Design Your Own Applique Quilt

ROb AppliqueIf you’ve ever wanted to create your own appliqué pieces, this tutorial is for you! In this video, Rob Appell shows you how to take a photograph that you love and turn it into an appliqué pattern! “Appliqué” won’t be such a scary word once you watch this!

Find all the details here:

Transcript (Downloadable PDF Here): 

Hey everybody, it’s Rob from Man Sewing. And today I’ve got a skill-builder tutorial for you today. How many of you out have been wishing you knew how to make your very own applique for quilt patterns out of photographs? That’s right. Today, I’m going to show you and you’re only going to need a sharpie marker, some paper, and your favorite photograph basically. That’s right, computers are so easy to use nowadays and cameras are so terrific and your cell phones are almost as great, right? Any photograph you take or any image you find on the internet or outline image you find on the internet can be translated to an applique pattern. I want to give you a few basic steps. Real quick: think about your computer. You may have some software that you’ve owned for a long time like Photoshop, of course one of my favorites. But that can be a little pricey if you don’t have it. So there’s another program I want you to investigate if you don’t have an art-based program for your computer. And it’s called Gimp. G I M P and it’s available for all the operating systems out there. And I use that to take my photograph and create a map that is a little bit less than pretty. So that I have some grainy lines to trace. Those tracings then become the applique.


So let’s back up a couple of steps and talk a little bit more about what we’re going to do to get to the point where the sharpie becomes our favorite tool, right? So I’ve got my image in my computer and because we’re going to be tracing these in the long run on fusible web that has a paper back, we want to transpose or mirror flip our image. So take your image and just flip is over so that it is backwards, technically. And that will be correct when we’re done tracing it and cutting it out of regular fabric. The next thing, I find it easiest to print that image out the size you want your quilt to be. So if you look real carefully on my paper here, let’s see I’ve got one, two, three and a half by three. You’ve got about 12 sheets of paper that were consumed in printing this out. You could always take it down to like a Kinkos and have it printed large if you needed and you don’t want to waste your paper and ink. But that’s how I do it, I get it full size and I print it out using the software in my printer. There’s another one called Posterizer that’s a fantastic software that’s also free. Get it to the actual size. Get it flipped over and let it print out on either draft quality. Or let it print out in kind of a grainy or posterized or some sort of a filter that makes it less than perfect. And I’ve got another example I’ll show you where you really see that graininess coming out.


Now once you have it printed backwards, to the right sides, you’re going to simply look for the major lines and those major lines become the applique pieces. So I’m going to start with an obvious one. We’ve got our mountain here. So I’m going to sharpie on the outline. I’ll worry about detail later. So here is the background of that mountain. Now I also see where there’s kind of foothills that are almost blurry, in front of it. So I’m going to run this down like that. And then over time, yes, I’m going to come back in here and I’m going to start to section out some of the more important pieces that will become highlights or shadows. So as I’m drawing these and I’ve done it so many times, it feels natural. But I want you to be thinking that these lines you’re creating here represent new pieces of fabric. New colors of fabric. And probably a lot of you will be doing this with batiks so the mottling that happens, you don’t have to draw, like look you don’t have to draw every little teeny line in there because you’ll get that in the mottling of your fabric. Or you can do it with thread. So once I start to section out my pieces, then I want to come in and label this like maybe this is going to be my white. So I’m going to do a W for white and W for white and W for white. I will give them  numbers in a little bit. I will get back to that, ok? Now let’s talk about some of these more intricate spots, more of these detailed spots. I want to deal with maybe some of this lupine in here, right? I’m not going to draw each little circle because that would draw me, drive me nuts. I’ve already been drawn nuts. I’m going to trace this as a giant cluster and then I’m going to find the perfect fabric to cut as that one shape that becomes that flower in my quilt. You could also, of course, come back in and do the applique in the background using batiks of greens and other earth tones and then you could cut out actual flowers out of fabric as well, right? That would be really cool. So I’m just going to show you a few more of these. I’m drawing them in. And maybe for this, I just want to put like an F for flower so I know that that will be my flower fabric that I choose later. Some of this grass, I’m going to make a really generic piece that fits into the background. And the way this particular photograph is translated, I see where I want to do maybe a couple of different shades. So I see over in here kind of this lighter green coming through like this. But over here is more of my darker or my medium green, right? Now the other thing you need to know about this is the line represents not one but two pieces of fabric so let me I finish this line so you know what that means. So what I’m saying is this line right here is going to be for the white, oooh, can I do an upside down G, I can. Light green there but over here it’s going to be my dark green on that side. So this line, when I get ready for the next step, will be actually traced twice. If you’re thinking to yourself what’s the  next step, right? Yeahhhh!


