Friday, April 1, 2011

UFO Chocolate Bunnies...

Even though I still need to do the binding on "All Around the Town," I put the town in my rear view mirror for a while and looked ahead to the next UFO on my design wall.  These chocolate bunnies from Anne Sutton's pattern "Bunnies Prefer Chocolate" have been calling to me for a while. 

I started this project a few years ago, before I adopted my current favorite method of prepping hand applique.  I'm a little embarrassed to show you the close ups, but in full disclosure I'm going to show you why I put this project on the back burner.
No matter what kind of quilting we do, our skills and methods evolve over time.  There are no instant fact, I'm suspicious of anyone calling themselves an expert at any time.  There is always something else to learn, even if the lesson is just that we don't know it all.
I used to prep all my applique pieces by hand basting under the edges.  I started that so long ago that I don't know if I read it somewhere or if I just started doing it.  I know it sounds time consuming, but I got really fast at doing it.  I had all my little pieces in a baggie and took them out anywhere I had to sit and wait to prep with odd colored thread.  This made me fast and efficient.
It would yield a fairly satisfying result with gentle curves, but tight little curvy pieces always presented a challenge.
Since fabric frays (and some worse than others!), I would always cut a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Anything smaller was hard to baste and have it stay turned under.  This meant I had to baste all these tiny little pleats.  So if you look at little curved pieces like these rabbit ears, you see a slightly herky-jerky edge, not a smooth curve.
I look at these pointy little chick feet now and marvel that I got such points doing my old method!  I think by this time I had adopted a few needle turn tricks to do points...when I would baste, I would leave stuff that I would later cram under with my needle as I was stitching pieces down.
I never favored or tried to master the needle turn applique method because I like the idea of making applique in units that I could move around during the design process.  I didn't want to trace an applique shape on a background and have to strictly follow that pattern.  I like to change things and add or take away elements, as my mood and design changes.
I used to make all my vines by cutting 3/4 inch bias strips.  Then I would fold and press one third of the strip, then press the other 1/3 of the strip over that and baste.  It worked very well for me and gave me a lot of design freedom. 
But it also gave me a lot of bulky turn under allowances to deal with under my pieces and limited how small a piece I could applique.  Just look at the points on these bunny ears and eggs!  When those Perfect Circle templates came out, that helped considerably to make my round shapes actually round.
I used to not mind that herky-jerky imperfection and I just chalked it up to "folk art."  I just labeled myself a "folk art" hand applique person and let 'er rip!
Sometimes, I would try to round out the herky-jerkiness with my needle (a la needle turn) as I hand stitched my pieces to the backgrounds.
But then I saw my quilting friend MaryLiz (no blog) playing around with Elmer's glue sticks, and my basting days were over!!
Look at the curves with my new method of applique prep on these letters.  I never could have done this with basting, even though I did try.  I tried this method on my Civil War Bride and was very pleased with the results.
I just finished hand stitching all these words to make an outer border for this quilt.  This idea for a lettered phrase border breathed new life into this UFO and made me want to finish it, even though I wasn't happy with my pointy-eared little bunnies and eggs.  I had been playing around with Tonya's free-pieced letters and loved her idea of adding words, humor and personality to quilts (Lazy Gal Quilting).
I know I keep saying I will do a tutorial on this method, and I've started working on one (so you should see it soon!).  Until then, I'll show you how I wash out the glue after doing the hand applique, since that is where I am in this project.

I use two kinds of glue, Elmer's glue sticks to turn under the edges of my pieces and Roxanne's glue baste to hold my pieces in place while I stitch (instead of using pins).  Both of these glues are acid free, and there are those that choose not to wash them out.  I like to wash the glue out, still convincing myself that maybe some of my applique quilts will still be around in a 100 years and I am ultra paranoid about putting stuff on my cotton.

Here I have plunged my appliqued backgrounds in a tub of water to soak.  (I'm a fabric pre-washer due to sensitive skin, so I don't worry too much about colors can snip a piece of a color catcher and throw it in the mix if you are worried...)  The glue stick comes out pretty quick.  Depending how long the Roxanne's has been there, it needs to soak a little to loosen.  It is also important to note here that a little Roxanne's goes a long way.  I try to do Ola's (no blog) "dot-dot-not-a-lot" method.

Even though I thought I used tiny drops of Roxanne's, here I see I could still be using LESS.  My tiny dots look a lot bigger now that they are revealed in their "smashed together" form.  Now you see them... you, almost, don't (I see I need a little more soaking and gentle squeezing time...).
After I soaked and did a little gentle squeezing (and changed and re-filled the water a couple of times), I stretched out the pieces on a clean, old towel, rolled them up and did a little more gentle squeezing (not wringing!).  Now my pieces are laid out and ready to be pressed (not ironed!) with a hot, dry iron.
 I put a dry towel on my pressing surface, put the right side of the applique down into the nap of the towel, gently stretch out the wrinkles, then press until "dry."

