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!!
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.
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.
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.
Trim around each berry leaving enough seam allowance to turn under.
Applique the second group of berries. Repeat for all four branches of berries (which took me days and days to stitch!)
Here is my completed block.
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.