I just made a little video about machine appliqué that you can find on YouTube (click above image to watch). It’s not glamorous, I’m not an expert, but most of the important technique about how I do machine appliqué is there in my few minutes of total glory. (haha) While I was making it, I was thinking about gathering all my thoughts about appliqué I did.


I use MonoPoly as the top thread. I use both their Clear and their Smoke, depending on what colors of fabrics I’m working with. The smoke (as their website says) is a reduced sheen invisible thread.

I use SoFine polyester thread (also from Superior) in the bobbin, and a very fine needle — size 12 is preferred.

Slow down your sewing machine speed if you can.

This clay tool, Mudshark from Mudtools, is one of my favorite stiletto tools for working with machine appliqué. It’s easier for me to hold and the tip is quite long. I also just like the colors. I bought it in the Smithsonian Museum after seeing an exhibit about Michael Sherrill. I figured if he used it and got such beautiful work, then I was going to lean in on his skills and start using it myself.

Stitch settings:
Length 1.4, width 1.3
The zig-zag should just catch one side of the folded appliqué piece (green) and then the (white) background:

This quilt was done with all machine appliqué, and was mentioned in my video.


I cut all my shapes to the finished size, then cut the fabric 3/16″ (a fat one-quarter inch) bigger all the way around. I use the freezer paper shiny-side up, and with a hot iron, “adhere” the seam allowances to the waxy side of the paper while moving my iron in an arc-like motion.

Folding edges in freezer-type paper with shiny side down, from @jillilystudio on Instagram. She uses spray starch.

(NOTE: I don’t always wash my wallhangings, so don’t like a lot of glue and starch on them, but for Useable Quilts, she has some great ideas.)


The only thing I have to offer up about hand appliqué is to think of the folded edge of the appliqué as the frosting inside a macaron, the background being the lower cookie layer and the appliqué itself being the top. Try to bring your needle out of the frosting, then poke it back down in the background just below. Run the needle for about 3/16″ (fat one-quarter-inch) underneath the background, then bring it back out through the frosting (the fold of the appliqué piece). There are many more talented people out there who can explain it better than I, but that’s how I think about it. (I know Jill Finley has a one-hour class on appliqué on her website if you are interested.)


How I make my circles (about halfway down the post)

Sewing down the small pointed corners, from @jillilystudio on Instagram

Sewing down small pointed corners, from Becky Goldsmith (and another)

Four Yorkshiremen skit from Monty Python (just to see if you are still reading)


Quilting the Lollypop Tree Quilt, I

Still working on the lollies, or my Lollypop Tree Quilt.

Lollypop Tree Quilt Block_2

Quilting Lollypop Tree Quilt_1

I took the quilt to my quilter and she basted it together for me, which has actually worked pretty well.  Usually I crawl around on the floor on my hands and knees and pin the quilt sandwich to within an inch of its life, but went this direction this time.  It’s been nice not to have to navigate those safety pins, but I still don’t want to sew over the basting thread, so I’m pulling it out as I get there.

Lollypop Tree Quilt Block_3

Finished up this one last night.  I’m trying to do a different filler in the background of each block.  It may not last, but this one is leaves.  The background filler on the first one is a rounded double loop in all directions.  When I look at these photos, it reminds me that there are still some details to go over (like the brown stems need to be quilted down at the trunk), but I’ll do the brown thread quilting all at one.

Lollypop Tree Quilt Block_4

And then I started on this, and got almost done, but had quilted myself into a corner with extra fluffiness.  After I quilted a tuck into the quilt, I stopped and unpicked for a while, and will take it up again today in better lighting, and when I’m not so tired.  This background is an oval double teardrop.

Lollypop Tree Quilting detail_1

Diane Gaudynski advises free-motion quilters that a little marker now and then is a quilter’s good friend.  Like in that run of white thread on the blue batik.  The thread I’m using is So-Fine white #401, and in the bobbin, I’m using the Bottom Line in a soft yellow.  I’ve lowered the tension on the top to nearly half of normal (2.2 or 2.0) and I have really good balance in the thread.  This thread from Superior Thread is quite fine, as the name states, and it just sews up beautifully. I switched to a size 14 topstitch needle which allows lots of thread movement, so no shredding.  (I had been using a size 12, but the 14 is working better.)

