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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday: Las Cruces Applique Project and Raw Edge Applique Tutorial

It's been a while since we've had a Quilty Pleasures post, so it's good to be back! Here's a project we are working on at Thread Bear in Las Vegas, NM. It's a Block of the Month project, but Ann, Thread Bear's proprietor and sewist extraordinaire, hasn't chosen our fabrics and kitted them up, but instead has encouraged us to choose what we like, fabric-wise.

This makes for an exciting meeting, looking at the variety of fabrics the members of the group have chosen and gaining experience through others' experiments with our (for many of us) newly acquired applique skills. Some folks are doing hand stitched, needle turn applique while others are using various machine techniques. I'm a member of Team Machine for this one because I really want to finish this project in a timely manner.

The pattern we are using is Las Cruces, by J. Michelle Watts. It's definitely a Southwest style quilt, don't you think? You can find more of her patterns here.

Since Ann was allowing us to choose our own fabric, I decided to get all artsy, so the fabric for each cross (Las Cruces means The Crosses) will represent either a woman I have known and loved, or a group of women in general. It's kind of like Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, an art installation from the 1970's which is my inspiration for this project, but on a  simpler scale. Much simpler.

So I wanted to show my process for making one of the blocks, minus the borders, which I haven't done yet, probably because it won't be as interesting as the crosses themselves.

I'm fusing my fabric to a base square, then using a machine to applique around the edges. I decided not to turn the fabric under before appliqueeing  because it's going to be a wall hanging and not washed much.

Below is one of the cross patterns, which I will trace onto Steam a Seam 2, using an old lightbox Tom had for looking at his slides. You can also trace by using a window or laying the Steam a Seam or your fave fusible over the pattern and hoping the lines show through.

Here is the traced pattern on the Steam a Seam. Notice that I have traced on the smooth side of the paper that is rough on its back side. You can see the bumpy texture on the paper if you look closely. I bought a lot of this fusible because it's part of the game to make mistakes, trace on the wrong side, etc.

My thumb is on the rough, kind of sticky side of the paper

After tracing each of the design's components, it's time to iron the fusible to the wrong side of your fabric. You are fusing to the wrong side because essentially you are transferring the sticky stuff to your fabric, which you will later iron onto your base fabric. Notice I haven't trimmed exactly on the lines because it's easier to do that after fusing.

So the next photo shows me cutting on the lines. For this pattern, I used a little rotary cutter to cut the straight lines and scissors for anything else. I had to throw the first piece away because I was overzealous went a little crazy with the rotary cutter and cut into the fabric. Aargh! is something you will say a lot while fusing. Or much worse, in my case!

Once you have your pieces cut out, peel off the remaining paper, center them on the base square of fabric and iron them into place. Read your pattern instructions or the guidelines on your fusible material or paper for more detailed info.

 It's time to stitch your design piece to the base square of fabric. I decided to use raw edge applique, stitching around each piece using whatever you call this stitch: buttonhole, blanket stitch, whatever you call it. On my Bernina 440 it's stitch number 45.

Like everything, there's a learning curve involved. It's always a good idea to practice on a few test pieces before jumping right in. Some quilters like to use a fabric or paper stabilizer underneath. I am not using one because everything seems to be stitching smoothly...well, kind of. Below, note a couple missed stitches on the blue one. I'll go back and fix that later....or maybe not. I did the turquoise layer first, then the fuschia, with the gold on top. The thread is Ricky Tims artist thread by Superior and the fabrics are Laurel Burch basics.

And here is the block minus the border. This block is to honor the ladies in Taos who work in galleries, not for the money, but for their sheer love of art. I haven't given anything a final pressing, yet. That's for later.

Now don't look too closely or call The Quilt Police, those tut-tut-ers who want to ruin our fun because this is not exactly centered on the square. It's good enough, and that's what counts.

I hope this tutorial has helped you a bit. It was fun, and now, on to Taos for shopping and lunch!


  1. A quilting post!! I knew you had it in you. I just knew that somewhere between the cows and the Buckminister Fuller were a quilter at heart. Very nice block.

  2. What fun it is for me to read your blog! And now a tutorial on something that is very helpful to me! I've done applique, but so few and far between that I can't ever remember what to do! This tute is perfect and the pattern is gorgeous and your colors are sublime! I went to the pattern link and ohhhh, I must say some wonderful patterns called to me.

    Thanks for a great post!


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