How to Applique in Reverse – Quilting Daily

In my travels to quilt shows, exhibits, and “Quilting Arts TV” tapings, as well as virtual traveling via social media, I’m seeing a big return to some of the traditional sewing crafts like smocking, tucking, and hand appliqué.

I don’t know whether it’s the ‘70s fashion revival (like wearing smocked and embroidered peasant blouses and sewing appliqués on jeans), a grandbaby boom, or just that what goes around will always come around again.

Although I love the look of needle-turned appliqué, my favorite appliqué techniques are raw-edge appliqué and reverse appliqué.

I persuaded this fabric bird to perch on one
of my prayer flags using raw-edge appliqué.

Raw-edge appliqué is common among art quilters who fuse cut pieces of fabric to a background, then stitch close to the edge or all over the quilt. The fusing and the stitching hold the fabric pieces in place. Because an art quilt won’t be washed, the raw edges won’t fray.

In reverse appliqué, instead of sewing a patch of decorative fabric on top of the background, you stitch two or more layers together, then cut away fabric from the top to reveal what’s underneath.

Mary Stoudt described how to appliqué a prayer flag using the reverse appliqué method in a Quilting Arts article called “Flying Colors.”

reverse applique prayer flag mary stoudt
Prayer flag using the reverse-appliqué technique,
by Mary Stoudt.

Mary creates her prayer flags using layers of sheer fabrics and quotes printed on fabric. She starts with a base piece 8″-9″ long and cuts or tears additional fabric “patches” plus the printed quotes into 2″-4″ pieces.

Here are the directions for creating the reverse appliqués.

1. Thread your machine with one color of thread in the top and a different one in the bobbin.

2. Orient the base flag pieces vertically, portrait-style. Arrange the geometric shapes as you would a patch and add the quotation printed on cloth in an area that pleases you. Sew all the patches and quotations in place.

3. Turn the flag over and sew another stitching line outlining all of the patches, thus creating a two-color line of stitching affixing the patches.

4. With sharp embroidery scissors, gently poke through one of the layers of the base fabric and cut around the inside of the stitches, 1/8″ from the stitching, to reveal the contrasting fabric underneath.

reverse applique technique tutorial
Cutting the fabric from the back of the appliqué,
after stitching around the patches.

5. Working from both sides of the flag, continue to add patches to the flag. Save the pieces you have left over from trimming and add them to the flag.

When strung together and hung outside, her prayer flags send messages out across the wind.

As you may know, I am an avid prayer flag creator. Not only do I love the concept of prayer flags, but making them gives me the opportunity to play with different techniques and use up pieces of this and that from my stash.

I’m thrilled to tell you that we have a new Prayer Flag Kit  available, just in time for porch weather. This kit includes the Prayer Flags eBook and a banner of 8 flags from Moda Fabric ready for you to appliqué, paint, dye, embroider, as you wish.

P.S. Stamping is a fun way to decorate prayer flags, especially when you carve your own stamps. Our Hand Carving Premium Collection that includes video instructions and a complete kit for carving, inking, and printing your own stamps.

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