When I turn over my piece, it is mostly dry (it will air dry the rest of the way), and the applique is slightly raised because it was away from the iron's cruel pressing weight.  This also helps to avoid that "shiny, ironed" look raised work can sometimes get.
Here you can almost see how the letters look a little 3-D...I LOVE that look (Weasley is bored with the whole ridiculous process...). 
Now the pieces are ready to be trimmed and made into my border.  See ya later!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. This is really inspiring me to try applique (I prefer to embroider). I would love to see that full tutorial (hint hint)!

  2. Wonderful post Teresa, very informative. The phrase makes the quilt. Thank goodness for "folk art" style, it is very forgiving when you are learning any process. Is it hard to stitch thru the glued edges on your appliqued pieces you have prepped?

    Have a good weekend.

  3. I've only done needle-turn applique (and not much of that, either) what are you doing with the glue stick? I get the Roxanne's dots holding the pieces on the background, but what does the glue stick do? Are you gluing the piece around a paper pattern or something, or just gluing the edge over on itself? What's the trick?

    I wouldn't be asking for this, except that your applique is WONDERFUL! And if I'm going to be doing more of it, I want it to turn out like yours! :o)

  4. Great post. Love the photos of the bunnies. This is a very cute quilt.

  5. I love this pattern! I have been wanting to get it for some time. You did a beautiful job, and thanks for sharing your work on it!

  6. Great post! I love your quilt top and the words are going to be a great addition! I'm looking fwd to your tutorial. ;-) Have a happy weekend!

  7. Oh, another wonderful trip into your quilting world. Loved all the shared photos of each section of the quilt. Yes, we do better our selves, but I find less than 'perfect' more appealing in applique. Like you said - more of a folk art feel to it, and I love it. I hope you share the continuing progress of this piece.

  8. My preferred method of applique is using freezer paper, as the pieces are always accurate - but your post has given me food foe thought!! I love the lettering - I'll need to file that away for another day!

  9. Excellent post...such a lot of excellent advice...especailly about washing out the glue! Can't wait for the letter tutorial! :o)

  10. I love that you are showing your progression on this quilt. I love it when quilters show how they do applique. I look forward to your tutorial. I really want to study it and try prepping my pieces on a project :0)


  11. Teresa,

    All those chocolate bunnies and not a calorie in sight! My kind of quilt. It is really just adorable and again, you have encouraged me to take a look at this pattern too. One of these days I am going to have to finish something that will return the favor.
    I love the colors and your applique is beautiful. Finished is a sense of accomplishment in itself, don't you forget that. Everyone starts somewhere and is it not amazing what we learn along the way?
    You are right, even the most skilled in needle and thread can never quit learning something new. Great job, can't wait to see the borders attached.


  12. I ADORE this quilt!!! :D And it is perfect just as you made it, girl! I would love to get my hands on that pattern. Thanks so much for all of the helpful info that you included here.

  13. You are just cruising through those UFOs! I am so impressed. I can't wait to see this one put together!

  14. I can't wait for the tutorial also! Love your work.


  15. I always tell the kids, rain drops not puddles with the glue! love your , dot dot not a lot-
    this piece when finished will be a history or evolution of your hand applique w/bunnies.

    what is the next project we can watch you work on?

  16. What a spectacular quilt this is going to be. Love all your insights too.


  17. Learning applique is such a process and it is great to learn new techniques. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    And thanks for sharing how to get the glue out too. I have not used much glue because I felt like I needed to wash it out too but wasn't sure about the process. Now it doesn't seem so scary.

  18. I love that you've gone back to this project-it's like a diary of how you've progressed in your applique journey. I'm raising my hand for your tutorial also.
    Elmer's Washable Glue is all natural, isn't it? Can't it be left in?

  19. Love your "new" quilt project! I'm really interested in learning your technique as well. Perfect timing as I'm starting some applique rabbits too. Thanks for thinking of sharing it with us. Hope it isn't too much of a bother cuz we'll reeeeallly appreciate it!

  20. I love the quilt. It is so cheerful. Knowing
    how quick you are, you will probably have this
    finished for Easter

  21. Can't wait for your tutorial.I love to do applique but I think it takes years of practice to get the needle turn perfect. Yours is wonderful.

  22. i've found your blog, and i think it's fantastic!!
    i love your UFO, i can't wait for your tutorial!!!!

  23. Thanks for sharing your new applique process. I, too, am looking forward to your tutorial.


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