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Storytelling in Raw Edge Appliqué

Raw edge appliqué has become one of my favorite "go-to" design techniques. It comes in really handy when I need to come up with a quick-ish gift to mark a life event, convey a "get well" wish, or celebrate holidays for friends, colleagues, or relatives. The technique offers ease and freedom in creating original designs and saves hours of time over traditional piecing.

As with any project, planning typically begins with a series of questions. What is the intended use? How big is the project going to be? What design elements are important to the recipient? What is the color preference? These elements are then arranged in a way that creates a meaningful picture.

The crib quilt below was gifted to a family with a strong affinity for music. Since the guitar is one of their instruments of choice, that was my "a-ha!" moment in defining the design. The plan also tied in well with their preference for earth tones.

Adding a piece of sheet music behind the guitar allowed me to fill the background in a way that made sense. All it needed was a G clef and some musical notes. All were constructed as raw-edge appliqué elements backed with Heat n' Bond Lite. The music staff, notations, guitar strings and trim were sewn in prior to quilting. My walking foot came in handy, as did the decorative stitches on my machine, which were used to detail the trim on the guitar.

Once the piece was layered with batting and backing, I began quilting. Since the guitar was the most important element, it received the most detailed stitching. The music staff was treated with simple straight lines so that the song would be the focus. The sections between the staff offered great space to do more free-motion motion work. Swirls accented with wishbones did a good job of representing the flow of music and complementing the song.

Generally, when I make baby quilts the dimensions are around 36" x 42", or approximately equal to 1 yard of fabric. That makes life really easy! They are also typically intended to be thrown on the floor for tummy time, hung on a wall, or draped over the side of a crib.

In making the above crib quilt the recipient wanted crabs and goats incorporated into the design. The crabs and goats represented mom and dad's zodiac signs. The motifs were incorporated into a nighttime landscape with the constellation Taurus representing the newest member of the family.

This project was very simple to create, using fabrics representing sky, sea, and landscape textures. The ombré indigo sky played well against the pearlescent moon, giving a lovely glowing effect. The animals were made from silhouette images, and the constellation was made using a decorative stitch on my machine. Simple walking foot echoing created the landscape texture and the swirls suggesting wind give movement to the sky section.

The pillow cover below was a "get well" gift. The flower petals were created in MS Word, printed onto Heat n' Bond Lite, applied to the fabric, then appliquéd onto the white background. The leaves were drawn freehand and traced onto Heat n' Bond, and applied in the same manner as the flower petals. The stem was made with a 1/4" bias tape maker. For the quilting, I used a grid based design which echoed the shape of the flower petals. This project finished at 18" x 18".

In general, I finish raw edges with a zig zag or blanket stitch using invisible thread. Occasionally, I add a tight zigzag stitch using 40 wt. polyester for a satin finish around the edges. As you might have guessed, free-motion quilting also plays an important role in these pieces, enhancing the design, adding texture, and helping to tell the story.

I hope these ideas are helpful as you think about incorporating story-telling elements into your projects.

Happy stitching!

- Liz


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