The day has finally arrived. In this post I’ll be sharing my favorite method for making hand appliqued Orange Peel Quilt Blocks. (Also sometimes called Petal blocks.) I have made all of mine by hand appliqueing the Peel/Petal shape to the backing fabric. There’s no one right way to applique shapes to fabric – just finding the one that works best for you. After experimenting with a number of different methods to applique these blocks, I found the one that had the look I wanted and that worked best for me.
I have been making these appliqued Orange Peel (sometimes called Petal) quilt blocks for over 11 years! (!!!) I started my first blocks to take with me as a handwork project on a summer trip in 2011.
Each summer since that time I’ve made a bunch more and I’m now up to 288 blocks (!) and finally ready to piece them together in a memorable quilt. When I started the project all those summers ago I wanted to go with a color palette that would look timeless. And you can’t get more timeless than red, white, and blue.
Now that it’s taken me all of this time, I’m so glad I did. Because I still really like these blocks. And the fabric choices are a fun time capsule of the past decade of my life – including using pieces from all 6 of my fabric collections. (When I first started this quilt in 2011 I never would have dreamed I’d release a fabric collection. Let alone 6. Life is crazy.)
As I mentioned, there are LOTS of ways to applique shapes to a background. You could cut raw-edge shapes and machine applique them in place. You could use some fusible backing like Heat N’ Bond and adhere them that way. You could use interfacing and applique using Lori Holt’s method. You could cut your shapes and use a needle-turn applique technique. There are benefits to each method and you get to decide which one works best for you!
I decided I didn’t want the added weight or rigidity of fusible backing in my quilt. I wanted it to have a vintage feel so hand applique was the route I choose. I would LOVE to get better at needle-turn applique, but struggled with getting the points crisp and sharp. So this pre-pressed method worked great.
This method takes a little more prep work ahead of time, but then the peels/petals are perfectly shaped and ready to mindlessly sew in place. So for me the accurate, crisp shapes + the portability of a handwork project + the ease of stitching them in place, made this the perfect method for this project.
My Favorite Method For Hand Appliqued Orange Peel Quilt Blocks
I’ll walk through the steps for this project below. (As I was taking pictures, I realized it might be easier to show by video rather than just pictures. So this week I’m going to put together a video of the step by step process and share that too. If you like video better, stay tuned. I’ll notify by email newsletter when it’s ready.)
- Freezer Paper – Paper with one side with a waxy coating (Reynolds rolls are available in the grocery store – same aisle as aluminum foil)
- Lightweight Cardboard (like a cereal box)
- Traditional Spray Starch
- small paint brush
- Orange Peel/Petal Template HERE
- 5″ x 5″ background squares
- 5″x 5″ scraps for Peels/Petals
Print the Orange Peel/Petal template. Trace onto the paper-side of a piece of freezer paper and cut out.
Place freezer paper templet shiny-waxy side down on the backside of your cardboard box and iron on to stick in to the cardboard. Then cut out the shape from the cardboard.
I like this method because it makes super cheep, sturdy templates that you can use and abuse and then throw away and easily make more!
Cut out peel/petal pieces with a generous ¼″ seam allowance all the way around.
**Important Tip: lay petal on the diagonal. This way you will get bias edges around the curves of the petal.
I like to cut a number of peel pieces at once and then prep a stack at the same time so that they’re ready to go.
Bring your stack of fabric peels and cardboard templates to your pressing station.
Spray about a teaspoon of starch into a container. I just use the lid from the starch can. At first it will look like foam-y and then it will settle and look like water in the container.
Dip your paint brush into the liquid starch and generously “paint” the starch all the way around the edges of the fabric petal which should be wrong-side up.
Place the cardboard template in the center of the fabric petal and with the iron, carefully fold the edges of the fabric around the carboard template and press carefully to give the fabric a nice, crisp edge the same shape as the template. The fabric will fold over itself at both points.
Turn over and press again from the top with the template inside, then remove the template and press again.
You will now have a perfect petal with crisp edges neatly turned under and ready to applique.
Center the pressed peel/petal piece on the 5″ x 5″ background fabric.
Tip: to help center the shape, fold background fabric in half one direction and finger-press at corners. Fold in half the other direction and create a center crease.
Fold petal in half width wise and lightly crease. Line up center crease and peel-points with creases on background piece. Pin in place. I like to use two applique pins as they’re small and the applique thread won’t get caught on them as easily.
I recommend a lightweight thread (I use Aurifil 50 wt thread) in a coordinating color so stitches will blend and hide.
Knot one end and pull through the back right at the crease. Use a running applique stitch to sew peel/petal to the backing fabric. (This video demonstrates how to do a hand applique stitch.)
When you get to the petal point you will need to carefully trim away the excess fabric to reduce bulk behind the point. DO NOT trim too close to the point itself – leave between ⅛th-¼″ of fabric next to the point and trim away remaining excess fabric. See photos below.
Use your needle to sweep any fabric still sticking out under the point.
Also use smaller stitches at the two points to keep point sharp and secure.
And there you go! It’s really simple – especially once you get the hang of it.
Don’t get frustrated if your blocks are a little wonky or imperfect. If you look at my blocks you’ll see a lot of imperfections. After making 228 blocks I’m getting faster and better, but still not perfect. And I’m okay with that – imperfection ensures people know that the quilt was handmade by a person, not a machine. 😉
And most people only see the big picture and overall design anyway. Don’t the blocks look so great all laid out together?
