Here Be Dragons – Tip the Second

7 Oct

I was in my dungeon piecing dragons – as you do , and I felt another tip coming on. This time it is a bit of a visual on how to piece fusible web appliques. The theory is very easy if the practice can be a bit fiddly.

There are so many wonderful appliques out there and it seems a shame that more people don’t do them. I, for instance have looked longingly at several Mckenna Ryan’s reckoning they would be so fiddly that, even with my experience they would be the cause of a nervous breakdown. My problem is that ‘art quilt’ or not, I cannot see myself doing anything less than satin stitch applique round all the shapes.  Anyway, I have finally invested in one and I will keep you posted. A quick look through certainly doesn’t show anything that would be too daunting so we will see.

Back to the dragons. I was looking for the source of a free pattern I made up several years ago and came across the patterns on The Quiltery in  Australia. They have some very interesting patterns and a pattern club that allows downloading of a large number of different patterns for a reasonable annual fee. I like most of them but I was particularly taken by the various dragon quilts. I have started with ‘Adopt a Dragon – One’

Isn’t that just the cutest set of dragons you have ever seen. (If dragons can be cute) I have stitched one and laid out a few others ready to stitch. I wouldn’t recommend it as your first attempt at applique unless you are blessed with a very large measure of patience and perserverance. However, the different stages of putting together these appliques  are the same as those for  simpler ones. The patterns are well presented except that the pattern pieces need to be retraced as they are not supplied in reverse. I would say that there is no way anybody could do these dragons with anything but fusible web applique so the patterns should really have been supplied reversed . However, if you have a photocopier that does mirror image copying you can use that or just trace the pieces onto the back of the pattern sheet with a light box. The reason for needing reversed pieces will become clear as the lesson progresses.

Each individual pattern comes with a pattern sheet.

Pattern Pieces

A layout sheet –

Layout Sheet

A colour picture of the designer’s chosen colours –

The original colour scheme

As I said at the beginning the pieces need to be reversed so they need to be traced through the pattern sheet onto the back. Compare this picture with the pattern sheet above to see what I mean. A light box helps at this stage. I have seen people use a window but that requires more sun than I ever get in my dungeon. If you have good eyesight you might manage without.

Pattern pieces traced onto the back of the pattern sheet to reverse.

These pieces now have to be traced onto the paper side of a sheet of fusible web sold under various names in various countries. It is basically a piece of paper with glue fused onto it.

Pieces traced onto fusible web.

This is my choice of fabrics for this quilt. They are available from Starr fabrics in the wonderfully named Pig Alley in Etna CA.

Colourful batiks.

These pieces are now roughly cut out and ironed rough (glue) side down onto the WRONG side of the fabric to be used.

Pieces ironed onto WRONG side of fabric.

Each piece is then cut out on the drawn line and the paper removed, leaving a piece of fabric in the right shape with glue on the back.

Cut out and remove paper.

The next stage requires either a piece of non-wax baking paper (greaseproof in UK) or an applique sheet. I prefer the former, I don’t get on with the applique sheets very well. Lay the paper or applique sheet over the layout page.


Lay the greaseproof completely over the layout.

The layout should be completely covered. This picture is just so that you can see what I mean.

All the pieces are numbered. In this pattern they go onto the sheet in the order they are numbered. If you look at the picture where the shapes are ironed on to the fabric you will see numbers on the pattern pieces. Place them on the corresponding numbers on the layout. Tack them down with the point of the iron. When you are completely happy with the layout iron over the whole lot quickly with steam (or follow the instructions on your brand of fusible webbing). When cool remove the whole applique from the greaseproof paper.

Take the piece of background fabric in the size specified in the pattern.

Background Fabric

Lay the applique onto the background at the angle you prefer and, using a steam iron, press onto the background to fuse permanently.

Ready for stitching

As you can see this is not acceptable as an applique. It needs stitching. This particular pattern is suposed to be satin stitched.

Satin stitch is just a close zigzag stitch with a very short stitch length and about 2.5 wide. Test on a spare piece of fabric to make sure it looks good. Lower the upper tension to around 3 – again experiment until no bobbin thread shows on top but the top stitches are not too loose. Use a special bobbin thread. This will help the machine move more easily and also save your more expensive thread. I use a piece of embroidery stabiliser under the whole applique shape. This is not obligatory but makes life much easier.

See which pieces go over and under others. Try to do the underneath ones first so that as you sew the next layer the bottom start and end stitches are caught in so they do not come undone.

Here is one I prepared earlier.

Finished applique.

As you can see the stitching makes all the difference. I use matching embroidery threads. You could experiment with anything. If you want to try out some applique without buying a pattern in case you don’t like it, use a colouring book. Trace the shapes as above, perhaps starting with something simple, and see if you like it. I personally have great fun doing this sort of quilt. it gives a sense of achievement.

There is a link to the web site above or go to and click on ‘pattern club’ there you can have a look at the patterns available before you join. I’ll post a picture of the quilt when I have finished it.

I hope this little tutorial gets somebody on the road to satin stitch applique. It really is rewarding.


10 Responses to “Here Be Dragons – Tip the Second”

  1. Karen October 8, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    These dragons look great! Love the fabrics, too. Thanks for the tip on using grease proof paper. I had not heard that one before and I do like it.
    I have jumped in and purchased a McKenna Ryan pattern – Chrissie Down Under. I plan to work on that one next year.
    Thanks for your tips. Cheers.

    • quiltaholic October 8, 2011 at 6:47 am #

      I have been looking for a suitable project for this fabric and decided this was it.
      I have just bought ‘Chrissie Down Under’ too. It is bigger than I thought and I think I will be able to satin stitch it although I know that is not the usual method. I was disturbed to read on an online post that some people just fuse the pieces and then give them straight to the longarm quilter to finish without stitching first. Still – horses for courses I guess.

      • Karen October 9, 2011 at 2:21 am #

        I can’t imagine just fusing the pieces. That’s cut and paste, not sewing!

        • quiltaholic October 9, 2011 at 8:09 am #

          My thoughts exactly. I suppose it depends on whether you applique just for the finished result or the whole process.

  2. Applique Debbie October 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    I do a lot of McKenna Ryan quilts and I use the satin stitch. The solution is very easy ENLARGE the pattern!!

    • quiltaholic October 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      I have had a look at the pattern and I don’t think I need to enlarge this one. I can imagine that some of the others might be a bit fiddly though. I also rather like ‘Beach Walk’ and some of that looks as if it could be a challenge. However, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ as they say.

  3. Carolann November 3, 2015 at 12:03 am #

    I’m wondering if anyone knows what happened to website? I seems to be either hacked or not is use anymore. I have several of their patterns and wanted to see what was new!

    • quiltaholic November 3, 2015 at 8:27 am #

      The site does not function any more. I believe one of the owners may have died and the other didn’t want to carry on so the patterns etc are no longer available.

  4. Mikayla Andreoli February 5, 2019 at 6:19 am #

    where can i get a copy of the adopt-a- dragon patterns please can you post a link or email me a copy as ive been looking everywhere an cant find it thanks

    • quiltaholic February 5, 2019 at 8:13 am #

      See the above reply. They no longer have a website which is why the links don’t work.

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