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Fun & Easy Scrappy Quilts

One of the easiest and most detailed applique techniques is fusible applique. There are several ways to accomplish it using different products and slightly different methods, but in the end, fusible applique is still fusible applique. What a quilter chooses to use is purely a personal preference, just like picking the technique one uses. Once you find the product and method you prefer, those are usually the ones you'll stick with. It's a good idea to explore products and techniques to determine which ones suit you best.

Annie's Fun & Easy Scrappy Quilts contains several great projects you can make using fusible applique. These patterns could be a great place to start if you'd like to explore fusible applique.

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Annie's Fun & Easy Scrappy Quilts has several great patterns that are perfect for trying out fusible-applique techniques.

Fish & Bubbles is a design with simple applique pieces that can easily be done by both beginner and seasoned quilters. It's a cute baby or toddler quilt that can be stitched up into any color combination and be completed in a short amount of time.

I'm always getting requests for tutorials and step-by-step instructions for fusible applique, and since this is one of my favorite techniques and I don't have the opportunity to do it as often as I'd like, I thought this would be a great time to revisit some of the basics. It's also a great way to use scraps!

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The Fish & Bubbles pattern in the Annie's Fun & Easy Scrappy Quilts special interest publication is available now.

I have a large container of batiks pieces that I've collected through the years. It's my fusible-applique treasure box. This is where I search when I have a scrappy or fusible-applique project in mind. I tend to like to work with bright colors, so finding fun fish scraps will be easy.

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Batik scraps are the perfect choice for these fun, fusible fish blocks

Selecting the right fabrics for the applique pieces and background is the first thing I do once I've made the decision to make a fusible-applique project. Color selection is so important to the end result. Using a good fusible product and knowing how to correctly apply the product are the keys to success. Always read the instructions for your fusible web. Many have different instructions for proper use. My favorite fusible web is Splendid Web with paper release by Bosal. For me, it does and has everything I want and need in a fusible product.

Once I've selected my fabrics, have traced the applique shapes onto the fusible web, and have cut them apart, I'm ready to fuse each piece onto the fabric. I make sure to leave plenty of space around each shape, at least a 1/4-inch margin, to allow for trimming.

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Fabrics selected for the fish pieces and the fish shapes traced onto fusible web.

Next, I fused the traced shapes to the fabrics selected for each piece onto the back side of the fabrics, making sure there was plenty of room to trim around each piece. After the pieces cooled, I trimmed on the drawn line.

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Applique shapes fused to the back of the fabric and ready to trim.

When working with applique pieces that must be layered, like this fish motif, it's best to lay out all the pieces before you press them into place. Since the mouth, top and bottom fins, and tail should be placed under the body, I first carefully removed the paper backing from all the pieces and then, without fusing, centered the body on the background square and arranged the other pieces under and on it to determine the best placement and the order for fusing. Once that was figured out, I removed the eye and side fin, and then fused the top and bottom fins, the tail, the mouth and the body into place. Next I placed the eye and purple side fin on the body and fused them in place. By working from the bottom layer to the top layer, you will make fewer placement mistakes.

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My first fish block placed and fused.

Once your blocks are fused and ready to be stitched into place, there is another step you can take that will ensure a better fusible-applique block, especially if you are planning to use a machine buttonhole or blanket stitch. Add a piece of fusible woven stabilizer to the back of each block that is to be appliqued. I use Bosal Fashion-Fuse. It's a great product that works well for me and it's versatile. I find that I use it for many different applications. Finding the products that work best for you is very important to your success.

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Adding a stabilizer to the back of the block, readying it for machine stitching.

Another great advantage to fusible applique is the ability to use all those leftover spools of threads. I'm one of those quilters who changes the thread color to match each fabric used, so I tend to have a boatload of threads. When a thread spool gets low, or it's a thread I tend to not use a lot, it goes in my thread box of many colors. I find I rarely have to stop stitching to run to the quilt shop for a certain color of thread.

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My applique thread box and getting ready to stitch my fish into place.

There are a few things that I've discovered through the years that have helped me a lot with my fusible applique. These are things that are not mentioned for the most part in pattern instructions. Whether you're using a buttonhole stitch or a straight stitch, here a few tips that may help you.

  • Start stitching away from a corner or point.
  • Always start and end your stitching with your needle in the down position. This will allow you to keep your place, to pivot when needed, and to maintain your stitch length and spacing.
  • Go slow. It's your hobby, not a race. 
  • When you need to correct your path of stitching, simply place the needle in the down position, lift the presser foot and pivot.
  • Reducing the stitch length will make it much easier to make the curves without that choppy look. 
  • Use a good sharp needle. I use a Micro Tec 10/70.
  • Always work bottom to top, layering your pieces before you fuse.
  • If the pattern doesn't have the pieces clearly marked for the order to apply, number or label them yourself.
  • Tack at the beginning and end of each start and stop and then trim, or bring the bobbin thread to the top before you start each and tie it off and then trim.
  • Make a sample block first if you're unsure of your color choices.
  • If something works for you do it!
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I start my stitching away from corners or points.

When using batiks, I can switch stitches from buttonhole to straight stitch when needed without worrying about fraying. Batiks are very dense and the dyeing process helps to hinder any fraying. I like to use a straight stitch on small pieces or pointed ones.

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Using a reduced straight stitch will allow you to make curves and sharp turns with ease.

Taking your time and stitching one piece at a time is the best way to do fusible applique.

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Finished with my first block.

I love to do this type of applique. It's fun and easy. I think I'll dig through my batik treasure box and make this quilt a really scrappy, bright one. I hope you decide to try this technique if you haven't already, and I'd love to hear how you did or if you have any secret tips to share.

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One block down and two to go. Maybe I'll add some more color.

If you choose to play along with me in these updates I'd love to see your projects. Send me a photo at editor@quiltersworld.com and you may see your project and story on Facebook or in one of the coming updates. I welcome your insight and your suggestions.

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