Blocks by the Batch

Here is a quick picture tutorial on making applique blocks in batches. When I received the pattern for the Dec 2018 block of the Triplett Sisters’ BOM I saw there were two blocks of the same design in the original quilt. There is also a third block that is very similar with the only variation being two leaves. Normally I would really like that quirky difference. This time, however, I decided to make three identical blocks (Tripletts?) so I could show you how I work in batches.

First off, here is the completed block. Lily with Flat Leaves.

Lily with Flat Leaves

Let’s make a batch of blocks! With Back Basting Applique we always start by drawing the complete pattern on the wrong side of the background block.

Study the block and determine which pieces are in the first layer – they will be pieces that either tuck under another piece or stand alone.

Since I was making three blocks at the same time I back basted (by machine- you know it’s my favorite method!) everything for layer one on all three blocks.  I feel like it saves time in the long run if I can iron and cut from one or two pieces of fabric for multiple blocks in one sitting.

Three blocks with layer one basted and trimmed.

Trim leaving a seam allowance. I’m most comfortable with a generous 1/8″ seam allowance – use what works best for you.

There! I have three partial blocks, all basted and ready for needle turn. This is now very portable. All I need to grab is my thread, needle, small scissors, plus a seam ripper (because I basted on the machine and prefer to remove machine basting with a seam ripper.)

Here is my set of blocks with the first layer completed.

Layer 1 is completed

Next back baste and trim all of the Layer 2 motifs on all three blocks.

Applique Layer 2.

Here is my trio with Layer 2 completed.

Three blocks with Layer 2 appliqued.

Continue in this fashion back basting each successive layer on all three blocks.

Back Baste Layer 3

Layer 3 is completed

With each layer the blocks become more complete until finally there is only one layer remaining. I think adding gold at this point really brightened these blocks up.

Back baste the final layer

All three blocks are now completed

Finally, comes the best part, press your completed blocks and check three more blocks off your to do list!

Lily with Flat Leaves. Done.

For more info about the Triplett Sisters’ Huguenot Friendship Quilt Block of the Month click here.

To order a copy of Back Basting Applique Step by Step click here.

To see all the posts for the Huguenot Friendship Quilt click here.

To join the BOM facebook group click here.


Fancy Work Applique

Each month I receive an email with the next pattern in the block of the month quilt I’m stitching with Lori Triplett and her sister Kay Triplett. Lori is using pre-fused, laser cut appliques and adding touches of hand painting to her blocks. Kay is using needle turn applique with freezer paper on top. And I’m using back basting applique with my Waddington Road Primitives fabrics.

A favorite recent block was a gorgeous cutwork pattern that the sisters call Fancy Work. I studied the pattern and decided there was enough space between elements that I could successfully back baste it using one piece of tan fabric. I started by tracing the full pattern to the wrong side of the fabric. Next I placed a single piece of fabric on the front stacked with both fabrics right side up. I like to complete the basting step by machine so I dropped my feed dogs and from the back I basted on all the drawn lines.

Basted on wrong side

For this tutorial I intentionally used black thread in the bobbin – so you would be able to see the basting on the front. That was a good thing because then I was also able to see it!!

Front side of the basted design

At this point I paused for a reality check. Did I really want to work with those tiny seam allowances? Reviewing the image of the original quilt I noted that this block is repeated three times and each version looks a little different than the other two blocks. I took that as my sign and decided it really didn’t matter how close to the original my block turned out. I set to work and trimmed the entire block.Some appliquers prefer to cut as they stitch but I like to get all the excess fabric out of the way so I can see exactly where I need to needle turn.

The stitching went fine as long as I didn’t try to rush. I just turned a bit and stitched a bit until the entire design was appliqued. I stitched the circles last so I could shape them to fit the open space between the other motifs. At one point I felt disappointed that they had become so much smaller than the original drawing and considered cutting new, larger circles and covering them. But if I had done that I wouldn’t be able to say it was cut from one piece of cloth, and besides, I had already coached myself that it didn’t really matter.

Finished 8″ x 8″ block

The reverse applique was the scary part. All the rest of the stitching was already completed when I took my small sharp scissors and cut a slit. I almost couldn’t breathe. It was a month’s worth of applique work resting on the tips of those scissors. But cut I did! Over the next four evenings I completed one reverse applique slit per night. Slow and steady – each stitch was carefully placed.

