Lovin’ that Wool!

I absolutely LOVE working with WOOL!!!!! Can I say that any louder? Wool applique is my absolute favorite! It is like sewing on BUTTER! What could be any, NOTHING. So today I will share with you what I love about working with wool and give a little mini lesson about wool applique.

First of all, take any applique pattern from a book, magazine, a pattern and use it with wool pieces. Easy, right? YES! Wool is so wonderful, you don’t have to worry about turning your seams under, right side or wrong side, just fuse and sew. Yes . . . easy!!!! The wool that we use for applique is generally “felted” wool, the fibers have been fused together to prevent raveling. Many shops carry wool now, in gorgeous colors, but you may also “felt” your own wool.

Which brings me to another story from back in the shop days. One of my employees, who happened to have worked for me from day one until the closing, and to this day is one of my best buddies (you know who you are!) came in with a bagful of wool skirts purchased at the thrift shop in the same strip mall. She had every color and was super excited – she was going to felt her own wool! And she did . . . and she probably still has a lot of it . . . somewhere. The skirts were on sale that day for $1 so she really got a great deal and a lot of wool for her stash. We’ll have to find out what has happened to all that wool!

I prefer to use a wool background for my applique but you can also applique wool pieces onto a cotton background if you like. I know that wool is a bit pricey but worth every penny. And how many large wool quilts will we actually be making, probably none as they would be extremely heavy and not practical for a bed quilt. Maybe a large wallhanging perhaps? Most likely if you do a wool project it will be on a much smaller scale, a wallhanging, tablerunner or pillow.

One of my quilt groups, the Breakfast Club (BC as we call it) has been working with wool for our projects the last two years. We did Edyta Sitar’s Elegant Garden blocks last year and are currently working on her Sweet Sixteen pattern. Both of these patterns are shown in traditional applique, using cotton applique pieces. Last year we did nine blocks and I think we all pieced them together as wallhangings. This year we may all do something different depending on the blocks we choose. I am doing a 4 block wallhanging on chocolate brown wool, a one block pillow (a heart motif) and a 3 block table runner, both on a beautiful camel colored wool and still have blocks to spare since “Sweet Sixteen” refers to the 16 block quilt.  (Elegant Garden pictured below.)

Now for the “mini” wool applique lesson:

*Audition your wool pieces with your background to achieve the desired look. I like to use brighter colors that will stand out on the background for pieces like flowers, fruit, etc. For leaves and vines, I tend to use more muted tones of green and browns. For leaves, I always use several different colors in each block.

*Gather your supplies: Choose a fusible web, I use Steam-A-Seam because it is re-positionable. Use an “old” iron and scissors, ones you don’t mind getting gunk on when cutting or fusing. Finally, choose your thread. There are a few good ones out there, I use both Valdani 12 pearl cotton and Aurifil wool. The Aurifil wool thread comes in an assorted pack with 12 colors. Everyone has a different take on their thread, some prefer to match the thread to wool, others prefer to use the same color thread on the block, using a neutral color, such as black, brown or green.

* Trace pattern onto fusible web. You may have to reverse certain pieces if they are not symmetrical. I use a fine or medium point Sharpie to trace. Refer to directions on fusible web regarding what side to trace. Trace pattern pieces, cut around those pieces with the “old” scissors (not on pattern lines), remove one side of paper and lightly fuse to wool. Let cool and cut on pattern line.

*Hint, collect your pattern pieces so they don’t get lost!

* I position my applique pieces using the Applique Pressing Sheet, another great tool when doing applique! Place the pattern under this teflon sheet and place pieces on top of the pattern. Fuse to the pressing sheet and let cool. Peel off entire applique section (one piece) from teflon sheet and position on wool background.

* Find center of wool background square by folding in half twice and lightly pressing to find center. Center applique pieced section according to pattern or picture and then fuse. Fuse with steam (if using Steam-A-Seam) or according to fusible packaging instructions.

*You are now ready to hand stitch applique pieces onto the wool with your choice of thread using the buttonhole stitch.

* After all the blocks are made, sew blocks together and press seams open to avoid bulk. For Elegant Garden, I used a decorative stitch and Aurifil wool thread to quilt in the seams of the wallhanging. Not a lot of quilting is needed. I also used flannel as backing and no batting, also used the same flannel for binding.

Wool Applique, easy, fun, and beautiful!!!!!

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