Raw-Edge Applique Coasters and Basics – Do’s & Don’ts of Intuitive Sewing

Raw-Edge Applique Coasters and Basics

Raw-edge Applique Coasters

Last week I posted my new Raw Edge Applique Coaster video. This cute little item is a great way to practice your REA (Raw Edge Applique) skills, but please do not attempt this as your first REA project or if you aren’t proficient as free-motion quilting yet. You should work up to this project! Also, you may want to simplify the project by stitching the binding with a regular foot at the end, instead of free-motioning the top stitching.

I covered everything in this post in three videos early in 2016, working through three projects. Here are some links if you want to open those in separate windows:  PART 1: Raw Edge Applique No Fusing – tea cozy, trivet, table mat; PART 2: Raw Edge Applique – Intuitive Sewing Basics; PART 3: Finish & Bind – tea cozy, trivet, table mat

Part 3: Finishing

Part 2: Basics

Part 1: Intro





The following information on Raw-Edge Applique Basics and Do’s and Don’ts is provided as a printable PDF. I’ve switched up the order a little to fit everything on two pages, but the information is the same.


A few things to keep in mind:

All the principles of good design apply… Balance… Emphasis… Movement… Pattern…Repetition… Proportion… Rhythm… Variety… Unity… Contrast… Value… Whimsy… Juxtaposition…

Handy Aids…gloves…marking tools (chalk and washable markers)…spray starch…washable fabric glue stick…curved tip embroidery scissors.
Sketches can be helpful…and sometimes just sleep on things.

Raw-Edge Applique BASIC DO’s & DON’Ts:

Use tape on small scraps

1) No tiny scraps – Use tape to utilize small scraps, but keep your fingers away from the needle. To the right is my a video on that:

2) Tight stitches make stable edges on shapes – This makes it harder for edge to fray too far.

3) Don’t stitch off your piece – Stitching off increases the chances that you will lose control momentarily, which is not a good idea when free-motion quilting. Minimize behaviors that put your fingers at risk.

4) Obsess about bobbin tension a little – Get in the habit of checking your tension with every
new bobbin and every thread change. I often do this on the margin of my piece, right before I
stitch on the work itself.

5) Look at it from a distance – This doesn’t apply to coasters, but with bigger work, step back
and see what you think from the across the room or even in the hallway. Some beautifully
detailed work sings up close but manages to be blah or somehow off, from a distance, as people
will approach it.

6) Take Care of Your Body – Hunching into the machine is a very bad habit that is easy to
develop. Try to counteract it with awareness, exercise, and frequent breaks.

7) Mark trouble spots that YOU don’t like – Ugly puckers, baggy areas, cuts and holes, bobbin
thread show through, and ugly stitching should not have to survive to the finished piece.

8) Switch thread a lot – This adds depth and complexity to your designs. I usually go for maximum contrast, although I didn’t when I was still learning to FMQ.

9) Trim to minimize overlap as you go – It is easy to get lost and cover up elements you wanted to show if you leave too much of the trimming for later. Design is visual…try to see your work at each stage, as it evolves.

10) Manage puckers – Really bad ones can distort your piece enough to require drastic measures. You can use your clothespin, scissors, bodkin, or screwdriver ahead of the needle to smooth out layers, but a wooden implement is the safest. By the way, I always sew with glasses on to protect my eyes from flying needle shrapnel. In the old days, the lenses were just glass. Now they have a little magnification.

11) Trim a little wiggle – This adds interest and helps keep edges from fraying too much over time.

12) Find your motifs everywhere – The world is a beautiful, complex environment. Study it.

13) Sew fabrics together if they sing together – If they sizzle and make you feel good, sew them together.

14) Compensate as needed – For instance, zigzags are more challenging than sinuous lines in terms of stitch quality because sharp turns exacerbate bad tension. Sometimes good tension is elusive no matter how hard you try to adjust it. And sometimes it just works. Just be aware of what you are working with currently and factor that into your design decisions.

15) Experiment. Go a little crazy. Don’t be matchy-matchy. No nitpicking. PLAY!!!

The Basic Steps for Raw-Edge Applique

STEP I. BUILD UP BACKGROUND: Start with big shapes, to anchor the piece visually and physically, and quickly cover some ground. Contrast in value, not just color.

