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Quiltsmart Techniques

How do I make one of these quilts?  
What is Piecing by Appliqué?
How should appliqués be stitched?
Who invented this method?
What is the Squares on Fusible Interfacing method for watercolor quilts?

How Many Panels Do I Need?
Click here to see a handy reference chart listing number of panels required for each pattern and size. The Panel Guide will open in a new browser window. It is an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file which means you need to have the Acrobat Reader installed to see it. 99% of computers have the Acrobat Reader, but if yours doesn't, visit to download it. (It is free.)

How do I make one of these quilts? 

 Click on a photo for an overview of that method.  

Watercolor: An Easy Approach

Watercolor: An

Easy Approach

Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Drunkard's Path



Eight Point Star

Eight Point


Mary's Flower Garden

Mary's Flower


Medley Opus I


Opus I

Rob Pete

Rob Pete



(Qtr Circles)

Kapa Hawaii

Rob Pete

Lone Star



What is Piecing by Appliqué?

Piecing by appliqué is a term we use for techniques which solve problems by replacing piecing with a streamlined appliqué method.Illustrated below is one traditional technique for curved piecing.  Effort and patience are required to get a finished piece that lies flat, has no puckers, and has a nicely shaped smooth curve.  

Cut shapes using 

templates or patterns

Turn edges under.

Hand stitch 

them together

 What if we were to use a facing piece to turn the edge under for us?  And what if the pattern was printed on the facing, wouldn't that eliminate the need for templates?  What if we could hold the pieces together with a simple machine stitch?  And what if the two pieces could be held in position by ironing?  Ahah!  Now we'd be piecing by appliqué!

1. Cut 

2. Stitch


3. Trim & turn 4. Fuse


5. Zigzag

6. Trim excess background (optional)


How should appliqués be stitched?

Appliqué.  Don't let this word scare you, it is French for applied. In sewing it means to stitch the piece to the background or, used as a noun, it means the piece itself.

For Quiltsmart's pieced-by-appliqué methods, we recommend a simple zigzag stitch with invisible top thread. This technique is fast, forgiving, and gives a pieced look to the quilt.

  • Use 100% cotton thread in your bobbin and invisible thread (Nylon monofilament) in the top thread. If you can find it, Bobbinfill thread is good for this step for two reasons. First, the weight matches that of the monofilament thread. Secondly, the fiber content matches. I find that I get a better looking stitch.
  • You may need to loosen the top tension a bit to prevent bobbin thread from being pulled up through the fabric.
  • Stitch so most of the zigzag stitch is on the appliqué (used as a noun) and only piercing the background fabric.
  • Practice the stitch on a layer of two fabrics with a scrap of interfacing between to simulate your appliqué.
  • The narrower the zigzag, the more invisible the stitch. Stitch length should be about 10 stitches to the inch.  Try to achieve a zigzag about 1/8th inch wide in the beginning, and as you practice you will be able to get it much narrower, even to the point that it is barely a zigzag.
  • No zigzag? No problem. You can use a straight stitch as close to the edge of the appliqué as you can sew consistently and without "falling off." Match the thread to the color of the appliqué piece and use a stitch length of 12-15 stitches per inch.

There are several other ways to appliqué. The ones most commonly known tend to be the scariest to the beginner quilter. These are not generally recommended:

  • Invisible stitch by hand A technique of inserting and pulling the needle through the cloth so that no thread shows from the top. This give a hand crafted look to your quilt ... but be prepared to invest a lot of time.
  • Blind stitch hem A few straight stitches followed by one zigzag. The problem here is that you won't wrap the edge of the appliqué well enough to keep the pieces down.
  • Satin stitch zigzag stitches very close together forming a solid satiny looking row of thread. Satin stitches require a good deal of practice and patience.

Who invented this method?

We don't really know, but here's how it evolved.  Another technique, often called double appliqué, has been around for a long time.  In it, an appliqué shape is drawn onto muslin -- cheap, unprinted cotton fabric -- then this cloth pattern is placed onto the appliqué fabric and stitched through both layers.  Trim the seam allowances, slit the muslin, turn right sides out, and press the edges flat.  This piece may now be pinned in place and stitched down.In the 1980s, someone (we don't know who) determined that fusible interfacing can be used for double appliqué.  We have seen references to this as early as 1985.  Fusible interfacing brings the added advantages of eliminating pins and adding less bulk than muslin.  In the early 1990s, Eleanor Burns recognized the value of this innovation and published books such as Dutch Windmills, Dresden Plate, and  Sunbonnet Sue Visits Quilt in a Day.  The latter, for example, calls for tracing Sue's bonnet, dress, feet, and arms onto lightweight fusible interfacing.In 1993, Mary Henderson (owner of Quiltsmart) attended a class at Quilt in a Day.  Mary suggested eliminating the repetitive and imprecise tracing by printing the patterns onto fusible interfacing.  "After all," she reasoned, "they can print on paper towels, why not print on interfacing?"  Mary immersed herself in the world of industrial printing.  She soon had a  process for accurately printing onto a delicate non-woven fabric that has heat-sensitive adhesive dots on one side.Mary knew the possibilities offered by piecing by appliqué.  Her interest was especially drawn by the potential for simplifying classic quilt patterns, especially the Double Wedding Ring.  In 1994, she published her first book, Double Wedding Ring in a Hurry.  She became a publisher the following year with Drunkard's Path and Mary's Flower Garden.  And as they say, the rest is history!

What is the Squares on Fusible Interfacing method for assembling watercolor quilts?

In the early 1990s, Bonny Tinling was making a watercolor quilt using delicate fabrics that had a tendency to shift and stretch ... she needed to stabilize them so her squares would remain square.  She began experimenting with fusible interfacing as a foundation.  She eventually hit upon the idea of drawing a grid on fusible interfacing, placing the interfacing on her design wall fusible side out, then designing with fabric squares aligned on the grid. By ironing the piece, the squares were fused in place.  Instead of taking her squares two-by-two to the ironing board, hundreds of pieces could be stitched as a single unit.  And to top it off, Bonny figured out how to make perfect butted seams that are as thin as possible with a perfect match at every intersection.  Here's how:

1. Arrange squares, fuse in place

2. Fold & stitch horizontal rows.



3. Snip intersections

4. Stitch vertical rows.  Keep seam allowances in opposite directions.

 Quiltsmart's gridded interfacing is available in several sizes:  1", 1-1/2", 2", 2" On Point, and 2-1/2".

The information on this page has been reproduced with the permission of Quiltsmart