How to Machine Appliqué Your Quilt

If you’re looking for information on how to machine appliqué EPP (or anything for that matter) to your quilt, you’re in the right place! Today I have a tutorial on how to machine appliqué some pretty little EPP hexagon flowers to a quilt block background.

Machine Appliqué tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

Hello and welcome to those participating in the Kingfisher Stitch-Along! “What is the Kingfisher Stitch-Along?” I hear my regular readers ask. It’s a joint project hosted by Rachel from Stitched in Color and Jodi from Tales of Cloth, to sew the beautiful Kingfisher quilt.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

This quilt combines hand pieced English Paper Pieced (EPP) blooms, appliquéd (by hand or machine) to a background fabric, with machine pieced diamonds. I think you’ll agree the result is one scrapalicious and gorgeous quilt!

You can head over to Jodi’s online store to get all the templates and EPP papers you might need. She has a great kit which has papers and acrylic templates for the two shapes in the quilt.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

By this stage of making your Kingfisher Quilt you should have a bunch of EPP blooms and some background diamonds to sew them to. You can find Rachel’s tutorial on how to cut your diamonds here.

Before you start make sure you’ve taken the EPP papers out of all the hexigons in your EPP blooms and trim any threads that might extend outside the edges of your EPP (if you glue basted your hexi shapes this is unlikely to be an issue).

Next, fold your background diamond in half from point to point, on both axes and finger press. This is just to give you an easy way to centre your EPP bloom on the diamond prior to machine appliqué.

To fix your bloom to the background, ready for machine sewing, you can either use pins or double-sided fusible web*. I had no problems at all using pins, but if you’re really nervous about the machine appliqué process then you might prefer to use the fusible web. It’s very secure and you won’t have to worry about pricking your fingers. Just follow the instructions on the product to adhere the fusible to your bloom and then to fuse the bloom, centred, to the background diamond.

If pinning, make sure your pins aren’t too close to the EPP edges – you don’t want them to interfere with your sewing machine foot as you sew around the edges.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

If you have an open toe sewing foot you will want to use it here. Much like how a night out is more fun wearing an open toe sandal, machine appliqué is a much more enjoyable experience with an open toe foot as you can better see what you’re doing.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

The great thing about EPP is that the edges are already turned under so there are no raw edges to contend with. You can pretty much use any stitch you like to secure it to your background as long as you sew it close enough to the edge to secure the two fabric layers (the shape and the folded under edge).

For this example I’m just using a regular straight stitch for my machine appliqué. I like to start sewing midway along an edge. Start with a few backstitches to secure your thread, or if you’re lucky enough to have a machine with a securing stitch, use that. Then start sewing, slowly, towards your first corner.

I have seen some folks comment that they’re a little concerned about stretching the bias edges of their background diamonds. While you’re guiding your EPP/diamonds under your sewing needle, don’t grab the diamonds by their edges. Rest your hands on the outer edges of your EPP and use that if you need to give direction. But really, because we’re sewing in straight lines rather than curves there’s not a lot of need to push your pieces around under the needle. At most you’ll just need a bit of course correction. My other tip is to sew slowly – this will negate the need for sudden, panicked movements. Slow and steady wins the race!

Alright, so we’re sewing our first edge, heading toward a corner. If you’re sewing toward a corner where two EPP pieces meet, you should aim to land your needle down exactly where they meet.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

Then lift your sewing foot and pivot the piece until your foot is in line with the next edge.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

If you’re sewing toward an outer corner on a hexie, just eyeball it and stop a seam-distance away from the upcoming edge. If you’re a perfectionist then by all means feel free to mark where you want to stop with a water soluble* or air soluble* pen before you get to that corner. Pivot and continue on your way.

Then lift your sewing foot and pivot the piece until your foot is in line with the next edge. 

