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Easy As Pie BackBasting!

I have created this blog with the Riverside Knoll Sew A Long participants in mind.  But, why just for the Sew A Long?  BackBasting is a great alternative for creating beautiful and really precise applique without a lot of the prep work.

Follow along with these steps and give it a try!  

Remember, It takes practice to be perfect!  Don't beat yourself up about it if it's not what you expected at first.  Keep at it and Voila!!!  You will love it as much as I do!  

So, here we go!

BackBasting Step by Step! 

Click here to check out the BackBasting Tutorial.  

 I am using the Riverside Knoll by Kim Diehl design to show you this technique.

  1. Getting started is as easy as picking out your fabric.  Choose your background and cut it approximately 1/2" larger than needed.  Applique always shrinks up the background so it's best to trim it at the end.  
  2. In this step, you are always working from and marking on the back of your fabric.  Using a marking pencil (that has been tested on your fabric) draw some guide lines on the back of your fabric.  I draw a box that will be the finished size of your block  and guidelines for the design.                     If you look closely at the photo you will see these pencil marks lightly on the back of my background fabric.  
  3. Still on the reverse side of your background fabric and using a light box or window, mark you design using the guidelines to the fabric.  At this stage, it's best to take your time and mark accurately.  This will be the sewing lines for your design so the more accurate you are the better results you will see in the end!  At this point, I start to measure my designs and pick out fabric.  I cut my applique piece fabric larger than the size needed.  Here is a photo of my block all ready for stitching.  I made the stem of the flower and cut out the design elements.  Keeping all these organized and flat will help you when you prepare them for sewing.                                                
  4. Now, lets get your applique pieces on the background and ready for sewing.  Look at your design and decide how the motif is layered.  With this design above, the 2 larger leaves below the flower are under the stem.  This is the "lowest" layer of the design and will need to be attached first.


                                   Step 1                    Step 2

Step 1 - Align your leaf fabric over the design.  You will need a light box or window to see that the fabric is not only over the drawn leaf but you have allowed enough around the leaf design to have at least a 1/4" seam allowance.  This is why I make my motif fabric a bit generous.  It's easier to align the fabric over the drawn design if you have a bit of "play" in your fabric. Pin in place to secure. 

Step 2 - Using a sharp embroidery needle and thicker thread, Pearle Cotton or DMC floss in a contrasting color, baste around the design as shown in Step 2 photo.  You are working from the back and sewing directly on the drawn line.  Use a running stitch.  The knot of the thread will be on the front of the design.   If the design has a sharp curve, make your stitches smaller.  You will be pulling the stitches out on the front side - so not too small.  Be sure to place a stitch in each point so you have a guideline on the front while stitching.  During this step it is very important to be careful and precise.   The amount of care you take here will show when you have your piece finished.  When you have the piece completely basted onto the background, finish off your last basting stitch with the thread to the front and trim approximately 1" long.  Do not knot this thread.  It's where you will start to pull when stitching. 


                       Step 3                         Step 4

Step 3 -  This is what the front of the motif looks like as you are basting.  The stitches are even and well spaced.  You can tell exactly what the design is and the thread is easy to see on the fabric.  All of this makes you more successful.  

Step 4 -  When your basting is done, trim away your fabric for stitching.  Please be very patient and careful during this step.  Cut only from the seam allowance from the leaf fabric and not the background.  Trim to a scant 1/4"  I wouldn't clip the curves until you start stitching.  You can always do that as needed.  

Your piece is not ready for stitching!  Let's get started!

Applique - Now is a great time to watch the video above!

Click Here


Working from the front of the design gently pull the first basting stitch out.  I use a pointed toothpick to do this. Be careful and follow the line of the leaf motif, tuck under the seam allowance and finesse the seam allowance to be smooth and tucked in under the leaf.  The basting line is now your edge of the leaf.  Place your first applique stitch in to secure the leaf.  Your knot is on the backside of the background.  Take a few applique stitches until you reach the next basting stitch.  You can usually get within a few threads of the basting thread.  Dock you needle out of the way and use your toothpick to remove the next basting stitch.  Tuck and smooth your seam allowances and continue with your applique stitches.  Refer to the video to see how to turn the corner.  Continue around the motif until you reach the end and secure your thread.  The 2 photos above just show how I am taking out the basting thread and applying the applique thread.  You can see the design coming to life.


The backside of your piece should look like the first photo.  As you get better at this technique you will notice that your stitching line will be directly on the drawn line of your design.  The second photo is the front side.  I have not pressed this and I do not advise using starch on this until the end.  


Continue layering your design and basting from the back and stitching from the front.  As you feel more confident, you will be able to baste many layers on the design of your piece.  This will allow you to take it on the road and applique anywhere you have a minute.  This is a great technique for the car or airplane - both have a window for lining up your fabrics!  

There are many techniques for applique.  This is just one!  Applique is always a learning process.  No one is good at it right away.  Practice makes perfect!  Try my way and see how you feel after you give it an hour or so!  I bet I will have you hooked!

Happy Sewing,

Mary Jean Murphy  -  My Favorite Quilt Store