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.