Five Things I Learned from Appliqué

  • Slow sewing is like slow food, delicious and satisfying. My quilting output is less, but my satisfaction is greater. I really like to do things in a speedy fashion, but there are some tasks that benefit from less speed and more intention. Taking up applique threw me into this dilemma: Can you applique quickly? It’s almost impossible to applique hurriedly. You can applique more hours in the day, you can be more organized and have your tools lined up, and ready to go and you can use fewer fabrics and threads (but that is not my idea of fun). Still, at its essence, applique is a slow endeavor. As I fell in love with applique, I discovered that, like making bread, it takes as long as it takes. Tracing and cutting hundreds of small pieces, positioning them, securing them, and stitching them is a true act of creation. I am often a bit sad when I finish a project and it goes off into the world to live its best life.
Queen’s Garden by Esther Aliu center.
Two of the four corners for Queen’s Garden
The Queen’s Garden center. It’s really a little quilt within a quilt.
  • Applique can cover a multitude of “sins”. When we sew, mistakes happen. Sometimes that mistake might be in the form of a small hole from an over zealous seam ripping. Perhaps a seam was sewn too narrowly when doing intricate piecework. Maybe you have a clothing item that is old and a bit worn that you still love. If you can applique, then you have a solution that does not involve remaking or apply a large square patch. Cover that boo-boo with a bird, or butterfly or other colorful motif. Voila!
  • All the purples go together. Now, not everyone has this problem. But it used to be a problem for me, meticulously separating my purples into red/purple or blue/purple. When you have a color you love, you can feel hemmed in by trying to match various shades when sewing. Doing applique blew that old chestnut right out of my thinking! All the purples go together when you applique! That mauve-purple you never could match can slide in adjacent to a periwinkle-purple and look fabulous when you appliqué it.
Deepest bluest purple with plumy purple and burgundy…all playing happily!
  • You might not like yellow, but you need a “pop”. Have a color that you avoid? It is tougher when you applique, because all those purples or reds or greens will shine brighter when you have a contrast. Yellow can make those colors work harder. Gold works, too. Anything on the opposite side of the color wheel, or anything warm in a cool palette or cool in a warm palette will make your favorites pop and dazzle.
Pale lemony yellow plaid warms up this cool purple and teal piece.
Coral or something orangey is also a great warm up for cool tones.
  • The whole is indeed greater than the parts. Each square or component can take weeks to come together, sometimes months and it can easily take a year for a whole applique project to complete. The wait time for the whole project to come together builds the anticipation. Sub components come together slowly. Watching the sections of the puzzle forming their part of the overall design is exciting, but nothing compared to when the whole pattern is completed. I am always a bit amazed at what emerges at the end of a project. Really, what could be more fun!
“Queen’s Gambit”, King sized and quilted.
Love (Un)Entwined. It has a whole story to tell.

Life lessons to be sure!

Bonus: It’s fun to hide “Easter eggs” in your work. I like to hide little surprises and add unexpected components in my applique, like birds interacting with flowers or a small school of fish swimming through, or vines twining across the border into the main part of the design. Applique allows maximum creativity and personalization of a design. And so very, very fun!

That little rose on the table is not the pattern, but it makes me smile every day!

Happy quilting & applique!


Summer Schedule!! This summer I will be writing 2 blogs per month instead of 4 to accomodate gardening. I will also be reposting some of my earlier blogs.


  1. Fabulous blog, sitting in hospital and it made my day so much brighter, if I can not sew I can enjoy a wonderful tutorial on applique as this one. Thank you Lennea I’m sure every one else will miss your weekly blog as I will. Hugs Glenda

    Liked by 1 person

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