Well for that I actually start with my fusible web. And of course, I will do all of my detailing first or all of my tracing first. But you don’t probably have seven or eight hours to sit there while I goof around with this, right? So now I’m going to go ahead and lay this down. And if you have a light table at home, this is a great time to be using your light table. So let me get you something that might show up a little better on camera. Now if I’m tracing this line here as I said. And let me show you, I want to show you how the two lines work together. So this is going to be, so we’re going to call this brown and over here was another white. So if I’m tracing that section here now I’m going to go ahead, we’re going to use as much, er, as little of our fusible web as possible. We’re going to maximize our space. So here’s going to be a brown. And now that brown is going to be number 1. And now I come back in here and I put a 1 in too. And this over here is brown. And I apologize for my sloppy upside down handwriting. And that’s going to be a 2. And then I’m going to position that on my fusible web right here. Where my brown number, uh oh, I can’t do it backwards, number 2 will be. The reason I’m putting numbers on them now is later on I’m going to iron this brown fusible web labeled fabric to the back of the brown fabric itself, right? And then I’m going to cut them out. But I won’t know where they go unless they now have numbers. So the number is their name. And it doesn’t have to be an ordering system, I just start going through as, as I’m going sequentially so that I don’t lose track. And if I actually lost track, it wouldn’t matter too much anyways.


So quick review and I’m going to show you another piece that will maybe make more sense as well. You’ve got your photograph. You’ve rendered it in your computer. You’ve printed it out to full size. You’ve done some of your tracings to capture the shapes or the, the different layers or elements within your photograph. You gave them a fabric label first and then you gave them a number later once you traced them onto the fusible web so you don’t get lost, right? Now check this out. This piece here. Uh, let me just slide this completely out of our way. This piece I’m about to show you, I was preparing for a portrait or a self-portrait. And this one I made really crazy in my computer. And you can see kind of how blocky and grainy it is. So this was when I did some filters in the computer itself. Now this is a portrait. And I’ve done lots with portraits. The key to like portraits for applique is don’t do too many pieces and don’t do too many colors. So for this face portion, I’m going to be thinking in about five to six shades of whatever color family. So black to gray maybe I’m going to use here. So when I’m looking here, I’m going to have my lightest. So this light right here, I’m just going to start to label that’s my light there. And then where I see here, there’s another light. And down here, there’s another light. So I’m just going to go through and do the exact same thing I did with my landscape when I’m doing my portraits.
Now last thing, it’s incredibly important that when you’re dealing with a portrait or an actual landscape that is a recognizable place, like let’s call it a, you know a, Yosemite where you have half dome in the background something like that, Mt. Rushmore. You really want to make sure that you have flipped or transposed that image first. Because if you don’t do that with a person we’re supposed to recognize, it’s just going to look like their cousin or their brother because their features won’t be exact, right? Now there’s another fun trick when you’re going to put it all together, and that is to actually, if you’re doing something very accurate like a face, you could put a piece of Teflon over the top and you could build your applique itself right on top of that Teflon so you have real accuracy. And that’s where the light table really comes in handy is being able to illuminate your patterns from the underside as you go through. I know that seemed a lot like a talk-a-stration for you but I hope you got a couple of new skills. And I wanted you to know that because I’ve got a bunch of fun applique quilt, you know, patterns coming up and applique quilt tutorials coming up on Man Sewing very soon and I want you to have the skill so that you can follow along and enjoy the rest of what’s going on here at Man Sewing.

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  • Dawn

    Wow this tutorial is really fantastic!!! I going to try this but on a smaller scale first. Directions were explained really well. I didn’t have to back up at all. Thanks Rob!

  • casey

    Way to complicated foe me! I like my viking machjne that just scans the pic and embroiders it on my fbric for quilting! Sorry

  • joanne

    I think I’m too old to understand this. Love the idea. Wish I could do it.

  • Lori Chambless

    Love this idea! What size gromit do you use? Also my IPad shows what you are saying at the bottom of screen it blocks the view. Does this show up for everyone or is there a way of removing it. Thanks