I marvel to think how the original quiltmaker got such narrow reverse applique slits in her work, but I’ve decided to concede the small seam allowance prize to her. If you are making this quilt too and are feeling challenged by the small seam allowances relax a little and resist the urge to compare to the original. I like my finished block just fine and I’ll like the other two versions even better because they aren’t quite as fancy!

Here are my first nine completed blocks. I think my Fancy Work block looks nice with the group.

The first nine blocks of the Triplett Sisters BOM

To see the original quilt and learn more about this BOM click 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



Design Wall Monday – Fourteen Years and Still Going!

Every winter I work on a particular pastel applique’ project. Come January, to get re-inspired, I put all the completed blocks on the design wall. I go great guns for two or three months, then for no special reason, I stop, pack it all into it’s plastic bin, and put it back on the shelf. This has been going on for fourteen years!

This year, as per usual, I got fired up to work on it. I did an inventory and discovered I only had three pieced blocks left to sew and was over two thirds done with the appliqued blocks. I don’t keep them up all the time but today my design wall features the blocks I’ve completed so far. A few early blocks were appliqued with freezer paper – that was before I learned the Back Basting Applique’ method. Aren’t they pretty?

Grandma's Country Album blocks by Robert Callaham for McCall's Quilting Magazine

Grandma’s Country Album blocks, pattern by Robert Callaham for McCall’s Quilting Magazine

Why do some projects get the best of us? This one drags me down because it’s pastels. Don’t get me wrong, I like the blocks. And I like the fabrics. It’s going to be a gorgeous quilt when it’s done. It’s just that it’s so, well – pastel and I seldom work in pastels. I chose the fabrics after I saw a picture in McCall’s Quilting magazine. It was the Country Album II Quilt – stitched in pastels. It was beautiful. In the same issue I found an ad for the pattern so I ordered it.

The booklet arrived. On the back was an ad showing the original Grandma’s Country Album pattern booklet. I didn’t even know about it! So I ordered it too, I would put the blocks from both projects together into one quilt.

Here they are, my original pattern booklets

Here they are, my original pattern booklets

That was 14 years ago.

Now it is March. Two months of “stitching great guns on it” has passed. I feel the urge to pack it up. But, I want to finish it. I want to move all those fabrics to their appropriate color bins so I can use them in other projects. I want to free up the space that big project bin consumes on the closet shelf. I need motivation. And I think I just found it! At Amazon.com, where I discovered my very same pattern offered for sale – for $75.00! (Album II was a mere $40.00.) There was a note on the Amazon page that said, “Rare!” I guess so! I paid $6.95 for each booklet. Maybe I should take better care of my copies. I could sell them when I’m finished making my quilt. Or rent them! Or just own them!

I’ve gotta go, I have pastel blocks to sew!!

Most recently completed block, "Grandma's Wreath"

Most recently completed block, “Grandma’s Wreath”

Click here to go to The Patchwork Times and you can see what others have on their design walls today.


Today I applique’

Okay, all you applique’ enthusiasts – have you been wondering if I have become so caught up in my tiny stars project that I no longer applique’? I can see how you might get that impression but let’s get real here! Give up applique’? NEVER! I’m in for the long hall. Which means that I generally have three, or four, or five, or more, applique’ projects going on at one given time. And just to prove it, I’m going to let you take a look in my sewing bag. I’ll show you the current projects I’m working on plus anything else we find! This could get interesting.

Handwork to go bag

Handwork to go bag. It isn’t big – only 11″ x 9″ x 4″.

A peek into my sewing bag

Take a peek.

Okay, let’s empty it and see the goods!

What can I say? When you need them you need them!

What can I say? When you need them you need them!

My applique' on the go kit

Applique’ on the go kit.

Misc thread and tools

Misc thread and tools.

Star a day kit. (Sheepish grin) Gotta get it done too!

Star a day kit. (Sheepish grin) Gotta get it done too!

It's a secret. I'll show you after my guild challenge due date.

Applique’ project #1. It’s a secret. I’ll show you after my guild’s challenge due date in April.

Pastel applique' project. Currently on year 15!

Applique’ project #2. Currently on year 15!

Current Lady of the Sea block.

Applique’ project #3. Current Lady of the Sea block.

This block is huge - 32".

Applique’ project #4. New for 2014 – this block is huge – 32″.

The following item is not actually in the bag but it’s next to it, ready to work when the whim strikes me.

