Baby quilts can be designed with bright colors and interesting patterns to visually stimulate a new baby. However, applique can take your baby quilts to the next level! Applique allows you to add a personal touch with characters, animals, or any shape to create a theme for your quilt. There are many different applique techniques. Let’s explore appliqued baby quilt patterns that can completely transform your quilt.
There are three main methods of applique. Machine applique, hand applique, and fusible web applique. These three methods determine the way that an applique is attached to the larger piece of fabric in the quilt, be it in a block or border. Once you have determined the method you want to attach the appliques to the quilt top, then you can determine how you will create the applique pieces.
The Dryer Sheet Method
My first quilt I made (above) has three methods of applique. The church and the rock wall in the Northern Lights quilt uses the dryer sheet method of creating appliques. If the applique piece is larger than a dryer sheet, a lightweight interfacing does the same job. The applique pattern is created face up, leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance around the entire outer edge. Next place the dryer sheet (or interface) on the front of the applique.
Using your sewing machine, sew a 1/4 inch seam around the outer edge. This attaches the dryer sheet to the front of the applique piece. Next, cut a slit in the dryer sheet and turn the applique inside out. The right side of the applique should be on top. As you do that, the raw edges of the seam allowance of the applique will be turned in to the back. You may need to clip the curves to allow the applique pattern to turn completely and lay flat. The dryer sheet should not be visible at all from the front when it’s turned inside out. While this method, holds the raw edges in place, I find it difficult to hide the dryer sheet. It’s especially challenging on points and curves. Iron the applique piece before attaching to the quilt.
Please note, dryer sheets can be “used”. They don’t have to be fresh out of the box. Pull them out of the laundry when you are finished and save for an upcoming project.
Freezer Paper Method
The freezer paper method uses freezer paper to turn the raw edges of the seam allowance of each applique piece. In this case, cut the applique pattern in it’s exact size out of freezer paper in reverse. Next iron the freezer paper with the shiny side down to the back of the applique piece so that it adheres and stays in place. This is temporary. Next cut a 1/4 inch seam allowance around the outside edge of the freezer paper. Be careful not to cut too small on your seam allowance. The fabric will be difficult to manipulate. You may need to clip the curves to allow curved edges to lay flat. Use your iron to press the raw edges to the back of the freezer paper to create a finished edge.
At this point, you can do one of two things. You can apply heavy starch to the edges of the applique, and set it with an iron. This will allow you to remove the freezer paper while the finished edges will remain folded to the back. You can also reuse the freezer paper if you need to create additional pieces. Some quilters leave the freezer paper in place, attach the applique to the quilt block and then cut a slit in the back of the quilt to remove the freezer paper. Personally I prefer the heavy starch method.
The moose in the Northern Lights quilt uses needle turn applique. In this method, the raw edges of the applique pattern are not turned before the applique is attached to the quilt top, the raw edges are tucked under as you attach the applique to the quilt.
Cut the applique up to 1/4 inch larger than the applique itself. This is an estimate, you can choose to cut less of a seam allowance, as long as you have enough of an edge that the raw edge can be tucked under. Some quilters like to mark the seam allowance on the front of the applique pattern with a water soluble marker, so they have a reference of how much to tuck under, but it’s not required.
Attach the applique to the quilt with pins to hold it in place. Tuck the raw edge of the fabric under the applique, using your needle. Stitch the finished edge to the quilt top. Continue tucking the raw edge under the applique, hand sewing the applique to the quilt top as you go.
Of the methods, I feel that this one is the most advanced, it will require a higher level of hand work and stitching. It’s appropriate for intensive applique quilt patterns that have multiple layers of applique.
Fusible Applique Method
The last method in the Northern Lights quilt is the fusible applique method used on the trees. Of all the applique methods, this is my least favorite one, however it is probably the one I use the most! Mostly because it’s easy and it works well for baby quilts. One of the main reasons I like it for baby quilts is because each piece of applique is securely fastened to the quilt using a fusible webbing. Depending on the weight of the fusible webbing you purchase, stitching is not required, although I always stitch my appliques regardless of the fusible webbing I use.
When using fusible webbing, also known as Heat and Bond, you create the applique pattern in reverse on the paper side of the fusible webbing. Once the fusible webbing is adhered to the back of the applique piece, carefully choose your applique placement on the quilt and adhere to the quilt top. This is permanent, so ensure you like the placement before ironing. Unlike the other methods, appliques with this method are cut to the exact size. No seam allowance is necessary.
