Quilt Along

Machine Applique Tips

Hi Quilting Friends,

Welcome back to the “Black & White Delight” Quilt-Along. If you’re just joining us, you may want to have a look at the “Welcome” post to help you catch up.

Today we’re going to have a closer look at how I finish my applique flowers and leaves. There are lots of options for machine applique, and you’re free to choose your favorite method (of course). I’m not the applique police, after all. I’ve tried several applique techniques over the years, and this one fits my style and level of skill quite well. I hope that you’ll like it too! If you prefer hand applique, please stop by next week when Susan will share her tips and tricks for creating beautiful hand-stitched appliques.

Here’s what you need for today’s stitching:

  • Prepared applique pieces, fused to your applique border strips
  • Sewing machine (obviously!)
  • Thread (I used machine embroidery thread to match my flower and leaf fabrics)
  • Open toe applique foot
  • Iron & ironing board
  • Scissors for snipping thread
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Beverage & snack(s) for hydration and energy!

If you are new to applique, I’d strongly suggest that you create a practice square to work with as you learn the technique. A square is easier to turn beneath your needle than your whole border strip, and you’ll be confident of your skills before you work on the quilt. This little snowflake pattern is a nice practice piece, whether you plan to do machine or hand applique. Go ahead and prepare a background square and snowflake. Fuse the snowflake to the background square and let’s get started!

Start your applique project with a sharp, new needle. I usually use an embroidery needle, Size 11. Make sure that your machine is cleaned and lubricated before you begin. I use an open toe applique foot for all of my applique work, since the open area allows me to see where I am going. That’s pretty important too!

Select your stitch and adjust the settings. I use a machine blanket stitch to finish my applique pieces, set at the default settings (width 2.0 and length 2.75) on my Bernina sewing machine. You can adjust the settings if you prefer a different length and width.

Applique machine settings by Ms P Designs USA

There are four basic things that you need to be able to do well to master machine applique:

  1. Sew a straight line.
  2. Sew a curved line.
  3. Sew an outside corner.
  4. Sew an inside corner.

The key to nice-looking, even stitches is to keep the presser foot aligned with the edge of the applique piece and the stitching perpendicular to the raw edge. That’s pretty easy to do when you’re sewing a straight line! The stitches must enclose the edges of the applique for durability, so it is important to stay close to, but not on top of, the raw edge of the applique pieces.

For the curved line, regardless of whether it is a concave or convex curve, you’ll need to pause after every stitch or two to adjust the position of the fabric in relationship to the presser foot. The number of stitches you can take before you have to adjust the fabric depends upon the amount of curving on your piece. Just keep a close eye on the stitches and keep them perpendicular to the raw edge of the applique.

For the outside corner, make a stitch into the center of of the applique from the point, like this:

Applique outside corner by Ms P Designs USA

For the inside corner, make a stitch into the center of the applique from the “v” of the corner, like this:

And here’s how it would look when you put it all together! (Please ignore my lack of manicure; my hands are more functional than they are decorative the majority of the time.)

Now that you’ve practiced the skills for machine applique, you’re ready to begin stitching your flowers and leaves! I prefer to stitch mult-layered appliques by starting with the bottom layer and working upward. For example, for the flowers in the photo below, I began by stitching the leaves, then the flowers, and finally the flower centers. I added the hand-stitched details on the larger flower after the applique was finished, using perle cotton.

Floral border G by Ms P Designs USA

Have you been quilting along with us? We’d love to see pictures of your progress. Use this tag to post on Instagram please:

#bwqal_yourname @mspdesignsusa

Next week we’ll hear from Susan, who creates her fabulous appliques with hand-stitching. Until then, may your stitches be straight, your bobbins full, and your seam ripper languishing in the sewing basket.

Happy quilting,


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