At Play with Appliqué: Quilt Squares
Appliqué derives from the French and means layering pieces of fabric over others and
sewing them into place. Pieces of fabric may be attached by hand sewing, machine sewing,
attached with iron-on webbing, or by the use of fabric glue. In this project, individually
made quilt squares will be created, embellished, and joined together to make community
Fabric scissors, sewing and quilting needles, pins, thimbles
Assorted fabrics, both solid colors and prints
Assorted colors of felt (buy from large rolls by the yard or in individual pieces)
Fusible (iron on) interfacing or webbing
Thin quilt batting (buy from large rolls by the yard)
Cardboard or mat board precut into squares to use as patterns (1/2 larger than the
desired finished square to allow for seams)
Paper and pencils for making patterns
Embellishments: beads, yarn, lace, found objects, etc.
Two Approaches to Making Quilt Squares
One Layer Quilt Square
For the simplest quilt square with no backing, cut out a square of fabric ½ inch larger than
what size you want the finished square to be. Make some sketches of possible designs on
paper and then cut them out. Use these paper pieces as patterns to trace and cut out the
fabric pieces you want to add to your square. You can sew these pieces on by turning under
the edges just a bit, pinning them in place and hand sewing them on. This type of quilt
square does not have batting or a back at this point. These will be sewn together with
batting and a fabric backing and quilted when all of these individual squares are complete,
usually with a ¼-inch seam.
Three Layer Quilt Square
To make a single quilt square such as the one shown here, you will need up to three layers: a
fabric background, a same-size square of batting, and a same-size piece to be the top. Any
fabric will do for the bottom piece, but the top piece will be the one that will show in the
finished square. Make a sandwich of the three pieces: place the two fabric pieces face
together and lay the batting underneath. Pin and then paste the layers together with large
With a sewing machine, sew the layers together with a 1/4-inch seam, leaving an opening in
the middle of one side. Cut off a bit of each corner and then carefully turn the piece right
side out. Sew closed the opening and then you are ready to embellish. This kind of square is
like a little finished quilt. These squares can be sewn together with a blanket stitch when
complete. These can be framed in a shadow box or sewn to pillows or bags.
There are all kinds of elaborate ways to appliqué a design, but the easiest way is to first
make a paper pattern from thin paper. Trace around the paper pattern on the fabric and
then cut it out, leaving a seam allowance about a quarter of an inch beyond the paper
pattern. Iron the seam allowance to the back of the pattern, remove the paper, and then pin
the fabric piece in place on a background fabric. Use a simple blind stitch or blanket stitch to
sew the shape to the background fabric.
Alternately, fusible interfacing or webbing may be cut to fit the paper pattern and ironed on
with the fabric. The edges do not need to be turned under for this method. Be sure the
interfacing is between two layers of fabric before you iron it. Another alternative is to use
felt for the appliqué pieces. The edges, again, do not need to be turned under and the felt
could be glued on if desired.
Appliquéd pieces can be adorned with embroidery stitches, paint, found objects, or anything
that can be attached or sewn on.
Methods to apply appliqué include hand basting, fusible interfacing, blind stitch, blanket
stitch, buttonhole stitch, other decorative embroidery stitches.