Thursday, May 1, 2014

basic Machine Applique {tutorial}

time to quilt!

I have a beautiful dresden plate and some English paper pieced flowers to incorporate into a collaborative bee quilt.  I've chosen to applique them since they already have finished edges.  The turned under edges are easy to layer right on the quilt top and attach via machine.  No fuss, no muss.  Here's how!

Step 1:  Prepare Foundation

To applique means to add a second layer of fabric or embellishment.  That means you need to have an intact foundation layer first!  I pieced a yellow square of fabric into my quilt top as a background for the dresden block.  As a design feature, the dresden is purposefully larger than the yellow background square, and will spill over the edges of nearby blocks in a (hopefully) interesting way.

Sulky Totally Stable

Step 2:  Use a Stabilizer

A stabilizer is a temporary bit of extra... stabilization.  Using a stabilizer helps guard against puckers in the foundation fabric or in your applique layer due to things shifting as you sew.  Especially with machine applique, a stabilizer may be key to smooth results.  

Your local sewing store likely stocks many, many stabilizers.   Differences usually involve how the stabilizer is removed when you're done sewing.  I'm using one made by Sulky called Totally Stable.

Cut your stabilizer to be somewhat larger than your applique shape.

cut stabilizer to size

Attach stabilizer to the back of the work-in-progress.  This particular kind of stabilizer irons on, so I don't have to use pins or a hoop to hold it in place.

affix stabilizer

You can actually add more than one layer of stabilizer if you feel you need even more stabilization. 

Step 3:  Applique

Position the applique layer as desired and pin generously. Be sure that both the background and the applique layer are laying flat before proceeding.


Sew very close to the turned under edges of your shape.  Backstitch at start and finish to secure stitches.

machine stitch

Step 4:  Remove Stabilizer

Follow the directions on your stabilizer packaging to remove the stabilizer after sewing.  Totally Stable is a tear-away product.  It tears off from the back of the work, perforating at the stitch lines.  I appreciate that I do not have to wet or dampen my work to remove the stabilizer, since that process is more time consuming and might stretch or warp the work.

remove stabilizer



Guess what?  When I was completely done with the quilt top, I decided one thing had to change.  That block to the right of the appliqued dresden plate is so neat, but together with the dresden plate it's too busy.  I did some quilt surgery to remove that pinwheel-ish block and used it as a focal point on the quilt back instead.

trying some echo quilting

And now I'm quilting!  Trying something new.  Fingers crossed!

Any other simple applique tricks or favorite stabilizers?  Feel free to share your tips in the comments!

*This post includes affiliate Amazon links to Totally Stable. 


  1. Your dresden is beautiful! Thanks for the tutorial - I haven't seen this technique before!

    1. Welcome! But the dresden is made by my bee-mate Natalie of Greenleaf Goods. It is gorgeous!

  2. I love what you did with Natalie's dresden! I hope you're going to throw this into the pool for Quiltcon. I know you haven't shown the fully thing, but judging from the little sneak peeks, this is going to be gorgeous!

    1. Thanks so much, Sarah! Heather Grant is deciding which quilts are considered for the bee vote. We'll see if she likes it =)

  3. I love the way the dresden is bigger than the background block.

  4. The surgery was a good choice, better to focus one on each side than to have them fight for attention. SO gorgeous! This might be my favorite collaborative quilt yet!

  5. What a great idea! I've done a few Dresden plates and this method would have been great to use (now I know). Love how the plate goes out of bounds ~

  6. I like to attach the applique with basting glue before sewing it, instead of pins. I use a tiny amount of Elmer's washable School Glue along the edge and it secures it perfectly, no shifting or puckering or lost pins or puncture wounds.

  7. Is it necessary to use stablizer when doing dresden blocks? I was thinking of working a quilt and am curious. Thanks for the help.

    1. It may not be necessary. Probably depends on how stiff your block is (using starch helps with that) and how your machine feeds fabric. Using a stabilizer is like having insurance against puckering, but it's not always necessary. Feel free to experiment...always!

  8. I've just been looking for a tutorial on this very method! Serendipity. :) your bee mates gave you some fabulous blocks! Looking forward to the finish.


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