I’m a pretty proficient quilter. I can make a decent 1/4″ seam, piece, improvise, and machine quilt with my longarm. But I have never mastered hand applique. I found the whole “needle turn” thing very frustrating and had basically accepted that I was stuck using fusible web for my projects. However, when our local guild sent out information about a Karen Kay Buckley workshop on hand applique, I decided to give hand applique another try.
I was not disappointed. First of all, Karen is a great teacher. She is extremely organized and gives fantastic instructions. She also works with a great close-up camera, so you can see her techniques without crowding around a sewing machine. Karen has a very relaxed philosophy about quilting, basically that “if it works, go for it!” This creates a low-stress workshop environment where you’re not paralyzed with anxiety about doing something wrong.
During the morning, we cut out a template and placed it on fabric. We then cut out a 1/4″ larger piece of fabric and, using the iron, tucked the edges to the wrong side of the template. You’ll see the result on the blue piece on my sample. (The ironing was by far the hardest part!) We then hand- stitched this shape to our block, which was my first try at hand applique. Despite the instructions, I wasn’t doing the sewing correctly. Thankfully, with Karen’s help, I quickly got the hang of it.
We started the afternoon session learning how to make perfect circles by using a template. (You can see my “perfect” circle in orange.) We then cut out the final shape (mine is shown in green) and learned the needle-turn method of applique. I’ll admit that I wasn’t totally skilled using my needle to turn under the fabric, but the two-handed method I was doing worked and gave a great result. Karen even said there was a name for my method, which I can’t recall, and that it was perfectly acceptable.
The final part of the day was reverse-appliqueing a circle as a frame for our block (not shown).
I have taken well over 100 quilt classes and this was one of the best. Unlike many classes, where you spend most of the time cutting or sewing seams, this class focused on learning new skills. I’m not sure if it was Karen’s instructions, her personality, or maybe just the fact that I was ready to learn — but sometime between 9 AM and 4 PM I realized that I could actually hand applique, and that I really liked it! The long-time hand appliquers at my table were laughing at my enthusiasm.
My only criticism is that our supply list did not include “Basic Sewing Supplies.” I did bring needles and one type of thread, but the others at my table had come prepared with a variety of thread colors. Fortunately, Karen had needles and thread available for us to use (as well as to purchase) so this was not an issue.
It was a great day and I highly recommend Karen as a teacher.