English Paper piecing project. A frisbee is the perfect work tray!

English Paper piecing project. A Frisbee is the perfect work tray!

And a few random items that I can clean out.

a 2007 invoice, a pattern cover but no trace of the block, and yes, those are tea bags, Republic Tea, Ginger Peach, to be exact!

a 2007 invoice, a pattern cover but no trace of the block, and yes, those are tea bags, Republic of  Tea, Ginger Peach, to be exact!

And last of all.

A gift for my Sweet 16 quilting machine from a quilting friend.

A gift for my Sweet 16 quilting machine from a quilting friend.

Sometimes there is an embroidery hoop and floss stuffed in there too, but I’m between projects on that front.

Now then, after cleaning out my handwork bag, I’m in the mood to applique’!



Design Wall Monday – Rocking Chairs and Small Ships

Design Wall Monday, hosted by Judy at The Patchwork Times is a fun way to share with other like-minded individuals just what’s going on in the sewing room. Today my sewing room is all neat and tidy with pretties displayed on the design wall instead of works in progress. That’s because my quilt guild had a sewing room tour last Thurs and my room was one of four featured so I had to doll things up a bit. Read about getting ready for the tour and see before and after photos of my sewing room by clicking here.

So here’s a peek at what’s on my design wall:

Synchronized Swimming

from a Marti Michell pattern.

(Made with curved templates for the Marti and Me Club that I lead at Quilting Bits and Pieces in Eudora, KS)

 turtles cropped

And Rocking Chair clip art ideas for a row quilt exchange I am participating in.


And since I’m ready to mess up my sewing room again, I’m on a new mission. Quilters have been asking me about using back basting applique’ on different types of projects such as Baltimore Album quilts with tiny pieces and many layers, Mola quilts with many levels of reverse applique and other designs with many complicated shapes or tiny pieces. I am usually attracted to simpler designs, and don’t often work in the more complicated styles, but I think back basting will work for all of them  – it just requires thinking ahead and working a layer at a time. I’m setting out to prove to myself that it will work.

I went to the book shelf seeking the hardest applique’ patterns in my collection.   I selected three books containing patterns that I consider complicated applique’.

Here they are from Left to Right:

Wilflower Album, by Bea Oglesby; Little Brown Bird, by Margaret Docherty; and some of the designs in Beloved Baltimore Album Quilts, by Elly Sienkiewicz.


First up will be this lovely little sailing ship from Elly’s book. I’m going to stitch it on an 8″ finished block.


It can’t be any more challenging than cleaning my sewing room!


Design Wall Monday-Summer Thunderstorms

There is no greater excuse to stay indoors and sew during the summer than a heat wave followed by a thunderstorm!

My husband was away for the weekend and I planned to either garden or sew while home alone. Mother Nature helped me decide and I used excuse number 1 (heat advisory) the first day and excuse number 2 (thunder showers) on the second day and stayed in and stitched. The outside gardens remain neglected but lots of flowers have bloomed under my needle!

So here is what’s on my design wall today:ships and border 1 adjusted

The first border of my Ladies of the Sea plus the first four blocks that I finished earlier this year.

Here is a detail of the center section of the border:border 1 detail adjusted

This project is only overwhelming if you start it then barely sew on it for three months. Voice of experience? Yes, darn it!  But I still have three more borders to sew. I’m looking at that as three more opportunities to show that I have the power to overcome my own procrastinating!

That said, there will be no handwork this week as I have agreed to open my sewing room for my local quilt guild’s tour of member’s sewing spaces. Our program coordinator caught me at a weak moment and got me to agree to participate so now I have to clear a path so visitors can get in beyond the doorway. Maybe I will post some before and after pictures just for the fun of it!



Slow Stitching

My Aunt Jane was a professional dressmaker and alterations instructor. She has excellent hand and machine workmanship but if she could avoid handwork and accomplish a task on the machine, she did. Focusing on her work she found the most efficient way to get the job done without sacrificing quality.

In her later years, retired from teaching and sewing for others, Aunt Jane learned to quilt. She showed me a series of hand appliqued and hand quilted wallhangings that she made in a class. As she held them out for me to see, she groaned and said, “All that handwork!” But she did it. And her quilt work is as beautiful as her dressmaking.