Lollypop Tree Quilting detail_2

Lollypop Tree Quilting detail_3I like the way the appliquéd pieces pop up.  This *post* by Sandra Leichner is invaluable for explaining the process.  I have a permanent link to it from the home page of my blog, as well as to Diane Gaudynski’s website.

I figure I still have about 5 days left of quilting time in my February/March goals, which clearly states: “Quilt Lollypop Trees.”  I’ve been able to cross of all but one of my projects, so am still trying for a completion here.

Linking up to Lee’s Freshly Pieced blog.


Finish-A-Long · Quilts

Lollypop Trees Rise Again: Blocks 4, 5, 6

One advantage to being in a group like Leanne’s Finish-A-Long (FAL), is that you have a reason to pull those unfinished projects to the front of the line, rather than letting good solid work be upstaged consistently by the New! and the Fabulous! and the Have You Seen This Fabric Line! sort of business.  So the Lollies came out of hibernation.


Lollypop Tree Four.


Lollypop Tree block five.


Lollypop Tree block Six.

Gang of Six Lollypop Trees

So I’ve appliqued six to their background fabric, using the freezer-paper, then invisible thread in top spool method.

Appliqueing Lollypop Tree

I’ve discussed this in buckets of digitial bytes in other posts, but here’s a photo of me going at it.  Yes, those are teensy applique pins and when you have about 60 of them on a block (these are huge blocks), it helps that they are small so you are not stabbed to death by pins.  I also hang my sweater on the back of the chair, as they have affinity with knitted things–they get caught in the sleeves.  I use a 1.0 width zig-zag with a 2.0 length of stitch, with Mono-Poly invisible thread in the top spool (put a netting on it and you will be happier) and Bottom Line thread in the bobbin.  I also dial back the upper tension by half, down to 2.2 and use a very slender needle.  Both threads are made by Superior Threads.

My student papers don’t come in until Thursday evening, so maybe I can squeak out three more blocks?  It takes about an hour to stitch each block, and another 20 minutes to open up the back and take all the freezer paper pieces out. I know I won’t finish the quilt this first quarter of the FAL, but the very fact that I’m sewing on these trees is a benefit of signing up. I’ll be thrilled just to get the blocks done.


Now head back to Lee’s Freshly Pieced blog to see more Works in Progress!

Creating · Quilts

Lollypop Tree–Block One

One down!  Who Knows How Many to go!

How I did the machine applique:

You saw the earlier post on preparing the pieces: freezer paper lightly glued to the back of the fabric with a regular glue stick, the edges pressed over onto the waxy side, tamping them into place.  I got out a stiletto to assist me wherever the going got tough: where there was a tuck, or a sharp corner that normally, with the edge of hand needle-turn applique, would be smoothed out.  I lined up my piece with the center notch of my presser foot, and with a narrow zig-zag (1.0) and smallish stitch length (1.5 on a Husqvarna), went sort of slowly.

Remember that I’m a beginner.

Then I cut out the back of the pieces with the freezer paper (mostly the large and interestingly shaped pieces), leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance. The glossy surface you see is the waxy side of the freezer paper.  Kind of pull–a bit–the edge of the applique to “break” the seal of the bond between the fabric and freezer paper, then place your scissors (closed) or your finger under the freezer paper and snap it out.

I took the paper out, finished cutting, then pressed it all, face-down on the ironing board.

I’m still stewing about whether or not I want to do hand-applique.  We’re in the middle of watching Foyle’s War, a BBC-TV production, and there’s something so relaxing about hand work and television.  But I also know that while I really like this pattern, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life making it, and I’m not that fast of an appliquer.

Fret. Fret. Fret.  I hope I’m not the only one in  Quilt Land who stews about these kinds of decisions–should I do it this way, or that? Use this technique or that?