Today we are going to finish up the components that we started on Day 8 with buttons and wool appliqué.
As much as I love embroidery, wool appliqué is my favorite way to embellish a project. The wool itself is beautiful -- tactile and rich -- and the colors, especially the hand-dyed colors, are just gorgeous. And appliquéing with wool couldn't be easier. Once wool is felted, it won't fray like quilting cottons, so there's no need to turn the edge before appliquéing it. You just cut out your shape, stitch it down, and you're done!
Here's what we're going to do today:
You'll need ten red ⅜" - ⁷⁄₁₆" buttons and ten holly leaves -- click here for the template.
First let's talk about the wool. I used a variety of green wools for my holly leaves, but you can absolutely use just one. You can find felted or washed wool in most quilt shops now, but if your wool isn't felted, you'll need to do that first. I usually felt my wool in the washing machine. I toss it in with a few pairs of jeans (seems to help work the fibers better), wash it with hot water, and then dry it most of the way in the drier, laying it flat to dry completely.
You can prepare your appliqué shapes in a couple of different ways. For this project, I used a freezer paper method. First use your template to trace ten holly leaves on the dull side of your freezer paper. Using a wool setting on your iron, lightly press the freezer paper to your wool -- doesn't matter which side, there isn't really a wrong side on wool. Cut your holly leaves out on the line using sharp scissors and remove the freezer paper. Then simply pin each leaf in place.
To appliqué the holly leaves use a single strand of embroidery floss in a color that matches your wool. I used a whip stitch to appliqué my holly leaves, but you can use a blanket stitch if you prefer. Here are some close-up photos to give you an idea of how I stitch my appliqués:
I'm right handed, so I tend to work from left to right. I bring my needle up through the wool about 1/16" from the edge...
Then I push my needle back down through the right side of the fabric right at the edge of the wool shape and back up through the wool 1/16" further along, pulling the floss through and continuing around the entire edge of the shape.
Pull your floss through your layers of fabric and wool firmly enough that it holds the shape in place, but not so tightly that it distorts your work. The stitches will be on an angle on the wrong side of your work, but on the right side, the stitches should be straight and run perpendicular to the leaf's edge. For the points of the holly leaves, I like to do the stitches to the left and right of the points first, and then do a slightly longer stitch directly over each point.
As I mentioned above, there's another way to prepare your appliqué shapes using lightweight fusible web (and FYI, I use Heat N Bond Lite iron-on adhesive). Using fusible web can be great because it holds your shapes in place without pins and can help prevent fraying, especially with sharp points or thin pieces of wool. The downsides are that pressing your shapes in place can make the wool lose some of its texture or dimension and once your shapes are fused, they can't be moved if you change your mind. I use both the freezer paper and fusible web techniques -- just depends on the project.
To use fusible web, you would just trace your holly leaves onto the paper side of a piece of fusible web and lightly press the fusible web to your wool for a few seconds. Then cut the holly leaves out on the line and remove the paper backing. Place your holly leaves on your background fabric as desired and then press in place. Because the wool is thicker than quilting cotton, it can take a few seconds (10-12 or so) to fuse it in place. I like to use a piece of muslin as a pressing cloth on top of my wool for this step to prevent the wool fibers from scorching. After fusing your shapes in place, you can also flip your work over and press from the back for another 10 seconds or so to make sure it's really fused down. Then appliqué your shapes in place as outlined above.
And by the way, if you don't have wool or don't care for the look of it, you can definitely substitute flannel or quilting cotton and your favorite appliqué method for the holly leaves. Use what you have and what you like -- this is your project!
Back to today's mystery quilt component! After you've appliquéd all ten of your holly leaves in place, stitch your buttons down using a thread color of your choice -- I used brown. Here's another look at the finished product:
And that, my fellow quilters, is it for today! We've got one more component to make next time and then we're moving on to assembling our quilt tops. Can't wait!!