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Chenille Appliqué

This is a great appliqué project for people who are afraid to try appliqué - no turned-under edges, no hand-sewing, no fancy stitches. The only skills required are tracing, cutting, gluing and machine-sewing straight lines!

chenille butterfly

The finished block after being washed and dried once. Notice how appliquéd fabric antennae would not have survived the process, but the drawn ones (permanent ink marker) did fine.

Pattern for Zephyr the Sundrop Butterfly can be purchased in the Pattern Catalog .
Surprise!  For a short time only, the 6" butterfly pattern is free as a pdf - click here .  You will need to enlarge the pattern at least 133% to 150% to make it large enough for chenille applique.

Materials Needed:
- appliqué pattern of choice for 8" block or larger (small blocks with small pieces are risky)
- fabrics for block pattern and background
- 2-3 muslin squares cut same size as block background
- 1 square of a second background fabric cut 2-4" larger than block pattern
- freezer paper
- washable glue stick (make sure it's washable!)
- permanet ink marker (if pattern has a few small details)
- ruler and washable felt pen
- sharp scissors with narrow blades (or electric scissors or rotary cutter and bias cutting strips or chenille cutter)

Tip: Choose a block pattern with simple shapes that are fairly large. Small pieces (less than 3/4 inch) will not be anchored well by the stitching and will be lost after a few washings. Small details can be drawn with a permanent ink marker. In the example above, the butterfly pattern was enlarged to fit on a 9" block and the antennae were drawn with a black permanent ink marker.

1. Mark the straight of grain on all pattern pieces.
2. Trace pattern pieces and the straight of grain lines on freezer paper. Label all pieces and cut out.
3. Launder and press fabrics if needed.

Tip: This is a great method for using fabrics with minor blemishes - sun-faded streaks, ink bleeds, tea-dyes that came out blotchy, etc.

Cutting the Fabric:
1. Cut 1 background and 2 muslin squares the size of your chosen block.
2. Cut 1 square of fabric 2" larger than your chosen block.
3. Position freezer paper templates on right side of fabrics making sure the straight of grain is correct; press. Cut out fabric, leaving templates on.

Getting the straight of grain correct is important in achieving the final ruffly, raggedy look of chenille. You can be off-grain a little,but not much. Make sure your background squares are cut on the straight of grain, also.

You can use other fabrics instead of muslin, but keep in mind their colors will show and therefore affect the appearance of the finished block.

Assembling the Block:
1. Position fabric pieces on the small background square, starting with those that will be on the bottom (underneath part or all of another piece). Glue these in place with washable glue stick. Remove freezer paper templates as you go.
2. Draw details on the fabric with a permanent ink marker.
3.With a washable felt pen, draw a diagonal line from one top corner of the block to the opposite bottom corner.
4. Stack this block on top of the 2 muslin squares.
5. Center your stacked squares on top of the large background square. Pin in several places.
6. Machine stitch all layers along the diagonal line. Backstitch at the beginning and the end to lock stitches.
7. Sew additional lines 1/4" to 1/2" apart across the entire block. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of each line. Clip threads.

chenille butterfly stage 1
The spots were cut a little larger than the patterns and so the pieces overlap a little - for chenille appliqué, accuracy of this type is not important!

stitching lines

Stitching lines are 1/4" apart on this butterfly.

Finishing the Block:
1. With sharp scissors, cut between the rows of stitching - cut all layers of fabric except the bottom layer. You might need to cut through the top 2-3 layers first, then cut through the remaining layers.
2. Immerse your block in a basin of water and gently rub the top against itself (or toss it into the washing machine with the laundry).
2. Toss wet block into the clothes dryer with some towels or laundry. Most blocks will be dry in 20-30 minutes (unless drying with full load of laundry). When dry, your block is ready to use to decorate a garment, a tote bag or another item - or make several chenille blocks to make a quilt.  (Note: Washing one or two blocks in the washer is okay, but avoid washing lots of chenille blocks at a time in a washer - the extra fibers that are washed away can be hard on the plumbing.)

Cut between each line of stitching.
Cut edges can be "roughed up" with an old toothbrush or a small stiff bristle brush (I found mine in the automotive department at Wal-mart).

Copyright 2002 Sandy Harris. All rights reserved.
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