Last month I visited my aunt, now 85 years old. I showed her my new book, “Back Basting Applique, Step by Step”. She looked at every page in the book then closed the cover, handed it back to me and said, “It makes me want to cry.” I asked, “Why?” She smiled and said, “All that applique! It makes me want to cry!” Ah yes, it’s handwork, of course it makes her feel like crying!

As for me, I love applique. I’ve been making appliqued quilts for over 25 years. When I learned to applique in the mid-1980s I stitched entirely by hand. Then I found ways to speed up my sewing – I discovered freezer paper applique and clear nylon thread and was soon making and teaching invisible machine applique. It was fun. It was fast. I was hooked.

With my Bernina sewing machine I got good results but my students were not always successful. Some came to class with old machines prone to tension problems expecting the same results I got with my machine. They were frustrated and so was I. So, I made a decision to quit teaching invisible machine applique, saving us all the aggravation.

But I didn’t stop teaching freezer paper applique – I just switched back to hand sewing. I got nice results. My students got nice results. Everyone was happy.

I wasn’t intentionally setting out on a grand return to hand sewing. I didn’t plan to abandon my sewing machine in exchange for needle and thread.

But something was afoot. Enthusiasm for handwork was spreading. At Quilting Bits and Pieces in Eudora, KS, where I teach appliqué and quilting classes, the customers come from miles around to shop for supplies and inspiration. Known locally for hand work, specifically twilling, embroidery, applique and more recently, Brazilian embroidery and crazy quilting, the shop is a haven for hand stitchers.

When did we slow down? When did I slow down?

I thought back to a visit with my friend Rachel in the summer of 2000. As we chatted I pulled out my handwork and enjoyed her shock when she saw me sewing by hand. When we were neighbors a number of years prior, I was all about doing things fast – and all on the machine, yet there I was doing hand stitching – slow stitching.

Rachel’s amusement at my hand sewing in the summer of 2000 marks a transition in my quilting life. It was the beginning of my return to doing more hand applique. In 2002 I learned about Back Basting Applique – a needle turn, hand applique technique. Now it’s my favorite appliqué technique.

I had no idea that a movement was underway – a slow stitching movement. Just recently I heard the term for the first time, so of course, I did an internet search. I was curious. What is ‘slow stitiching’ anyway?

Slow stitching is embroidery and applique; it is handwork and machine work. It’s stitching – any stitching that is slow, careful and methodical. I found images of hand stitched garments and quilts. I found stories of taking time and developing a relationship with your needle and thread as you sew. You might say that slow stitching is an attitude. Sure, it’s mostly about handwork but it isn’t exclusive to handwork. I think my Aunt Jane’s perfectly machine stitched cuffs and collars and beautifully machine bound button holes are slow stitching too. Aunt Jane didn’t like all the handwork associated with dressmaking; she was focused on the finished product and getting the job done and yet she never lost sight of the importance of working slowly and carefully toward her goal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up my sewing machine, but let’s slow down. Let’s get to know the feel of the fibers in our hands as we move the needle and thread through the cloth or as we pass it under the machine needle. Let’s enjoy the journey and do some slow stitching!


Design Wall Monday – Ladies of the Sea

When I started this website I dreamt of it being a collection point for stories about some of my favorite things. I wanted to write about teaching myself to bake pies, about growing up on a farm, the books I love and, of course, quilts. That said, I thought it was high time I posted something about quilts. Today I am linking to Judy Laquidara’s The Patchwork Times through her Design Wall Monday program. Each Monday she hosts a peek into quilter’s sewing rooms to see what others are working on. I have followed Design Wall Monday for a long time – two years, or more, but today is my first time to link my own design wall. So here we go!

I love appliqué. I have multiple appliqué projects in progress at any given time but generally focus on one as my primary project. Currently it is Ladies of the Sea, by Susan Garman of Quakertown Quilts. In Jan I started with great gusto and completed the first four blocks in record time.Ladies of the sea 1 2 and 3

block 4

Then I started a border and my motor stalled. I have been spinning my wheels on it for three months. Maybe, just maybe, by posting it here I will become energized to stay on task! Here is part of the first border:Border 1

I am using Back Basting Appliqué on this project. It is the subject of my new book, Back Basting Appliqué Step by Step, which just released last month. Check it out at shopMartingale.com or click on the author button over there on the right, up on top. My border has most of the first layer of motifs appliquéd and I have begun adding the stems.

Check out what others are working on at Judy’s website by clicking here. And come back to blog.barbsfavorites.com periodically to see what else I have found to distract me from finishing my border!