Applique Pressing Tip

Have you ever had problems pressing your completed applique blocks? I’ve been sewing along with the Triplett sisters on their current block of the month. We are making 8″ blocks with a lot of applique detail. Since they are smallish blocks it’s sometimes challenging to press the block without leaving iron shine on the appliques.

In this first photo the applique is completed. As you can see it’s been crumpled and stuffed in my sewing bag and needs a good pressing.

Birds and Daises

I like to press with a hot iron and steam. Here the block has been pressed but I’m not satisfied with the bubbles that remain in between the appliques. If I were to press again with more emphasis on those areas I might end up with iron shine on some of the thicker pieces, especially the bird’s beak.Here’s my trick: Spread a terry cloth towel on the ironing surface. Place the completed block right side down on the towel. Press using a hot iron and steam. You don’t have to press the living daylights out of it. Just pressing across it once is usually all it takes.Here’s my finished block after pressing it on the towel. Really, I promise you, I only pressed it once on the towel!

Bird and Daisies Block

When I was a teenager my aunt taught me to press my completed embroidered blocks with this same method so it’s nothing new! Try it the next time you have an applique block that needs a little extra attention.



Bigger Berries Tutorial

I’m sewing along with sisters Lori and Kay Triplet on their appliqued Block of the Month project. Here is my August block: Grapes.

Grapes Block

Earlier I posted a picture tutorial about back basting the tiny berries on the Pokeberry block. They were itty bitty berries! See the post here. Next came the Grapes block with more circles to applique. Normally I may have groaned when I saw all those grapes but having just tackled many more berries that were much smaller in the earlier block I almost cheered to see bigger berries.

Kay posted a tutorial on Facebook showing how she was making her pokeberries using her grandmother’s thimble and a button. You can see it here. Look for the Aug 3, 2017 post.

I often use a similar method using Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Circle makers – and I was perfectly happy cutting all those circles by hand until I figured out a way to cut them in bulk – with a die cutter. Ah yes, die cut circles, that’s what I’m talking about! Let’s take a look.

You will notice in the photos that I have cut green circles and red circles. The Grape Block is one of the few blocks that repeats in this BOM so I figured I might as well make all the grapes at the same time.

The 1″ circle is a good size die to own because it can be used for many of the smaller sizes in Karen’s circle maker set.

I use my die cutter for other things but even if I didn’t I would be happy to have it just for cutting circles!

Cut the fabric approximately the same size as the die. I stacked the red and green fabrics to cut multiple layers at once. Crank the handle and run that puppy through the machine (follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the die cutting machine).

Viola! Circles galore!Hand stitch a running stitch close to the edge. Tips: Start with a back stitch! Leave a tail. Use hand quilting thread or another strong thread.

Find the circle maker in the size you want. Karen’s original set has four of each size. I lost one of them in the size used in this tutorial so my photos show making the grapes three at a time (but I’d rather make them four at a time!)Pull the thread tail gathering the fabric around the teflon disc. Give it a spritz of spray starch or magic sizing. Pull the tail again tightening the gathers.

Gather the fabric around the circle maker


Tighten the gathers

Press from the wrong side with a hot, dry iron. Flip the circles over and press again from the right side. Let them cool. Think cookies: if you touch them too soon after taking them out of the oven you will burn your fingers!Loosen a stitch across from the tail. It helps to use a straight pin to slide under the stitch. Pop the teflon disc out and pull the tail to snug up the gathers and smooth the circle. It may be tempting to press again at this point but I find that if I leave them alone I get rounder finished berries/grapes.

If you aren’t quite ready to applique, string the berries onto a thread. Just put a knot in the thread and string them on, sort of like stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree. Leave a long tail so they don’t fall off the thread.

Position in place using the pattern as a guide. Hand applique using matching thread. I have a friend who does the basting step with matching applique thread leaving a long enough tail to thread into her needle with when she’s ready to sew.

Here’s my completed red grape version.

Grapes in Red

And here are the blocks I’ve completed so far.

For more information about the Triplet Sister’s Block of the Month check out their website here.


Pokeberry – Applique BOM Block 2

Today’s post is Pokeberry, the July block of the Triplett Sisters BOM. Click here to go to their page or here to see my earlier post.

I’m stitching these charming blocks using Back Basting Applique and will be posting photos, tips and tutorials as we progress.

When I saw the pattern for the Pokeberry block for a tiny moment I regretted that I wasn’t buying the pre-fused, laser cut version of this BOM (available from the Triplett sisters). It certainly would have been sweet to have all those 61 berries already cut out for me!!

Lori’s block. Pre-fused, laser cut. Perfect berries!

