precise piecing! Check out next week’s blog post for 5 ways that Applique is easier than piecing.
Until next Friday! Happy Applique!