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Creating applique blocks in the hoop

You can make appliqué blocks decorated with beautiful embroidery all in one step within your embroidery hoop. This tutorial uses a crazy quilt block to demonstrate how easy and fast it is to create a fun block that can be joined with others to make a crazy quilt.

This tutorial covers some of the basics of appliquéing in the hoop but each designer creates their designs differently so you cannot religiously follow the steps detailed here for all designs. I have written this tutorial to show you what is possible with your embroidery machine and to encourage you to create beautiful and fun things.

Follow these instructions to create this fun quilt block entirely in the embroidery hoop.

Crazy quilt block (set 5) Molly Mine designs. Used with permission from the designer.

These blocks can be joined together to make a quilt or wall hanging.

Crazy quilt wall hanging (sets 1 - 5) Molly Mine designs.
What is appliqué in the hoop?

Appliqué in the hoop has many variations but it is basically where the embroidery machine appliqués pieces of material onto a background – usually a stabilizer. The machine stitches the outline of the block (including the placement lines for each piece of fabric) onto the hooped stabilizer. Individual pieces of material are laid over the outlines, stitched, then cut into the right shape. The machine joins the fabric together (usually with a satin stitch) then embellishes the block with embroidery. The result is an appliqué block that has been completed using only your embroidery machine.

What you need for appliqué in the hoop

There are five things you need to create an appliqué block similar to the crazy quilt block demonstrated here:

  1. An embroidery design specifically for this purpose. There are not many designs available for appliqué blocks but more are slowly becoming available.
  2. A foundation for the block. This can be a piece of material, stabilizer or batting (wadding). I use a medium weight cut-away stabilizer as I want it to remain to support the completed block. You can use a tear- away or a water-soluble stabilizer if you want a softer, more flexible finish (like traditionally appliquéd blocks).
  3. Material for the block pieces. This crazy quilt block uses five different fabrics and each needs to be cut bigger than the outline of their section. Print out a full size template of the design and cut into sections. Place the section over the selected fabric and cut out the material at least 1cm bigger than the template. You don’t have to be precise – the fabric just has to completely cover the section with some to spare.
  4. Marathon rayon threads. Choose threads that coordinate with the fabric – or contrast, if you prefer. The only rule is to have fun. I put together the threads I want to use before I start but often change a couple of colours as I go along to get the look I want. The most important thread is the one covering the joins of the material (usually with a satin stitch) and it can dominate the block so choose it carefully. Make it a feature or let it blend quietly into the background.

5. A small pair of scissors with a thin, sharp point. This is required for cutting away the excess material close to the sewing line and your curved embroidery scissors will not work here.

A note about thread colours in the design

There are a lot of thread colours at the beginning of the block but it is not necessary for you to change the actual thread. They are called thread stops and are put there by the designer to stop the machine so you can place, or trim, the appliqué piece. Therefore, it is not necessary to change your thread each time there is a thread stop as this thread will not be seen. In the steps for embroidering the appliqué block (below), it is not necessary to change the thread colour until step 8.

Getting ready
  1. Read the instructions that come with the design and print them out if required.
  1. Print the template, if applicable, and cut into sections.
  2. Hoop your selected foundation material, e.g. stabilizer.
  3. Download your design to your machine.
  4. Select your material and threads.
  5. Pre-wind your bobbins or buy pre-wound bobbins.
  6. Cut out the material using the template as a guide.

Creating the appliqué block
  1. Embroider the first colour. This will be the outline where you place the pieces of material. I used black to show the sewn outline more clearly.
  1. Lay the first piece of material face up; making sure it completely covers the outline.
  1. Embroider the second colour. The material will be stitched to the stabilizer.
  2. Remove the hoop from the machine but DO NOT REMOVE THE STABILIZER FROM THE HOOP.
  3. Trim the material as close to the sewing line as you can. It is better to accidently cut the sewing line than to have bits of material sticking out from the satin stitch covering the join. You don’t need to trim the excess material from the edges of the block.
  1. Replace the hoop and repeat steps 2 to 5.

    You can sew two or more pieces of material before removing the hoop and trimming, as long as the pieces do not join each other.
  1. Continue until all material is stitched in place and trimmed.
  1. Change the thread colour and (depending on the design) the machine will either embroider a design or stitch a satin stitch to cover the joins.

    Notice how the joins are covered by the satin stitch. Most joins have a decorative stitch covering the satin stitch for more interest.
  1. Complete the design.
  2. Remove the hoop from the machine and the appliqué block from the hoop.
  3. Trim the block and remove the stabilizer, if required.

Written by Elaine Raahauge – business writer and home embroiderer

Question: I have viewed your tutorial on Crazy Quilting. Can you please help me out as I make my quilts as "quilt as you go" so would I be able to use the embroidered designs for crazy quilts as a quilt block - ie top, wadding and backing in the all in one go? I am very interested in the design in the hoop crazy quilt, but it will not work if maybe the 'sandwich' was too thick? The designs in the hoop are so decorative that there would be little or no space to quilt in the traditional way - ie do the top and then layer. (Jenny N. from UK)

Suggestion: I embroidered my crazy quilt pattern directly onto a hooped cut-away stabilizer - laying down the fabric over the stabilizer, as required. Once all the blocks were completed, I removed the stabilizer from the seam line only then joined the blocks together with a quarter inch seam. I laid the quilt top over the backing and connected the two together by zig-zagging over the seam lines (from the front) I did not quilt the quilt as it doesn't need it and there is nowhere to quilt anyway.

I will try and explain why I did it this way and give you other options.

You can use anything as the base for the block. I chose the cut-away stabilizer because it is easy to hoop and it provides a solid foundation to build on. You could hoop a tear-away stabilizer and baste a layer of wadding (not too thick) over the stabilizer and lay the fabric directly onto the wadding. I have never hooped wading by itself and have no idea if this would work well. I would be worried about it stretching during the embroidering. Therefore, I recommend you use a stabilizer base with it. You can remove the tear-away stabilizer afterwards, if you want.

You can even use a layer of material as the base and then baste the wadding onto that. You may not even want to use wadding as it is really not required (as there is no quilting to enhance). If I was doing this again, I would hoop a layer of flannel and lay the applique fabric directly onto this. No matter what base material you use, the quilt will be stiff as there is so much decorative stitching on the blocks. If you use wadding, use the thinnest possible.

There is no way you would want to include the quilt backing in the layering in the hoop as you wouldn't want the back of the embroidery to be visible in the finished quilt. The backing has to be added after the embroidery is finished.

This is really a wall hanging rather than a quilt and is quite small. I have a large embroidery hoop and my blocks are 200mm x 200mm. If you don't have this sized hoop, you can make smaller blocks to fit your hoop. Therefore, you won't have a large and cumbersome quilt to fight with.

- Elaine Raahauge