The "A" Word

The "A" Word

Posted by Annie Smith on Oct 15th 2019


 That word will make many quilters want to run in the other direction.

They love appliqué and respect it, but some don’t even want to try it and others have had a bad experience with trying hand appliqué so they won’t consider trying machine appliqué.


Not all appliqué is created equal.

Now, I’m not here to disrespect hand appliqué, at all. Or any type of appliqué. I’d just like to encourage you to try appliqué, in a way that you might actually enjoy it.

I love the antique appliqué quilts that were shown in Elly Sienkiewicz’s books (Baltimore Album Quilts, Baltimore Album Revival! and Baltimore Beauties to name a few). I would pour through them and dream about making one in the future, taking hand appliqué classes in varied techniques but could never quite master the techniques. Then, I saw a mind-blowing quilt in the catalog for Empty Spools Seminars that captivated me for two reasons: it was The Beatles Quilt, Sue Nickels and Pat Holly (my favorite band of all time and the soundtrack of my young life), and it was a machine appliqué method that we would learn.

I loved the technique taught by Sue Nickels in that week-long seminar. The learning curve is pretty shallow as techniques go and the resulting appliqué is precise, sharp and beautiful. I knew at the end of that week that I would do machine appliqué for the rest of my life. What a revelation that was, at that time! I would go on to create many appliqué quilts and patterns and write The Ultimate Appliqué Guidebook -- which has now become The Ultimate Appliqué Reference Tool.

Looking back to twenty years ago, when I took that seminar, my finesse with the machine appliqué technique has definitely improved and been refined. When I began, I was definitely a beginner. I had been quilting at that point for twenty years already, but in that class, I was a beginner . And -- it’s okay to be a beginner. We all start somewhere, and from where we start, we are never immediately perfect. Take a look at my first attempt:

But guess what? I came home ELATED that I could do a somewhat decent rendition of appliqué, period. 

I took a two year hiatus from teaching at my local quilt shops so I could concentrate on becoming more proficient at machine appliqué. I loved it that much. Here’s a sample of what I created the following year:

I had definitely improved, don’t you think?

Here’s what I’ve learned from the process of refining my skills and refining my book into a

reference tool:

● Creating machine appliqué shapes using a fusible raw-edge allows you to create crisp curves and exact points.

● The quality of the materials that you use do make a difference in the outcome of a quilt.

● The steps to success are short.

● The more you practice, the better you get.

In fact, I tell all of my students “Whatever quilt you are currently working on, you are practicing for the next quilt you will make. With each quilt you make, you become better and better.” The difference between my first piece (pictured above) and my most recent quilt (below) is remarkable. Machine appliqué has now become my expertise.

Love Is Spoken Here, a collaboration with Lori Kenndy, will be featured at Quilt Festival in Houston in the Aurifilosophy-Education for the Love of Thread exhibit.

So, why not give that dreaded quilting technique that starts with an A a try?

The Ultimate Appliqué Reference Tool is a perfect place to start, as it will take you through the very essential parts of the process.

If you begin with the sample piece, and take it a step at a time, you can discover whether appliqué is for you. I’ll bet it is. Even if you’re a die-hard hand appliquer, you already know how lovely creating appliqué really is. I still do create hand appliqué because I love the meditative process and mobility of hand appliqué. I also love to share how I create the appliqué by sharing tips. 

You can find some video tutorials that correspond with The Ultimate Appliqué Reference Tool on C&T’s YouTube channel, here

If you want to see what’s new, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

For a chance to win an ebook of The Ultimate Appliqué Reference Tool, leave a comment below and the lucky winner will be emailed a week from today. And tell your friends!