Hawaiian Appliqué Advice for Beginners

Hawaiian Appliqué Advice for Beginners

If all a beginner has is the excellent and cheap (about $7) Dover book by Elizabeth Root, a little extra advice will come in handy.

On my first full-size piece the batting was polyester and I noticed that while the cotton batting in my small trial piece behaved itself, with the polyester the three layers shifted around in spite of careful allover basting prior to quilting. So instead of cutting the three layers exactly the same size, it is advisable to cut the batting and the bottom layer about an inch bigger all around, and when all the quilting is done, to cut off the extra bottom fabric and batting. Otherwise there is a chance that the bottom layer will not reach one of the corners, which is really something to avoid at all cost!

Another thing I'll do differently next time is to sew on the binding all around the top (and only the top) right after the appliqué work is finished and BEFORE quilting. The reason is because when I sewed on the binding through the poly batting with the sewing machine, the batting shifted under the foot and took the top aside too, so that in some places the binding was not sewn on the top (and I realized this to my horror when I thought the piece was entirely finished and then I saw one inch unraveling next to the binding. Horrors! And I had to undo my blindstitches in the back on some length and repair the damage.)

To avoid this it is therefore advisable to sew on the binding on the top when there is no batting underneath. It is much easier to do it this way. And then one must baste the raw edge of the binding in such a way that it will not interfere with the quilting process, and when the quilting is finished all that's left to do is to blindstitch -by hand of course- the binding to the back. At this point the presence of the batting is not a problem.

One thing about the mitered corners: even though I machine-sew the binding to the top, I do the corners by hand. I haven't found -yet- a way to do a clean mitered corner by machine. At the exact corner the needle must pierce the angle of fabric horizontally to start on the other side and I don't know how to do that by machine, yet it is crucial that the stitching be very precise for the miter to take shape properly on both sides.

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As I said earlier I sewed the binding on the top before starting the quilting process, in order to avoid dealing with a top that was attached to a thick matting and another layer of fabric. So now all I had to do was sew the binding to the back.

Since I use a light, gauzy cotton fabric at the back for quilting, I add a square of fabric identical to the top to sew the binding on. It makes the finished piece stronger and has a clean look. A good trick is to spray-glue the back-square to the back of the piece, so it doesn't move. That is, if you do not intend to make a cushion.

I had actually cut the two squares together last October, and now the bottom one was way bigger than the top, because the top had shrunk considerably, due to the quilting.

(Another problem due to the delay was that the edge of the binding was fraying and the fold I had ironed on for turning under was fading.)

So I had to cut the bottom down to size and I almost screamed when I realized I had cut too much and there was an empty spot in one corner. But somehow by turning the square 90 degrees the problem disappeared, but even after pinning the binding to the back I had a hell of a time basting it. The edge wouldn't fold under properly, the width of the binding was not constant from one end of a side to the other... This is because the binding itself had not shrunk like the top. It was necessary to stretch the binding at the maximum while basting it for the width to be invariable all the way around and identical on both sides (about 1.5 cm). Only then did the binding fall into place naturally. Before I found this out, it was so nerve-wracking that twice, I mean two days in a row, I was tempted to do something rash that might have damaged my work, so instead I gave it up for the day, deciding that putting a good night sleep between me and the problem might help. Which it did.

But I had such a hard, hard time I never want to have this problem again so of course I looked for a way to avoid this problem in the future and here is a solution I might try next time:

- Cut the binding just a little wider, double it over lengthwise, iron the fold, sew the doubled raw edge side to the top after appliqué work is finished as indicated earlier; this way there will be no problem with the edge unraveling since there will be no raw edge any more, and there will be no more need to fold the edge under. But it will still be necessary to pull really hard on the binding to stretch it to its full length before basting it to the back after the quilting work is finished.

- Binding width: Root suggests 1.5 inches or about 4cm. (From now on I'll mention only metric measurements) Keeping the proportions of the finished piece in mind, a width of 1.5cm is fine. Therefore if one uses the system of the doubled binding, one has to multiply this width by 4 and add the seam allowance of 0.5cm times two, for a total width of 7cm. (All right, that makes 2 and 3/4 inches, but this is the last time!)

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