Apple Core quilts get their name from the one and only patch shape that goes into their construction, which resembles the side view of an apple core. The top and bottom edges of each patch have convex (“outie”) curves, while the side curves are concave (“innie”). The length of the outer and inner curves are designed to match. That’s how the quilt top is assembled – pieces nesting together with top and bottom curves meeting up with side curves.
Having a single patch shape puts the Apple Core into the category of one-patch quilts. This design is also a tessellation, meaning that the pieces interlock and repeat across the quilt.
Historically, many Apple Core quilts have been charm quilts, also known as beggar quilts or odd fellow quilts. In these instances, every patch is cut from a different fabric – no fabric appears in more than one patch. Hence the term “beggar!” Quilters often had to beg scraps from other quilters or ask for discarded clothing from friends and family to get enough types of fabric to make a true charm quilt! To The Core (above) is a modern take on an Apple Core charm quilt. With a finished size of 57″ x 70″ and relatively large apple shapes (designed to work with precut 10″ fabric squares), this pattern is great for quilters wanting to use up scrap fabrics while trying out curved seams.
Because yes, the Apple Core design is based on the curved seam. In fact, every seam in a quilt like this is curved. But here’s the awesome news – the curves are gentle which makes sewing them much easier than you might imagine. If you decide to make an Apple Core quilt, you are guaranteed to be a curved-seam expert by the time you finish, with an absolute minimum of frustration!
Not all Apple Core quilts are charm quilts of course. This type of quilt can take on many secondary designs, depending on where you place repeating fabrics. Core Connection (above) is a prime example of this. It’s the same size as To The Core and is finished the same way (by fitting partial template shapes into the outer curves, trimming to create a straight edge, and then using straight-grain binding), but careful fabric placement gives a woven effect. In fact, there are only 4 fabrics in this version of the Apple Core design, and bands of each fabric seem to weave in and out, over and under each other. It’s a fascinating optical effect.
Here’s a fact every Apple Core quilter needs to keep in mind – the larger the apple shapes, the easier and faster the quilt is to make. What’s more, larger apple shapes are a great way to show off special fabrics, since you see more of the uninterrupted prints in each patch. The Big Apple (left) is made with super-sized shapes that finish 11″ tall! Some quilters will find they don’t even need to pin the patches together for sewing when working at this large a scale. The fabrics in The Big Apple are all flannels, but the pattern works up great in regular quilters’ cottons as well. This pattern is for a 53″ x 63″ throw-size quilt, and a free size chart is available for downloading, giving twin- and queen-size options. Note that The Big Apple is finished in a more traditional style for this design – patches along the outer edges are left whole, and then bias-cut binding is used to secure the edges, giving the quilt a nice scalloped finish.
Specialized tools are available for anyone wanting to make their Apple Core quilting even easier. Acrylic templates for the apple shape are available from many manufacturers and in many sizes. For beginners, we recommend a fairly large template, like the 9″ finished size shown at right, or the 11″ finished size used in The Big Apple. Many quilters prefer to use a 28mm rotary cutter when cutting curves, as the smaller blade stays closer to the acrylic template than a standard 45mm blade could do. And a rotating cutting mat is a real blessing when cutting out these shapes – it’s safest to always cut away from yourself and to do that these templates will have to be turned 4 times per patch, much easier with a rotating mat.
Have we convinced you yet to add an Apple Core quilt to your bucket list? Maybe you’d like to see a little more about the construction before making up your mind. We have several free videos available to walk you through Apple Core techniques. In Cindy Hathaway’s 13-minute video, you get a complete lesson from patch cutting to quilt top assembly. Cindy has lots of great tips and it really helps to see the patches being sewn together. And Colleen Tauke’s 9-minute video demonstrates her favorite 3-pin technique for sewing those curved seams. If you’d prefer some printed tips to stash away, here’s a free download showing apple core piecing in step by step photos.
Have you ever made an Apple Core quilt? If you have a story to tell, we invite you to leave a comment below. And if you have a quilt photo to share, please post it to the Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting Facebook page. Who knows? Your quilt may be just the inspiration someone else needs to give this classic quilt style a try!
The Fons & Porter Team