Quilt First?

Sometimes, when designing an appliqué  quilt, we’d like the background or filler quilting to flow smoothly around or behind the appliqué motifs. This can be quite time consuming and more than a little tricky. Let’s look at some ways to get around this by quilting first, and appliquéing  second. Here are a few examples:

Machine Quilting Unlimited ©Diane Rusin Doran Filler Finesse
Sample quilt from Filler Finesse column, Machine Quilting Unlimited March/April 2013 ©Diane Rusin Doran

In this first sample I wanted the linear fill to the left of the flower to flow without interruption. The easiest way to do this was to quilt that section of the quilt before applying the flower. You can see that the feathery fill was added later to fit in the nooks and crannies of the flower.

Machine Quilting Unlimited ©Diane Rusin Doran
Sample quilt from Filler Finesse column, Machine Quilting Unlimited May/June 2012 ©Diane Rusin Doran

My intention for the fill behind the blue bird was to create a radiant effect. This would have been difficult to accomplish after applying the appliqué motifs, so I quilted the entire background before adding any appliqué elements.

Patricia Caldwell shares a very detailed look at this process in her article Piece and Quilt – then Appliqué! in our July/August 2016 issue. She includes lots of tips about marking, fusibles, appliqué techniques, and more.

Seashell Flowers ©Patricia Caldwell Machine Quilting Unlimited
Seashell Flowers ©Patricia Caldwell
Seashell Flowers ©Patricia Caldwell Machine Quilting Unlimited
Detail Quail Tree  ©Patricia Caldwell
Seashell Flowers ©Patricia Caldwell Machine Quilting Unlimited
Detail Seashell Flowers ©Patricia Caldwell

The flow of Patricia’s intricate quilting would be impossible to achieve if she’d appliquéd first.

Here’s one last example.

Machine Quilting Unlimited ©Diane Rusin Doran
Sample quilt from Filler Finesse column, Machine Quilting Unlimited July/August 2013 ©Diane Rusin Doran

In this small piece the blue background was quilted first, then the vase and flowers were added. Additional quilting in a lighter color of thread adds an airy look to the arrangement.

This technique might not be the best choice for a very traditional appliqué project, but it could be just the ticket for a variety of other quilts.

3 Responses to Quilt First?

  1. Diane —

    This is a great idea. Once the background is quilted, do you attach the appliqué by machine? If so, does it matter that the stitches for the appliqué will now show on the back of the quilt? And is there a trick to keep the quilted stitches from showing through the appliqué pieces?

    Thanks for your time and for sharing your talent with us.

    (Another) Diane

  2. Hi Diane, I’m not sure that I saw this comment before now (sorry!). I do attach the appliqué by machine. Whether or not the stitches on the appliqué matter on the back depends on the circumstance. For exhibition alone they certainly don’t, for some quilt competitions they might. If you leave the edges raw and just quilt around the appliqué or on top of it using straight stitches no one will be the wiser. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

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