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Under the Veranda Block 8 – Appliqué

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This block seemed to cause a lot of confusion during our block of the month meeting, so I thought I would make this post a little more detailed than usual in the hopes of helping out anyone else that is tackling this. There were a couple different methods suggested for doing this block. One of which was a somewhat complicated method of cutting out the petal shapes from the yellow material, then fusing the petals to the green background fabric (behind the flower) before fusing the yellow flower down on top of the petals.

However, when I read the instructions, the way I interpreted it was that you were supposed to fuse the petal pieces on top of the yellow material. This seemed to make the most sense from multiple perspectives, so I went with that. I do agree that the instructions weren’t written very clearly, and I can see how people were confused by it. (who knows, maybe I am the one that is confused)

Fusible web on back of yellow fabric

Fusible web on back of yellow fabric, before cutting it out

This month’s block is a large appliquéd flower that is pretty complex compared to the last appliqué block we did. The first step was tracing the pattern onto the fusible web, as usual. The yellow flower background is traced onto the fusible web all in one piece, without the leaves. Then the areas where the petals were traced are cut out of the fusible web to reduce the amount of adhesive on the quilt, which can cause stiffness. The petals, leaves, and the leaf borders are then traced separately, and again the inner area of each is removed in order to reduce adhesive. As you trace these things, it is helpful to label each piece so you will know where to place it.

Right off the bat, this is the first place you can go wrong while making this block. The pattern is not symmetrical and appears to have been drawn free hand. This means that even though it doesn’t look it at first glance, direction matters with this design because all the pieces are unique. If you don’t reverse your pattern when tracing it on the fusible, all of your pieces will come out backwards and it will make life difficult when trying to position things. This also means labeling is extremely important, or you will be spending a lot of time trying to figure out which piece is which.

Using my monitor as a light box

Using my monitor as a light box

This was where I made my first mistake with this block… I didn’t even think about direction! So, to compensate for this. I ended up using my computer monitor as a light box, flipped the pattern over and traced along the back with a black marker. I chose to do it with the bold marker so that I could see it through the fabric more easily. Then, I placed my yellow background flower (which I had cut out earlier) over the pattern on my makeshift light box, and traced the petal placement lines.

Placement markings for the petals

Placement markings for the petals (not fused to background)

For tracing the petal lines I used a Frixion pen, which disappears when you apply heat. While I had the pen in hand, I went ahead and labeled the petal pieces as well so that I would know which was which after the paper backing had been removed. (Word of caution with Frixion pens: cold temperatures make the lines reappear. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you are leaving the quilt outside in winter, and even then a quick tumble in the dryer or swipe of the iron will fix it.)

This is also where I made my second mistake. The leaf pieces in the pattern only show dotted lines underneath the yellow flower background, signifying you should place the leaf under the yellow flower background. Without thinking, I traced and cut the tip of my leaves right along the line that separated the leaf tip and the leaf border since there was no indication it should overlap. I wish I had extended the leaf tip so that it would layer under the leaf border. I discovered this oversight when it came time to fuse the leaf borders in place, and compensated by moving the borders down a little lower to cover the edge of the leaf piece.

Fusing everything in place was a fairly easy affair between my placement lines and the use of my appliqué pressing sheet. First I removed the fusible’s paper backing from all of the petal pieces, but left the backing on the yellow fabric. Arranging the pieces was an easy matter thanks to the lines marked with the Frixion pen, then I used my handy Clover Mini Iron to tack them in place. For the petals I used Soft Fuse, which is a nice fusible that is softer than others, only takes a 3-5 seconds to bond, and does not require steam. It doesn’t have quite as strong of a bond as some others, but it is easy to work with… especially with the tiny Mini Iron that lacks steam.

To help with the placement of the leaves, I used my appliqué pressing sheet. This is a wonderful invention! Since it is translucent, you can put your pattern beneath it to use as a guide. Then you can bond your appliqué pieces together accurately, and easily peel them off the sheet so that you can create one large appliqué piece before fusing it to your background fabric as a whole. It is especially useful for making appliqué designs that have lots of layered elements, like the Topeka Rose blocks I did for Plain & Fancy.

One very important thing to note here! When fusing the leaf into place, DO NOT fuse all the way to the edge. You will need to fuse just enough to hold it in place. Leave the edges free so that you can slide the leaf border under the yellow background flower. Once the leaf border is in place, fuse it all down.

