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Using Tulle or Similar Fabrics to Back Appliqué posted: 2/24/2004
by Patricia Littlefield Printable Page
Category: Applique Method: All
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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 borders.

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

www.thequiltercommunity.com

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