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When do I quilt my applique?

The applique flowers come forward visually because the batting can puff up behind them to create dimension.

The applique flowers come forward visually because the batting can puff up behind them to create dimension.

Should I quilt blocks before I applique?

How do I keep my blocks flat after applique and quilting.


Personally, I always stitch the applique (both hand and machine) before I layer, baste and quilt my quilts.

There's a couple of reasons for this.

  1. There's less bulk to control or manuever during the applique process.

    Even when I'm doing the invisible machine applique technique (that I love so much), manuevering a 20" block under the needle gets a bit cumbersome. And that's without any batting or backing.

  2. The batting should fill or support the applique.

    Whether it's by hand or machine, the applique is most probably the 'star' of the block or quilt. If the background behind the applique is 'quilted down' before the applique is applied, the batting behind the applique can't puff up to fill it.

    Your applique should come forward visually, because it's important. When I quilt applique, I like to outline the outer edge of the complete applique shape. Depending on the complexity of the pieces that make up that shape, I will add additional ditch quilting around some or all of those inner pieces. This stitching helps to raise the applique shape from the background of the quilt, giving it the prominence it deserves.

  3. The quilt back won't look as nice.

    OK. I admit it. This is a bit persnickety, but I am from a long line of dressmakers. My grandmother and mother always insisted that the inside of my garments look as nice as the outside. That has carried through to my quilting.

    If the blocks are quilted before they are appliqued, the applique stitches are most likely going to show through to the back in spots. It would be almost impossible for them not to.

Once my applique blocks are stitched they are washed to remove any dirt or oil that came from my hands. After air drying, the blocks are carefully pressed from the backside on a couple layers of fluffy cotton towels so as not to squash the applique. The blocks are then trimmed to size and pieced into my quilt. That way the quilt before layering is nice and flat.

I hope this has helped you in your decisions. It really is up to you how you finish your quilts. It's important that you get the effect that YOU are after.

Readers! What do YOU think? Do you quilt before or after you applique? Sometimes? All the time? Do share your thoughts and experience via the 'comments' link below.

Thank you!


Julie Baird

Comments for When do I quilt my applique?

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Applique first
by: Anonymous

I like to applique first, then layer and quilt. If I quilt first, the quilting shows through the applique.

quilting appliques
by: Roberta

To give the applique more dimension, I often add a thin (sometimes thicker)layer of batting under the applique or part of the applique... like the center of a flower, to give it more depth. As for quilting it ... How much depends upon the effect I'm looking for ... usually, less is better.

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