When it comes to applique, there are as many opinions about it as quilters about what their favorite is and how to accomplish it. If you’re looking to get into applique in a way that is fun and (relatively) simple, then you may want to consider raw-edge applique as your technique of choice.
Raw-edge means just that: the applique is cut from fabric (most often quilting cotton) and sewn to the backing fabric using a variety of stitches. This is made much easier, though, by using a fusible web to hold the applique in place so it doesn’t shift when you’re stitching! You know how I said there are as many ways to applique as quilters? Well, everyone has a favorite method for fusing raw-edge applique, too, and are even more excitable if you ask them about the fusible webbing they use. My advice is to try a few fusibles (maybe get some friends together and swap. There’s Heat N Bond and Heat N Bond Lite, Steam-a-Seam and Steam-a-Seam 2, Wonder Under, and more). This type of “pressing party” is also something you can do when trying out different stabilizers, and it’s fun to do it as part of a big group as everyone experiments. Here are two different ways you can fuse, starting with what, to me, is the easiest!
Get yourself a glue stick, either specifically for sewing, like SewLine, or even washable school glue. Cut out your applique as desired and lightly swipe the glue stick along the edges, being careful not to distort or shred them. Place it where you want on the background fabric and heat set it with an iron. That last bit is critical if you don’t want to get glue all over your needle and pushed into the inside of your machine. Once it’s ironed and set, you’re fine!
Fusible web is a non-woven webbing of a substance that turns sticky like glue with the presence of heat, and sometimes heat and steam. There are different weights, but for a quilt top the lightest versions are better. One side of this webbing is backed with paper, and you can draw your applique shapes directly on it before cutting them out. Personally, I like to draw a shape, then roughly cut it out, and then cut out the interior about 1/2″ away from the edge so that I have a ring of fusible web, and not one solid piece. I think this make the quilt feel nicer in the end.
After adhering the fusible web to the wrong side of the fabric I want to use for applique, then I will cut along the lines I had drawn originally, leaving a nice crisp edge. The webbing does two things for me at this point: It keeps the cut ends of the applique from fraying too badly, and it holds it in place once I iron it onto the backing fabric.
Some Additional Tools You Might Want
No doubt about it, using any kind of method to stick your applique in place can be messy. Because of that, you may want to consider a teflon or silicone pressing sheet. These are made specifically for applique, and sometimes look like hey can do double duty for making cookies. The nice thing about these is that it is a simple thing to scrape up the leftover webbing that has melted to the silicone surface, and it protects your iron and ironing board. Nothing stinks more than accidentally getting leftover burnt goop on a quilt top by accident. Or your clothes, if you actually use your ironing board for that.
Got a fusible application besides raw-edge applique? Shout it out in the comments!