This is where I made my third mistake by leaving a tiny gap between one of the leaves and the yellow fabric, although I didn’t notice until after I had stitched it. More on that a bit later, but be cautious when placing your leaves… don’t make the same mistake!

The pattern instructions have you cut the green background fabric (as in the fabric that will be behind the large appliqué flower) to 17 inches, and then trim it down to 16.5 inches once all the stitching is done. What is the point in wasting effort measuring and centering twice? I just made sure I had plenty of space on all sides of my flower to make it center up later, and then fused it down with my regular iron. Remember how I said I just tacked the petals down with the Mini Iron earlier? That was because I knew I would have to hit it again with the iron, and sometimes fusible doesn’t like being heated too much or too often. Since I used Fusi Bond Lite (it is larger than my Soft Fuse sheets) for the yellow flower, I had to hit it with steam this time and press it a little longer. Then I gave every piece of appliqué the fingernail test to make sure nothing popped up before continuing.

Since everything was now fused, it was time to start stitching! Tips for this include:

1) Always do some test stitches first on scrap material to find your preferred stitch and stitch length. Make notes on the scrap material as to which stitch and stitch length you used, so you will remember later. This is also a good time to practice stitching a few curves and corners if you need to… just draw out some shapes on the scrap material and practice stitching around them.

2) Tear away stabilizer is very helpful in making your stitches sit nicely on top of your fabric rather than bunching or pulling your fabric. Spray starch also helps in this.

3) If your machine has a “needle down” mode, use it! Same goes for an appliqué presser foot.

4) GO SLOW. Focus on accuracy. Speed will follow accuracy, but accuracy seldom follows speed. Even if this means taking one stitch, stopping, turning the fabric slightly, taking the next stitch, stopping…

5) This is a matter of preference, but I suggest not stitching right on the edge of the appliqué piece. Some people prefer to have their stitching cover the edge of the fabric, but this can cause fraying as the needle chips away at the edge. I keep my stitching just to the outside of the appliqué piece.

6) If your machine has a button that will restart a stitch at the beginning, this can be quite useful with turning corners… sometimes you just don’t need another horizontal stitch so close to the one you just made before turning a tight corner.

Now, for my mistake. How on earth I didn’t see this until after I had already stitched so much around it, I don’t know. It must have just been because it was late and I should have been sleeping, not stitching. Anyhow, I saw it almost immediately the next morning when I decided to have a quick look at it in the light of day.

Luckily I was able to gently pry the fabric up with my stiletto, which gave me some hope. It also further pointed out how much of the edge I had missed. To fix it, I used my seam ripper to cut the blanket stitching from the yellow fabric right in the middle of the stitches that needed to be removed. I then carefully (so as not to break the thread) picked the stitches out to a place a bit past the edge of the leaf border, and then used a hand needle to run the thread tails to the back and tie them off.

I then very carefully slid the side of the stiletto beneath the leaf border and yellow flower fabric, gently finessing the fusible to let go. Once the fusible on top of the leaf had been convinced to let go, I did the same to remove the leaf from the green background fabric. It went surprisingly well and the leaf was only frayed a little along the edges. But, then I stupidly ironed it on top of a teflon sheet on my ironing surface, thinking it wouldn’t stick. Wrong! Prying it up from that wasn’t quite so easy. I knew I should have done it on my appliqué sheet! So, I cut another leaf piece. I am really racking up the mistakes on this one! When cutting this time, at least I knew to make the leaf a little larger so that I had more wiggle room when sliding it under the other fabrics. Another quick press of the iron and all was right again.

After stitching center circle

After stitching center circle

Once I was finally finished stitching all my pieces, it was time to decide what fabric I wanted for the center circle. I first pulled out my trusty circle stencil and marked a circle on a scrap of fusible. Then I looked through my spare fabric to see what I liked. I decided to go with the same pink fabric that was used on the outer petals of the flower, and when I was positioning the fusible on the back of the fabric I discovered that the circles in the fabric were only slightly larger than the circle I had traced! So, I ended up just cutting along the edge of the fabric’s circle. Since it was so small, I just chose to do a straight stitch around it.

My stitching is far from perfect, but it will definitely pass if you don’t look too closely! After all that stitching was finally done and the stabilizer was picked out, the only thing left to do was trim the block down to 16.5″ and add a simple border around the edge using the same yellow fabric as the flower’s background.

So glad this block is done with!! Stitching around all those points and curves was a pain, and I was constantly fixing mistakes. Hopefully the experience will help with the next appliqué project though. Which I need to do soon… those Topeka Rose blocks are still waiting to be stitched.

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