Continue around the whole of the bloom until you get back to when you started. I recommend going past your start point 5 or so stitches, backstitch to secure and then cut your threads. You now have a machine appliquéd EPP flower.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

You will see that above that my seams are by no means perfectly even. Once all my diamonds are sewn together this will be very hard to detect, so I urge you not to get to per-finicky as you’re sewing. When you are focussing on a very small area it can feel like a millimetre difference is as big as a quarter inch. It really isn’t, and it really won’t be noticeable if you’ve stopped a bit early or late on a corner.

As well as using standard straight stitches, machine appliqué is an opportunity to experiment with some of the fancier stitches on your machine. For my next bloom I chose an irregular edge satin stitch (I have a Janome 8900QCP and it’s stitch #54).

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

I would definitely recommend a test drive when using a decorative stitch. It’s important to figure out how the needle swings when forming the stitch so you know where you want your needle to be when you stop for corner pivots.

I just use some plain hexi shapes when doing a practice, I don’t bother with using complete EPP units.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

Once I have an understanding of the stitch pattern and where I need to put my needle down I can then go on to sew my real pieces.

Sew up to the corner, stopping in line with the corner and when the needle is over to the right. Lift the presser foot:

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

Then pivot the piece, lower the foot and sew the next line.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

For an inner corner, you stop where the pieces join and when your needle is over to the right.

Machine Applique tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

What I will say with the wider decorative stitches is to make sure you go slow where your EPP is closest to the edge of the diamond. The wider stitches have a tendency to “grab” at the fabric and pull it into a little pucker within the stitch itself. Just take your time on the EPP edges closes to the edge of the diamond and you’ll be fine.

Machine Appliqué tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

Once you have your EPP appliquéd to your diamonds it’s best to sew them together into a quilt top as soon as possible. This will protect the bias edges from stretching with excess handling. If you can’t sew them up straight away, make sure they’re stored in a box or container of some sort so you can just move the box around rather than picking them all up and stressing their edges.

Machine Appliqué tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

If you have any questions (or tips to pass on) be sure to pop a comment below.

Happy sewing!

Kirsty

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Machine Appliqué tutorial for the Kingfisher Stitch Along at Bonjour Quilts

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19 thoughts on “How to Machine Appliqué Your Quilt”

  1. Another suggestion for stitching the hexie flowers is to try invisible thread or a 100 weight cottonized polyester thread like Invisa Fil as top thread and your usual cotton bobbin.

    Reply
    • Great idea, Raynelle. The poly/nylon threads can be a bit stiffer and feel as such in your quilt, but then the hexis will be adding stiffness anyway with their form so it’s probably not an issue. The Invisafil is not as transparent but feels nicer in the quilt, in my opinion. For those who don’t want their thread to show (much) this is a good way to do it. Thanks, Raynelle!

      Reply
  2. I just discovered your site when someone linked the Adori pattern. You are so talented, and so generous! I have looked at about 8 posts and now must go do other things, but I will be back to look at more of your ideas. I feel like I found a treasure!

    Reply
  3. Great tutorial! I didn’t know about your challenge, but l’m in the middle of stitching together hexagons for a Grandma’s Flower Garden quilt & was unsure how l would stitch the hexagon flowers to the square backing. This tutorial helped immensely. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Karen, no I didn’t cut my background fabric out from the back of my hexi flowers. I know some people like to do that to reduce bulk, but I prefer the extra strength it lends to my hand stitched flowers. I’m sure this is just a mental thing for me – the hand stitching is quite sturdy, and then with a good dose of quilting over the top it will be even stronger, but for some reason I just don’t like leaving the EPP unsupported. The extra bulk doesn’t bother me and I don’t miss the finicky work of cutting away the backs, either!

      Reply
    • I used a satin stitch to machine quilt my appliqué to the quilt top. If you are going to quilt and appliqué all-in-one, then you can just use your normal quilting stitch, but make sure you quilt over your appliqué pieces, around all the edges (to give a raw appliqué effect). This can be a bit tricky to achieve, which is why I prefer to appliqué individually onto the top, and then quilt the whole quilt later (without having to worry about quilting over the appliqué as it’s already secure).

      Reply

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