Techniques & Blocks

Applique - Raw Edge Prep

by Karen Johnson

Why raw edge appliqué? If you like a casual, raggy effect, this technique is for you! Plus it's really fast! The pieces will be straight-stitched down and the edges of each appliquéd piece will fray in the wash. The more you wash your finished quilt, the more the edges will soften, fray and fluff. The disadvantage of this method is that you will see strings around your appliqué after each wash that will need to be cut. Below are images from our Introduction to Appliqué, that show you how the edges will look after laundering the finished quilt. This is a great method for baby quilts because it's fast, and the edges are soft and can take a beating.

There are a variety of methods for applying the fabric to the background before stitching. I'll include various glues, fusible web and spray adhesive.

To start off, you'll need a template of each shape. I love freezer paper for this step! Yes, you can definitely use the roll of freezer paper from your grocery store, but I like the precut sheets because it's slightly heavier so the cut templates last longer when I use them over and over. The sheets can also be run through your home printer if you like so you don't have to trace if you don't want to, and the sheets lie flat (no curling!)


Freezer paper has a shiny side (waxy) and a flat paper side. Lay the paper shiny side down and trace the shape on the non waxy side. If you need more than one template out of a shape, you can cut several pieces at once. Layer the sheets together, pin to keep the paper from shifting, and cut out the shapes using paper scissors.


Place the template waxy side down onto the wrong side of your fabric. Press lightly and the wax will stick to the fabric. This can be peeled off and repositioned many times before the template wears out.

For the Free Pattern we're using today, you'll only need one flower shape from each fabric. But for other patterns you might need multiple fabrics from this same shape. You can save time by layering a few fabrics together and cutting them all at once from the one template. Leaves are an excellent example when you need many. In my example here, I simply folded the fabric until I had 3 layers (my scissors are nice and sharp!), pinned through all the layers and cut 3 flowers at once.


Remove the freezer paper template and you'll have your shapes. These shapes have no fusible on them, it's just fabric! The freezer paper doesn't leave any waxy residue on the fabric, and can be reused several times.

Tip! When making leaves, or some shape that requires many of the same shape, I like to cut several freezer paper templates (shown above), place several on the 3 layers of fabric at once, pin them and cut several out at once. This makes fast work of the cutting step.

Next I'll show you various ways to adhere these shapes to your background to prepare for stitching.

Fusible Web is a great option. Start off by choosing your fusible web. We like Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 because it leaves less weight in the finished product and it's a double sided fusible. That means it has paper on both sides of the fusible. You can keep both papers intact while tracing, then remove one side for initial placement on your fabric.


We want the edges to fray after the final quilt is laundered, so we don't want adhesives around the edge. Yes, fusible web will launder out, but it will slow down the fraying process a bit, so most patterns suggest placing the fusible inside the stitching line of the appliqué piece (wrong side). Take a sheet of fusible, leaving the paper intact. Trace the shape, but don't trace the outer edge of the shape. Instead, trace inside the shape. How far in you trace will be up to you, as to how much of the edge you want to fray. I like my stitching to be somewhere between 1/8" - 1/4" away from the edge, so trace this line just inside of where you will stitch. I traced 1/4" away from the edge in this example. Then draw another line (I used a dotted line) another 1/4" in to show you where you will cut.

Tip! Our design today is not a directional piece, but if you have a design that has a right side, like letters, stop before you trace to consider which side of the fusible you should be tracing on. You'll want your tracing to be on the side of the paper that has the fusible stuck (usually one side of the paper releases more easily than the other - trace on the side that did not release easily).


You'll end up with a slim piece of fusible that will be placed on the appliqué piece like this. This technique is called Windowing the fusible web so there is less bulk in the center of the piece. It is not absolutely required to cut out the center if you don't mind the extra bit of bulk in the center. See my tutorial on Fused Edge Prep to learn more on windowing and fusible web. Peel off one side of the paper, leaving the fusible web product on the remaining paper. Lay it sticky side down onto the wrong side of your fabric piece, as shown. Press, following the instructions on your fusible product.


Peel off the remaining paper. You can see the fusible that remains on the flower back. Now you can place this piece on your backing and press it down.


Glue also works well for prepping your appliqué pieces for Raw Edge Appliqué. Both Roxanne's Glue-Baste-It and Appli-Glue have a fine applicator tip. This allows you to be very precise on where you apply the glue.


This glue will launder out nicely, but I prefer not to sew over the glue dots because I don't want to gum up my needle. So I place the dots inside the stitch line. In this case, I placed the dots 1/4" away from the edge, on the wrong side of the fabric. As soon as you've applied the glue, put it onto the background piece so the glue can dry a bit before stitching.


Glue sticks also work well, although it's difficult to be as precise. But it makes the appliqué piece behave more like a sticky note and you can reposition more easily. It does launder out. Again, apply the glue inside the sewing line, on the wrong side of the appliqué piece. Then place your glued piece to the background fabric.

Spray adhesive. One last option is 505 Spray and Fix. It's not as precise as the previously shown methods, but can be a quick way to apply adhesive to several pieces all at once. I recommend doing this in a well ventilated area, and lay out several appliqué pieces on paper to protect the surface from overspray. Spray a light layer on the wrong side of the pieces, then place the pieces on your background fabric. These can be repositioned until you are satisfied with your placement.