This week I’m finishing appliqueing the last few blocks and then I’m going to finally get them sewn together. You may be surprised (or not) to know that this 11-year-old UFO (UnFinished Object) isn’t the oldest one I have. But it’s definitely one of them! haha.
But it’s also a project I’m most proud of – a hand-appliqued quilt is something that’s been on my bucket-list and this will be the first one I’ve ever finished. Hoping to finally get it done this fall!
I hope this motivates you to try your own hand applique orange peel quilt blocks. It’s such a timeless look and really fun to work on.
Gorgeous!!! I appreciate you sharing after 11 years of effort.
I greatly appreciate how thorough and concise your tutorials are. Thank you!
Love that this is a portable project.
I have so many unfinished projects, but I think I’m going to start making this quilt! It’s beautiful. I’ve always wanted to make a red, white and blue quilt, this is the best that I’ve seen. Thank you!
Love this!! Thanks so much for sharing!
This is very ironic because I’ve been considering an orange peel block/quilt. I was working on one 4 years ago. I tossed it in the garbage because I didn’t care for my chosen method – ugh! I come to love hand applique over the past year and use the freezer paper/starch method. Thank you so much for the inspiration, Amy.
Oh, wow! 😍 I cannot wait to try this out. I’ve never done applique but you’ve laid it out so well that I don’t think it’ll too hard. Thank you!
You explained the Petal hand-applique process so very well. I’ve always loved this quilt and wanted to make one…you’ve inspired me! I love reading your newsletter!
Love your appliqué quilt. I’m definitely going to try it though I think I’ll start with something smaller like a table runner.
FYI- in the sixth row up from the bottom and four blocks from the right side it appears the peel is going in the wrong direction. Hope you saw this before you sewed all your squares together!
Look forward to your video tutorial.
It’s so pretty!
very nice … thank you for the inspirations
Thanks so much for this! I love hand sewing… and these orange peel blocks look so beautiful. I will have to add this to my project list… but start small. Maybe a table runner or a pillow!!
Absolutely beautiful! You’re right that it’s a timeless quilt. I think I’ll give this a try. Thanks for the tutorial
Well done Amy. They all blend so well due to your excellent color palette and also none of them scream out due to just the right tints. This is hard to do when it’s done over a number of years.
Thank you. That’s true! There are a handful of blocks that I’ve replaced because they stuck out too much, but for the most part I love that they blend together so well!
I’ve been putting the starch into a water brush, so I can just squeeze it out through the bristles instead of dipping. (Search water brush on Amazon and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) And the brush has a cap, so it stays ready for the next time. I use a half-and-half mixture of Sta-Flo and water. I keep it in a little jar and use a hypodermic without a needle to fill the brush (I had one for basting in a kitchen drawer), but you could just pour it in carefully. Or it would probably work to put the spray can nozzle against the opening and push, but I haven’t tried that.
That is such a great tip! Thank you so much for sharing!
Amy, this quilt is beautiful. Thank you for sharing how you did it, and your peel template as well as the other info. A orange peel quilt has been on my list of quilts to make for a long, long time. I’ve been thinking of taking the plunge but I’m still not fully decided. I think it might be nice to have a hand sewing project to stitch.
I AM inspired! I really like the idea of an ongoing handwork project that could use much of my scraps. I may not follow your red, white, and blue plan, but I end result. Plus, putting the blocks together is super simple! Thanks!
Ms Sam Nicholson
Thank you so much for all of your tips, I love doing hand sewing so this is perfect for me! Are you going to hand quilt the quilt too?
Great question. I’ll probably have it machine quilted. Mainly so it gets done before the next 11 years. 😉
I love your perseverance! It inspires me to try it, as I love the block and have been looking for a handwork project too.
Have always loved the Orange Peel block – maybe this will inspire me to start my own 11 year project!!!! I do use the FP method for all applique (as there are various ways to use FP templates).
My fav is to cut multiple shapes out of FP, pin one to wrong side of fabric, shiny side up. Trim fabric. With the tip of a dry iron, fold the edge of the fabric over the FP & iron down, It will stick! Once sewn all around, cut a tiny slit on the back of fabric & pull template out. Use it again and again.
I do use pinking shears to cut curves as it helps “ease” the fabric in place. Thank you for all your inspiration!!!!! I love all your posts!!!!
I don’t applique much, but this is my favorite method. I love the portability of this block. So easy to hold, compared to a larger piece of fabric. This will be gorgeous when finished!
Yes! Great point about the size. The portability really make them great.
Ms Sam Nicholson
Thank YOU AGAIN!!! I Just started on a black and muslin one, am excited I can carry with me!!
I’ve always been attracted to orange peel blocks but was too intimidated to begin. Thanks so much for helping me over that hurdle!
Googled “hand appliqué orange peel” and this popped up. Exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something to work on while we sail this summer and there is a new baby in the family so perfect!!! Thank you!
You’re welcome! I’m so glad!
This looks really fun. When you have it quilted will it be quilted inside the petals or around them? What do you expect it will look like? Please post the final project. I’d love to see it. Thank you for being so clear in your tutorial.
I haven’t decided how I’ll have it quilting. I need to figure that out – and finally piece the blocks so I can finally finish this one!