Reverse Applique: A Weekend Sampler

I think one big secret to any successful art quilt design is making samples. A sample is a helpful way to “audition” a technique on a micro-level before taking the plunge into the art quilt itself. So, this past Saturday I made a small sample using sheer fabrics and reverse applique. I learned both techniques from Libby Lehman, who is a very gifted artist and teacher, and I encourage anyone who reads this to look into her work.

Before starting my project I first had to make some scones, though: a weekend morning is all about carbs and coffee. There are lots of scone recipes online; this one is pretty good, though I substituted plain yogurt for vanilla yogurt and added a bit more sugar, and I used half spelt flour, and I baked the scones on parchment. But this recipe gives you the proportions. Here are the scones,  just egg-washed:

While I was winding my bobbins I let them over-bake, but they turned out really good:

Thus armed, I started my sample.

In my current project, I have a “design motif” of a flower-shape based on desert verbena. I want to repeat this design motif multiple times in my piece; this is generally a good design principle, at least for me. Using sheer fabric to add a thin, nearly transparent applique is one way; using reverse applique is another way: both of these techniques add very little heft to the quilt top itself.

In both reverse applique and sewing sheer fabrics onto a quilt top, you need a background fabric, which in this case is yellow hand-dyed cotton sateen and is about the size of a fat-eighth; on top of the yellow fabric is a layer of pink polyester tulle, which I’d painted to get that color, if you look at the bottom left corner you can see the 2 fabrics:

Flipped over, you can see I’ve attached some stabilizer scraps with spray-adhesive. The stabilizer is a cotton-pulp fiber that I got on a giant roll from a company in Minnesota; it works well with my machine– you have to experiment with your machine to figure out which stabilizer works best.

So, to get started, I now have the following fabric sandwich: background fabric, tulle on the top and stabilizer on the back:

Below on the left is a pattern for a large verbena flower; I drew the design on the stabilizer part of the fabric sandwich:

Then I sewed over the drawn line with straight-stitch (use a small stitch) along the drawn line. I then reinforced with another line of stitch to make sure it was nice and strong, this is what it looks like on the back….

…and the front…

I then pulled off all the stabilizer from the back, then gently snipped away all the unnecessary tulle on the front, and all that was left was this nice flower held in place with 2 rows of straight-stitch:

So. Now I want to actually start the reverse-applique; I have one layer, now on to the second layer. I draw an outline of the same shape, just smaller:

I then pick the fabric for this flower, a fuschia I dyed, and I used spray adhesive to attach the stabilizer to the wrong side of the fabric; the fuschia fabric is then placed under the yellow fabric, so that the new small flower shape is directly over the fuschia fabric underneath:

Because I use an older machine, I have to unscrew the presser foot in order to fit my embroidery hoop under the needle; then I reattached the presser foot.

The new fabric sandwich–yellow fabric on top, fushia fabric with stabilizer underneath– is then slid into the embroidery hoop, and again straight stitch is used (small stitch) to stitch over the drawn flower shape.

Once sewn, the new, smaller verbena looks like this:

I carefully used snips and cut away the top yellow fabric to reveal the fuschia underneath; at this point I realized I needed to use reverse applique again to make the small pink center for the flower, so I did that in a pinch, using the same techiques described above: now, I have 3 layers: tulle flower, reverse applique flower and reverse applique flower center. Cool!

The whole piece then goes back in the embroidery hoop and I used satin stitch over the raw edges of the flower. It looks OK; my foot pedal had a small short in it which just got worse as I sewed, to a point where I could only get the machine to sew if I used the ball of my foot: an ergonomic nightmare.  So it’s not the best satin stitch;  I didn’t bother trying to finish the center.

So, the general idea is to use the above technique on my big project; here’s an idea of where some of the shapes might be placed:

But my sewing machine is in the shop now, as of this morning: oh well. Looks like I’ll be working on fiddle tunes the next few days…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s