STEP II. FILL IN MID-GROUND: Enhance design with mid-sized, graphic elements & organic plant shapes. Raw-Edge Applique skills accrue with time and practice…part of it is your attitude about your own sewing. My favorite fabric sings on everything.

Later we can do anything to fix mistakes and add embellishments… buttons… beads… ribbons… lace… embroidery… paint… marker… glitter… tassels… jewelry parts… to our hearts’ content.

STEP III. FOREGROUND: Add color highlights, refine composition, make any repairs. Clean backside of loose threads periodically as you go.

STEP IV. FINAL QUILTING & PLAN EMBELLISHMENTS: Quilt between elements, adding detail and dimension; plan final bells & whistles.

STEP V. WASH & DRY: Press from behind. Clean up frayed edges. Continue planning final bells & whistles. Add any additional stitching, such as satin stitching now. This can be used to make things pop, fix trouble areas, or both at the same time!

PART VI. FINISH CONSTRUCTION: Sew your piece. Bind and finish edges and hems as you desire.

PART VII. ADD BELLS & WHISTLES: This can be beading, painting, more satin stitching, buttons, etc., even literal bells.

I would love to hear about your REA sewing adventures.

Thanks, Beth/Zazu


Well, It is About Time!! Rice Trivets & What’s Ahead

ONE-TWO-THREE: What’s ahead for Zazu:

One of my best bread & butter items…

ONE: I am planning to release a small project video every two weeks on Friday afternoon through Thanksgiving. My Let’s Sew a Rice Trivet Gift video came out on Sept. 1, so I anticipate a video on the Sept. 15, Sept. 29, Oct. 13, Oct. 27, Nov. 10, and Nov. 24. The biweekly videos will tend to be gift projects, such as artistic raw-edge coasters, or small household items that might make a thoughtful handmade gift for someone, like a cover for a mixing bowl that sits out on the counter all the time.

Practical items, the rice trivets are easy to whip up assembly-line fashion, and fun to handle (like a bean bag) as well as easy and pretty to use in the kitchen or at the table. See below for more ideas about making, using, and selling your beautiful handmade rice trivets. 

Learn more about series

Learn more about series

TWO: After Christmas I will start a series for a larger project that is like some of my old work. I haven’t figured out what yet, but I will keep you posted. This will be similar to my White Sulphur Wallhanging Series and my Art Bag OUT Recycled In Jeans-lined Tote Series, which are book-ended for easy reference here. These links will take you to their series pages on YouTube, which open in a new window.

THREE: As a bonus, at some point, I will start a new, original wall piece unlike anything I have made previously, and I will release an extra video in that series every time I move forward substantially on that piece. This second series will illustrate that part of the creative process that is sometimes thrilling and easy going and sometimes riddled with insecurity with no idea where to go next. Please stay tuned!! I’m so happy to be filming again! Thank you for sticking with me!

Maybe this could be something…

More Ideas About Rice Trivets and Rice Packs

I’ve attempted to organize these comments, but obviously there is some overlap between the categories. Click these images, and they will enlarge, then use your back arrow…

Rice trivets stack neatly in the booth

Ideas about making rice trivets:

  • Vary the size of the piece and the number of channels for other uses. I once made a pack that was about 7 inches tall and 18 inches wide (essentially 2 or 3 trivets wide) with ties like an apron. It was made-to-order for a young woman who had a lot of abdominal pain each month. Another time, an elderly woman needed large packs (about 12 x 16 inches) for the leg pain her husband experienced every day. Such packs would be intended to be heated in the microwave.
  • A bigger trivet would be nice for under larger baking dishes, although I just place two side-by-side on the table for oblong dishes during holiday meals.
  • Holiday fabrics could be used on one side for a more versatile item, points out one of my YouTube viewers. The right person would love this flexibility, although in my experience, many people would still consider it to be only a holiday trivet and wouldn’t use it the rest of the year.
  • Scents, including cinnamon, cloves, and lavender can be added to the rice to make a soothing, nice-smelling trivet, especially when the warmth of a hot dish is added, points out the same YT viewer. People always asked me for this in the booth, but between all the allergies in my family, the anticipated extra mess, and the way I love the smell of plain white rice, I never acted on those requests. Really, the main reason for my hesitance was the fear that, given another set of options, people would like the appearance of a specific trivet, but want one with cloves for example, instead of whatever it was I had on hand. Then you have to remake the item, while the first one sits unsold. But scents are a very nice option for gift sewing, especially if you know your recipients well.

