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Pieced quilt

The Difference Between Pieced Quilts and Applique Quilts {Beginning Quilting}   

May 03, 20243 min read

The day you decide to explore quilting is the day you fall into one of the deepest rabbit holes that ever existed. You might think I'm being a bit dramatic here - except that I’m not. Sitting with a seasoned quilting crowd can resemble a Mad Hatter tea party (in the very best ways). But let’s address the elephant in the room: the quilting universe has its own language and nuances that can become a tad confusing when you’re new to the game.

Enthusiastic chatter about fat quarters, jelly rolls, charm packs, fussy cuts, and half-square triangles can make it easy to feel like you’ve stumbled into a secret club without the decoder ring. We’ve lost many a potential quilter when their confusion leads to frustration, and they give up even understanding what the conversation is about (much less getting to the physical quilting part).

Fear not! Our mission is to unravel every strand of confusion and make quilting an accessible craft for all. Quilting isn't reserved for experts—it's for everyone, from the curious novice sewist to the seasoned seamstress. In our Quilting for Beginners Series, we're dedicated to demystifying everything, from terminology to techniques, starting with this post. We're here to nurture your confidence and belief in your capacity to thrive in the art of quilt making! Let’s start by exploring the distinction between 'pieced' quilts and 'appliqued' quilts.

pieced quiltpieced quilt

These first three photos are examples of pieced quilts.

 

Pieced Quilts

A pieced quilt starts with fabric that has been cut up into separate geometric shapes. The method of sewing those pieces together to create the quilt top is called piecing. You can piece a quilt top with a sewing machine or sew it by hand. Sometime quilters do both! Specific measurements are required so that when the pieced quilt blocks are sewn together, they measure together evenly. Pieced quilt designs have endless possibilities. You’ll find a bazillion patterns out there – from bold, and distinct to scrappy patterns, too. There’s also every vibe from vintage to modern. Pieced quilts are recognized quickly as the quilts of our great-grandmothers.

applique quilt

 

applique quilt

Many times, the quilter chooses both techniques on a single quilt top. The bird photo above is a good example. The birds have been appliqued onto the quilt center (in this case the birds are cut from wool) and the border of the quilt is made of simple pieced blocks.

Appliqued Quilts

Applique is all about placing pieces of fabric onto a background fabric (that makes the quilt top) and then stitching them in place. In fact, the word "applique" comes from the French word appliquer, which means "to put on". An appliquéd quilt may have many shapes or designs created on top of the fabric. They are not limited to a geometric shape, nor do they require a specific measurement because they are like drawings (if-you-will) on top of the background fabric. They can be the curvy body of a woman or a little girl’s jump rope.

Applique edges are finished in various ways depending on the choice for the overall feel of the quilt. Some use a blanket stitch or a straight stitch to secure the raw edges. Others turn the edges under (called 'needle-turn') to hide the raw edges, and others (like the bee quilt in the photo) leave the edges raw.

Applique can feel a little “freer” in a sense because anything you cut out can be placed onto an appliquéd quilt. It's my favorite way to have my quilt tell a story, which makes it ideal for a wall quilt.

 

quilting for beginnerspieced quiltapplique quilt
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Hello My Creatives!

I 'm Chris

Gardening has been a driving passion in my life, which led to my career as a garden writer and author for the past fifteen years. That said, for decades I've been neglecting this undeniable pull to share my other lifelong obsessions surrounding sewing and handcrafts.

So, we're gonna do this right here. This is the website where I make the leap into helping creators make all the things using their hands and their hearts.

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