Unorthodox Applique

A Quilter's Reason To Do Laundry

by Debby Kratovil

We quilters, by our very nature, are recyclers. Not so much because we want to save our earth (that should be reason enough), but because we always see the usefulness of something ordinarily destined for the trash heap. When our children finish that box of cold cereal we swoop down on the box and take it to our sewing rooms knowing it can be transformed into great templates. Shoe boxes hold parts of projects in progress. Scraps and cuttings of fabric from Quilt #1 are saved to be incorporated into Quilt #2. And those fabric dryer sheets are good for more than cleaning out the lint filter. I'll pause while you run and do a load of laundry and bring back a used dryer sheet.

Are you back? Are you ready to do some applique? I call this the "I-don't-do-applique" applique. And that's because for many years that was my approach to quilting. If it had curves, it its ends had to be turned under, if it couldn't be machine pieced, I wouldn't even give it a view through my see-thru ruler. But then I entered a quilt-block-a-month challenge from G Street Fabrics store. Baskets. You know -- the kind with the curved handles. The kind that had embellishments of curved leaves, rounded hearts, twists and turns and lots of edges that had to be turned under. And here began my own personal transformation. Two days before the deadline to turn in all 12 blocks and with only two blocks finished, my friend Diane shared that she uses thin interfacing to self-face her hearts. Not having that on hand, I looked around my sewing room (which doubles as a laundry room when we run out of clean clothes) and saw a few used dryer sheets laying around. The wheels began to spin and since I always work best under pressure, I grabbed a dryer sheet and so began my method which helped me finish those 10 applique blocks in 48 hours. Here is what I discovered.....

I started with a basket made of three heart shapes. They were curved and I didn't want to needle-turn anything. I traced the shape of each heart onto the wrong side of the fabric, laid the fabric right side down on a dryer sheet and sewed along the line all way around. Then I slit the dryer sheet, reached in and turned the heart right side out. Using a plastic, blunt, corner-turner, I smoothed the seam from the inside. Then I pressed with an iron. Finally, I trimmed the excess dryer sheet to the seam allowance. Since the weight of the dryer sheet is negligible, its presence is not noticeable.

Now I needed to do the basket handles. I laid the template on the wrong side of the handle fabric, traced around the template, then proceeded as above except that this time I just sewed along the two curves, leaving the two small ends of the handle free. I turned the handle right side out (like turning a fabric tube right side out), pressed and trimmed. The edges can remain raw (on the handles' ends) since they will have the basket appliqued on top of them.

I was able to finish the last 10 blocks in two days. (It did help that there were two days of ice-storms and I couldn't leave the house anyway). For embellishment, which was done a few months later, I used the same method to make the many leaves I wanted to surround my yo-yo flowers. I attached each of my handles, baskets, leaves, etc. to the background fabric by hand. But it could have just as easily been accomplished using fine nylon monofilament thread and my sewing machine (with a small zig-zag stitch).

What are some other ways to use those dryer sheets in my quilting?

Remember, use only used fabric dryer sheets. If you're concerned about fabric softener residue still being present, throw a pile of used sheets in with a load of clothes or towels to be washed and then into the dryer. Also, the fiber content of these sheets is like that of interfacing. Many of our clothes have interfacing and interfacing can take the wear and tear of usage along with multitudes of washings. The amount that remains on an appliqued piece is very small anyway. You've trimmed to within the turn-under seam allowance.

I'm sure you can find many more ways to use this technique. Don't be afraid of those curves, handles, odd shapes. Try your hand at applique. Create perfectly smooth shapes that look like you labored by hand. And now you have a very good reason to do another load of laundry besides the fact that no one has any clean socks. This may be the very trick to convince your family that there is just cause for you to quilt!

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