Ideas about using rice trivets:

  • Heat a rice trivet in the microwave and place in a basket or bowl under rolls to keep them warm. You can even button the rolls inside one of your handmade napkins for an extra cute presentation.
  • Fill a trivet a little looser and keep it in a Ziploc in the freezer for those little bumps and bruises that occur so often. This type of pack gives a gentle, even cold, not the harshness you can get from ice and some commercial gel packs.

Ideas about selling rice trivets: 

  • I stacked mine in locking bins, with 20-24 rice packs per bin. The bin then weighs up to 25 lbs. I usually took 2 full bins to market, 3 or 4 to a show or fair. I didn’t usually sell out. I had many fabric choices and was always happy to come home with lighter bins.
  • I displayed the trivets both in stacks and also with matching items. As I mentioned in the video, I would weigh stuff down with them when the wind picked up.
  • I used the trivets to attractively weigh down my signs, which are also called “little salesmen.” This sign is quite brazen, but it sold a lot of gifts.
  • This was my tag. It changed a little over the years. Just enough copy to keep them thinking if you are too busy to tell them what the product is. I used to safety pin the tags on. Later I used a tagging gun, piercing through the thick area by the closure.

These really are great little items. I hope you make up a few. Beth/Zazu


Embellishing Landscape Quilts – Paint, Beads, Etc; Finishing the Mini: Part 6


Embellishing Landscape Quilts can change the overall feel…

This weekend I posted a video finishing my large After White Sulfur wall hanging which I have been making on YouTube for some months. In that video I add gray metallic paint splatter and beading to the faint green mid-ground area and add orange satin-stitching in the white parts of the sky.

Embellishing landscape quilts is not only fun, but it is a practical way to add life and depth to parts of a quilt that could use a little oomph.

My mini-landscape quilt embellishments will be similar to those seen in that video: Splatter Paint, Bead, Satin Stitch | Part 9 Landscape Quilting Tutorial. Again, this mini-landscape tutorial is not intended to replace the video, but to shrink the project to a more manageable size and cover a few issues beyond the scope of the video.

BEFORE & AFTER PICS for the larger piece

Some specialized tools/materials: arranged clockwise, more or less:

Not an exhaustive list, here are some favorites. They work well, but better brands may exist.

Jacquard Textile Paint and Jacquard Lumiere Light Body Metallic Acrylic—craft paint for fabric would work too.
Thread Heaven
—I usually forget to use this, but threading the needle is a little easier, and tangles are fewer when I do.
Lint roller—best deal at Costco, when they are in stock.
Lots of light—I love to bead in direct sunlight, but at night I wear an LED light around my neck. Mine is called a Beam N Read, and you can check it out here on this link to Amazon: Beam n Read LED 6 Hands-Free Task Light.
Beading needles—size 10 works well, but they end up bent.
Nymo thread—nylon monofilament beading thread is much stronger than all-purpose sewing thread.
Bent tip embroidery scissors—I can’t function without them.
Glass beads of all shapes and sizes
—watch sharp ones—they can shred thread and scrape you.
Vellux blanket piece (under everything else) or other non-slip surface—to reduce bead “runaway.”


Here I use the same two types of fabric paint as in the video, this time in yellow and metallic gold. If this doesn’t makes sense, please check out the video. The time stamps under the video function like a table of contents, so you can click right to a topic of interest. The images below will enlarge quite a bit if you click through them.

1a) In conducting a blah bead audition, I discovered that I really wanted to add more yellow—to pick up both the bright yellow in the mountains and the light yellow in the tree. I had some bright yellow seed beads, but I wanted a dramatic transformation of the batik fabric, which has a distinct, repeating white flower in the pattern.

