On hand appliqué

Call it chance, luck, happenstance, coincidence, synchronicity, or (for the rationalists) seeking out opportunity – all of these have come my way over the past couple of weeks when I discovered the pleasure of hand appliqué. No-one is more surprised than I am.


It started some weeks back when I decided I wanted to make a story quilt, using the traditional storytelling method of words. I considered using machine appliqué or embroidery to make the letters. While I was still mulling over this, our quilting group met at the home of Sue Hummel, generous keeper of many books on quilting and embroidery. She urged us to look through and borrow her books and I came home with three: one on Baltimore quilts, one on the Rose of Sharon, and one called Material Obsession 2 by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke. The first two books devote a lot of space to hand apppliqé as a method to make those traditional flower designs, but it was the third book that tipped the balance for me.

Was it happenstance that drew me to the book? It was the clever, ambiguous title that caught my eye, for what is quilting if it is not a material obsession? I was browsing through the book’s final section on “Quilting Basics” and nearly skimmed over the sub-section “Sarah’s needle-turn appliqué” because the very term needle-turn has always frightened me (long and short satin stitch is another one of those scary terms). Luckily I didn’t skip it. In the second sentence she writes: “I find it both an easy method to use and also an easy method for beginners.” I carried on reading. When I got to the bit about using a silver gel pen to mark the sewing lines I was sold. So I tried her method for the first of the letters. And it worked, and it wasn’t that difficult.

When I had finished the letters for the very short story for the quilt, I decided to turn my hand (and my needle) to the Rose of Sharon, using the templates that Sue had made and stored in her book. For this I went back to my old method of “doodling” with the fabric and threads to see where this will lead. There were scraps of Kaffee Fassett fabric that were calling to be used (the leftovers of the Happy Christmas Tree quilt. See a previous post On the eve of Christmas). This fabric went nicely with the threads that I have collected for my From a Secret Garden series. Here is a photograph of how far I have got with this small piece, which will be 25 x 25 cm when finished.


Now that I have added needle-turned hand appliqué to my repertoire (ahem) I want to create an Aunt Millie’s Garden quilt from the pattern that Sue Hummel has kindly donated to our group. She has made the quilt and it was much admired by all the QUOGs (Quilters of Grahamstown). That’s another project to add to my wish list. By its nature, this will be a slow quilt and it will be fun to stitch it in tandem with my fellow quilters.

Aunt Millie's Garden

Finally, I noticed quite a few workshops on hand appliqué, which will be on offer at the 20th South African National Quilt Festival, from 16 to 23 August this year. Perhaps this is an example of seeking out opportunity. I would like to improve my book-taught skills and hope to be able to sign up for one of the hand appliqué workshops.

The theme of the quilt festival is Interchange. Threads connect. The programme went live this week and there are many exciting workshops and lectures on offer. The link to the website is: www.http://festival.quiltsouthafrica.co.za/

7 thoughts on “On hand appliqué

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