|Trace the template onto the back of the fabric.
Appliqué is something I do not do a great deal of,
because I am not overly fond of (nor very good at) trying to turn under curves and the
pointed ends of things. However, I recently made a king-sized quilt for my son and
soon to be wife in autumn colors that cried out to have leaves appliquéd around its
I remembered Debby Kratovil’s idea of recycling used
dryer sheets for the backs of appliqué. First, you trace the shape you want onto the
wrong side of a piece of fabric. Then, you lay the fabric right side down on a dryer
sheet and stitch around the outline of the shape. Next, you trim the seam to ¼ inch,
slit a small opening in the dryer sheet and turn the shape right side out. Poke out
the seam gently with an orange stick and iron, and there you have your shape ready to
appliqué, either by hand or by machine.
|Slit the tulle backing after it has been stitched to the fabric.
One little problem: I did not have enough used dryer
sheets. There’s only my husband and myself, so we’re only talking four or five loads
of laundry a week. Would I have to go through the neighborhood, soliciting laundry in
order to have enough used dryer sheets to recycle for the 50+ leaves I wanted to
appliqué on my quilt?
But, innovation being a common characteristic of quilters
and necessity being the mother of invention, I stumbled onto a wonderful substitute.
Tulle. In fact, it worked even better than dryer sheets. (More about that in a minute.)
I rummaged through my humongous collection of scraps, weird fabrics, and other oddities
related to quilting, and discovered a large chunk (about 1 ½ yards) of off-white tulle,
which I had bought several years ago for an artsy fabric collage I made.
|Use an orange stick to smooth out the curves after turning the applique inside out.
I quickly grabbed one of my autumnal fabrics, traced the
shape of a leaf on the back, laid it on a piece of the tulle, and stitched around the
shape. I trimmed it, slit the back, and turned it inside out, and there was another
leaf, ready to be appliquéd.
The tulle worked wonderfully well. It was even lighter
weight than the dryer sheets (in case you are wondering, I do not like to use feasible
interfacing because it makes the appliqué stiff) and also was more easily smoothed to
the underside of the shape, after the shape had been turned inside out.
|An example of the finished appliques sewn onto the border of the quilt.
One caution when using tulle or a similar material that is
made of a synthetic: Set your iron to the nylon setting when you iron each shape after
turning. If you don’t, you will end up as I did (it only took one time) with an appliqué
whose reverse side has melted.
So, next time you make shapes to appliqué, check out your
scraps and/or leftover fabric from Halloween costumes or party dresses that you thought
you’d never have a use for and see if perhaps you might just have some tulle or something
else, similarly light weight to back them with.
©2003 Patricia Littlefield