1b) Recreate the boundary of the area in question with paper and tape to protect the mini-landscape quilt as well as your work area from errant splatter. This is a little fussy but easy to do by lifting the paper to see the quilt and then drawing the boundary in stages. Once cut out, you can extend the paper with tape as needed. I just tape the fabric to do this as shown in the next picture. Notice that the tree trunk itself is covered with tape.

1c) I brighten up metallic gold paint with clear yellow and add enough water to make it pretty drippy. Even so, it should look and behave more like paint than lemonade! Take a minute to experiment on paper before working on your piece. Experiment hitting the paint-loaded brush from above. Then switch the brushes and try hitting your other brush with the paint-loaded brush. Here I apply mine, creating sloppy splatters, not the distinct dots that I added to the bigger wall hanging. I like the sloppy spatter on the mini quite a lot!

1d) You can no longer see the white flower shapes. This makes me think of the open fields of Alpine wildflowers. I am imaging beading that brings to mind showy hills of red Paint Brush, white Bear Grass, blue Forget-Me-Nots, purple Larkspur, and yellow Columbine.

STEP 2 – ADD BEADING to taste

Initially I plan on mixing the colored beads uniformly across the splattered area, but after a quick test, I decide to make swaths of color, as if the blooms are growing in drifts. I work to make the placement appear random, as flowers would be in nature.

2a) I didn’t actually dislike the batik area that I splattered. But because I wanted to add “flowers” and because this is a tutorial on embellishing landscape quilts, I wanted to focus on one area and transform it completely. So I looked through my beads, imaging what they might add. Also, I hadn’t yet decided what to do with the yellow areas on the tree. So while I was at it, I found some nice brown and amber beads that I might use in those areas. 

2b) Beading always takes time, but with a comfortable seat and a cup of tea, it can be quality time. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t enjoy working with your hands. The older I get, the more I enjoy this kind of work. Plus I usually do it while my husband and I watch t.v. I try to put in a double knot every 4 or 5 beads, and I hide all my knots in the quilt sandwich or inside a bead as I work.


4a) After adding the beads, I want to add a little more red, so I decide to free-motion quilt the yellow on the tree to justify the red beading. 

4b) I hop from area to area quickly and then cut off all the connecting threads. This is sloppy looking, but I will only fix it if I decide to sell it.


5a) Heat set paint as sson as your drying time has elapsed!! And always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Mine needs 24 hours to time and then my hottest iron applied for 30 seconds with no steam. You only need to accidentally wash your design out once or twice before you take this very seriously!

5b) Here are videos on making hanging sleeves and lath: I am not a fan of dowels or rings for hanging wall art. Dowels hang on nails in a way that I find makeshift, and rings concentrate the stress of gravity on too small an area to avoid long term sagging of fiber work.

CAUTION: Always sew your sleeve on last if you are planning to machine stitch the part of the quilt where it goes. I rarely add stitching to the top few inches. But if I did so carelessly, I would sew my sleeve closed!

Hanging Sleeve for Irregular Bindings | ZSA video tutorial
This is an 11-minute video.
Any reasonable sleeve will work. Again, my hanging sleeves are designed for artwork that I sell directly to the public so that the quilt will hang as neatly as possible in someone’s home or office. My sleeves are intended to make hanging simple and fool-proof.

Competition and quilt show sleeves must be constructed to their official specifications.

Easy Hanging Lath | ZSA video tutorial
This video is 5 minutes.
I made my first sticks, but Frank always makes them for me now. I think he likes to keep me out of the woodworking area so I won’t start organizing it. Also, it is a nice ritual when I tell him that one or several pieces need sticks. Of course this little piece could use a much smaller stick, like screen molding, and a smaller sleeve to go with it.


5c) Don’t over do this. If you really don’t like raw-edges, no amount of trimming will make this aesthetically pleasing to you. Trimming too close is a no-no.

STEP 6 – TAKE STOCK – The good, the bad, and the ugly

Would I change anything? Not really. I would certainly finesse certain parts a little differently if I made more. And I might still add red beads to the yellow areas on the tree, which would have benefited from using variegated thread. I may also paint gold in the shapes on the binding at some point. But this was a good exercise and is a cute little landscape. It is a size I have never tried before except for my quilted trivets. I could see it looking smart in someone’s little hallway, or in a comfy reading nook somewhere.