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


Mini-landscape Raw-Edge Applique Tutorial: Part 2


GIANT image – Click a few times to see the stitching close up. Here Comes the Sun series.

Mini-landscape Raw-Edge Applique Tutorial: Part 2

Here we will free-motion quilt (FMQ) the 12 x 12-inch mini-landscape that is scaled back from the project covered in my last YouTube video, Free-Motion Quilt Sky & Foreground (this is a link that opens in another window). This is a simplified version of the raw-edge applique landscape quilt series on my channel, Zazu’s Stitch Art (also a link, to my whole channel).

Reminder: never forget that tension is always the thing in FMQ and therefore in this raw-edge applique tutorial. See my tension by double-clicking the large image above twice.


This tutorial is NOT intended to replace the video, because it uses all the same techniques, insights, tips, and instruction covered there. But this mini project IS intended to replace the large, complex project in the video for those who are new to raw-edge applique landscape quilting or for those who are just gaining real confidence with their free-motion quilting skills. This is also a great place to start with a much smaller investment of materials. But fear not–these will be sweet little art pieces to keep or give as special holiday gifts. Plus, at this tiny size, you can go crazy with embellishments if you want to.

Raw-Edge Applique Landscape Protocol

In making raw-edge applique landscape quilts of any size, here is a good general plan of attack, but always think in terms of what will overlap what… This tutorial adapts this protocol, covering Steps 1-2 for this mini quilt.

  1. Stitch wide area across bottom (foreground)
  2. Stitch large areas at the top (sky)
  3. Stitch large center area of interest (mountains)
  4. Stitch remaining areas to fill in the landscape. 
  5. Add interest
  6. Wash & finish quilt
  7. Embellish?

STEPS ONE & TWO: Free-motion quilt the bottom or FOREGROUND and THE SKY. I always like to add a lot of movement to my landscapes.

First, stitch a lot of both areas. I used the same variegated yellow thread on both. Each of these images Read More …