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Free Motion Quilting Raw Edge Applique for Baby Quilt

by Julie Barkley
(Oaktown, Indiana)

Julie writes asking...

I have put together my baby quilt and appliqued it and am wanting a raw edge to be on the appliques after washing.

What type of quilting can I do so as not to get too much into the appliques and ruin the ragged effect? 'Hope I'm making sense!

This Julie replies...

A fellow 'Julie' quilter! Welcome!

I'm imagining that since this is a baby quilt the pieces are larger, simpler than say a floral applique. The other thing I'm thinking about it that if this is for a baby, we all know that whatever a baby can get it's tiny hands around will eventually end up in his or her mouth.

Raw edges secured...

Why not try a 'herky jerky' stitch around all the appliques?

This should hold the patches down sufficiently so that Baby won't gnaw them off. The technique is so 'beginning machine quilter' friendly, that actually having a lot of free motion quilting experience is almost a problem.

Who knew?

Just set up your machine for regular free motion quilting. That means feed dogs down, darning or hopping foot installed. I'd use the same thread needle and bobbin so that you don't have to worry as much about tension issues.

I like to set the stitch length to '0'. All we need the needle to do it go up and down, no need for extra wear and tear on the feed dog parts.

You'll be stitching in a small round pattern, 'herky-jerky' as the name goes, both on and off the applique.

This stitch was used for applique, but it'd be a fun effect to use for a baby quilt. For
more direction about doing this technique, check out 'Do the Herky Jerky' shown here.

Random Free Motion ZigZag

Another alternative is to do a random, free motion zig-zig on the edge of the applique. Again, this would keep the edges secure.

Your sewing machine set-up is the same, but this time, instead of the small round motions, you'll mimic a zigzag stitch as you move the fabric through the machine, but jiggling the quilt sandwich to the left and right to create a random zig zag pattern. Perfection is not the objective. Laying down thread in a random pattern is.

If you use either of these two suggestions for the edges of the applique, then any background quilting pattern works because you can quilt right up to the edges and there won't be a 'blank' space without quilting. Remember the denser the background quilting, the more prominent your applique will appear.

Raw edges are meant to fray...

I would do a very traditional outline stitch just past the edge of the raw applique edge. It'll look like you did echo quilting after the quilt is washed and the edges fray and shrink up a bit. To continue the pattern and disguise the space between the frayed edge and first line of stitching, continue to echo stitch until the block was filled. The stitches will help to smush down the background and cause the applique to appear to pop off the top of the quilt. The deliberate echo quilting tells the viewer's eye that that first space was on purpose.

I'd love to see the quilt when it's finished. I'm sure our visitors would too. Do think about adding your quilt pictures to our online Show and Tell.

Good luck!


Julie Baird

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