Fusible Applique Steps
For quick reference, these are the steps to success when using fusible webbing for applique.
Using fusible applique is a very simple method even for beginners. It’s easy to create quick quilts as a special gift for any new baby in your life.
- Select a coloring book pattern for the applique project.
- Trace each piece of the applique onto the paper side of the fusible webbing (Heat and Bond). Be sure to reverse the image prior to tracing.
- Adhere the fusible webbing to the wrong side of prepared fabrics. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for laundering and pressing.
- Carefully cut out each piece. No seam allowance is required. Remove the paper backing when you are ready to apply.
- Layout the applique quilt design. Be sure it’s exactly as you want it. There is no going back!
- Important! Be sure to lift and press the iron as you adhere the applique to the quilt top. Sliding the iron prematurely can move the pieces.
- Finish the applique with your preferred finishing technique. I like to use the blanket stitch to ensure the pieces are attached to the quilt and to add detail to the quilt top.
The latest on Youtube:
I’ve created a playlist of the entire baby quilt creation. Enjoy.
Free Baby Quilt Patterns
You can certainly purchase applique patterns. Many patterns will include detailed instructions and applique templates that are predesigned. The seam allowances will already be outlined for you making it easy to create the perfect quilt. However free patterns are widely available online. Do a quick search on Pinterest for free applique quilt patterns to find some inspiration.
A great way to create applique quilt patterns is by using coloring book patterns. My personal preference is to use coloring book pages designed for toddlers. These have simple patterns with clean lines that are easy to reproduce.
Coloring book patterns are plentiful. Select a coloring book or look online for free coloring book pages. The sky is the limit! All of my baby quilts are as unique as the grandbabies they were designed for!
I like to finish my applique using a blanket stitch. This stitch is easy even for a beginner. The stitching does two things, it secures the applique at a secondary level. It also adds finishing details to the quilt top to defines each piece. While I am finding this stitch difficult to describe in writing, the stitch itself is easy. I’ve created a diagram to help you understand the needle placement for each step, included in the “How To” card below.
- Prepared applique pieces
- Embroidery Floss in coordinating colors
- Embroidery Needle(s)
- Needle Threader (optional)
- Needle Grabber (optional)
- Embroidery Hoop
- This diagram has been created to help demonstrate needle placement, full instructions are below.
- Thread an embroidery needle with embroidery floss. Tie a knot at the end.
- Choose a starting point on the edge of your applique. Insert the needle from the back of the fabric along the edge of the applique. (Point 1) The knot will stop the thread from pulling through.
- Each stitch should be a standard stitch length. You determine the length but be consistent. 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch is standard.
- On the front side of the fabric, space the next stitch about 1/4 inch over from the entry point stitch AND 1/4 inch below the edge of the applique. Insert the needle from the front of the fabric. See diagram (Point 2).
- Rock the tip of your needle up towards the edge of the applique. Press the needle through the back of the quilt top directly above where you inserted the needle along the edge of the applique. (Point 3). Your stitches should be straight vertically along the edge of the applique.
- Pull the needle through slightly.
- Wrap the loop of your embroidery floss around the needle, so that the stitch catches the thread across the top of the applique horizontally from Point 1 to Point 3.
- Continue stitching following the same pattern as described above. Space the next stitch about 1/4 inch over from the last stitch AND 1/4 inch below the edge of the applique. Insert the needle from the front of the fabric. (Point 4).
- Rock the tip of your needle up towards the edge of the applique. Press the needle through the back of the quilt top directly above where you inserted the needle along the edge of the applique. (Point 5).
- Pull the needle through slightly.
- Wrap the loop of your embroidery floss around the needle, so that the stitch catches the thread across the top of the applique from Point 3 to Point 5.
- Continue stitching around the applique. Keep your stitches even and watch the endpoint to be sure to properly space each stitch as you near the starting point. Pull your needle through to the back of the quilt. Tie a secure knot and cut the thread.
It's easiest to stitch with a modest length of embroidery floss. Using too long of a thread will allow the thread to tangle, making your stitch work challenging. You can do your hand stitching either clockwise, or counter clockwise, whichever is most comfortable for you.
Worth the Extra Effort
Applique adds character to a baby quilt! While applique and hand stitching can be time consuming, the end results are completely worth the extra effort. Do you enjoy applique? Share your favorite applique method in the comments.
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.