Being a great fan of Karen Kay Buckley’s perfect circle makers I first thought I’d make the berries with them. But these pokeberries are so tiny! After letting it bounce around in my head for a few days I made up my mind that I would stick with Back Basting Applique and post a picture tutorial to go with my finished block.

Then came the color choices. I love the vintage red and green color combination of the original quilt but I’m using my Waddington Road prints in my sample. The pokeberries in the original were stitched in plain red fabric (as were the stems).  I have pokeberries growing wild in my yard – they are interesting and grow to gigantic plants (but they are invasive so I pull them out by the roots before the berries ripen). The berries are a gorgeous bluish purple color. Since I didn’t have purple in my fabric palette I made my pokeberries blue.

Pokeberry – Block 2 of Triplett Sisters BOM

In my book Back Basting Applique Step by Step I describe completing the basting step on the machine – my favorite method. (Refer to pages 14-15 for Back Basting by Machine, Appliqueing by Hand.) The  basting stitches, once removed, leave a perforated line in the fabric marking the seam line – it’s helpful for needle turning the seam allowance.

I drew the entire pattern (reversed) on the wrong side of the background block then I appliqued all leaves and stems saving the berries for last. Go ahead, call it procrastination! I used one piece of fabric (instead of a tiny bit for each berry) and basted every other berry. Skipping every other berry left enough fabric for a seam allowance. Note: I use regular 50 wt thread in the bottom and Mettler 40 wt thread in the top with an 80 universal needle. I drop the feed dogs and use free motion stitching.

Berries machine basted, and trimmed with the first one appliqued

Trim around each berry leaving a scant seam allowance. Clip the seam allowance with 5-6 clips creating tabs. Don’t clip all the way to the stitching, a little more than halfway is enough.  Clipping too close can cause fraying at the seam line.

Remove the basting stitches from half of the berry and needle turn the seam allowance turning one tab at a time using the needle or a toothpick to tuck the seam allowance under the berry. Stitch one or two stitches then turn a little more seam allowance under. I like this method of clipping the seam allowance creating tabs because I can work with a very small area at a time and there is  less tendency for the turn under to roll back out. Shape the berry as you applique. Stitch all the way around to get the seam allowance tucked in, then stitch a second time around the berry with smaller stitches to fine tune the edges.

Applique all the berries that were basted in the first set.

First group of berries appliqued

Using one piece of fabric again, baste the alternate berries that were skipped in the first round.

Trim around each berry leaving enough seam allowance to turn under.

Second group of berries basted and trimmed.

Applique the second group of berries. Repeat for all four branches of berries (which took me days and days to stitch!)

With a dime for scale. See, those berries are tiny!

Here is my completed block.

Pokeberry Block 2 of Triplett Sisters BOM

Other tips:

Use fine cotton or silk thread in a color that closely matches the berry fabric.

Poke the needle slightly under the berry as you begin each applique stitch. This helps round the edges.

I’m a tight appliquer, meaning I pull the thread snugly after each stitch. On tiny berries my tight stitches leave a little divot which tends to distort the smooth edge of the berry.  I find it helpful if I don’t pull my thread as tightly as usual.

If your berries a little wonky here’s a trick: Embroider around each berry using either a back stitch or a stem stitch with one strand of embroidery floss in a color that matches your berries. The embroidery can help camouflage irregularities in the berries.

If you’re on Facebook there is a page dedicated to this BOM. Click here for the Triplett Sisters Block of the Month Facebook page.


Red and Green Applique, Be Still My Heart!

Those who know me best know that applique quilts are my favorite – especially 19th century, red and green, appliqued, sampler quilts. I adore them. So when Lori Triplett showed me the Huguenot Friendship Quilt that she and her sister Kay were planning as a Block of the Month program my heart skipped a beat – it was red and green, it was applique, it was sampler blocks. There was no doubt in my mind, I would be making that quilt!

But there’s more! I’ve been invited to join Lori and Kay in sewing the blocks with each of us using different colorways and different methods. I’ll be stitching my blocks using the Back Basting Applique technique with a selection of fabrics from my Waddington Road Primitives fabric collection.

The color palette for my blocks in Waddington Road Primitives

Each month I’ll be posting my version of the blocks here at Barb’s Favorites but if you want to sew-a-long you will need to get the patterns or fusible applique kits over at the Triplett Sister’s website. Click here to see the original quilt (get ready to gasp!) and read all the details of the program.

Here’s my first block: Windblown Aster. It finishes 8″ x 8″ and will be turned on point in the final quilt.

Huguenot Friendship Quilt, Block 1 Windblown Aster