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Reckless Raw-Edge Appliqué Quilts

Floral Applique quilt

Jean Impey loves to play with her art—including this technique for raw-edge appliqué quilts where she claims to quilt with abandon. Read on for her technique or grab a copy of Quilting Arts June/July 2019!

Creating art quilts with reckless abandon is one of my favorite ways to make whimsical appliqué. I have been teaching this fast and fun technique for about six years now. What makes it different from the rest? It allows everyone to be a successful artist by combining a wide variety of fussy-cut botanical fabric motifs with free-motion threadwork. After all of the design and stitch work have been done and before the image is appliquéd to the background, it is manipulated with water and friction to make each individual element “bloom.” This technique is fun, whimsical, improvisational, and even slightly imprecise—in a good way—allowing your inner designer to shine.

“Untitled” • 25" x 31" | Photos by Hornick Rivlin Studio
“Untitled” • 25″ x 31″ | Photos by Hornick Rivlin Studio


  • Fat quarter* muslin
  • 10″ square or large scrap vase fabric
  • Floral or novelty fabrics to fussy cut—many different sizes and designs
  • Neutral and black thread
  • Fat quarter background
  • Sewing machine with free-motion capabilities
  • New kitchen-type sponge with an abrasive side
  • Spray bottle of water


  • Camera
  • Quilting gloves

*Fat quarter = 18″ x 20


1. Place the muslin on a work surface. The muslin acts as a base for the collage, and will be barely visible in the final piece.

2. Create the vase. Find a shape you like and cut it out of fabric. For example, a 6″ circle or square vase can easily be cut from a fat quarter or large fabric scrap.

3. Sew around the edge of the vase fabric, attaching it to the muslin.

“Untitled” • 17" x 22"
“Untitled” • 17″ x 22″

TIP: I sew several horizontal lines across the vase to secure the fabric and allow it to recede in the composition.

4. Create the flowers by fussy cutting individual blooms from a variety of floral fabrics. Consider adding other aspects of nature you see in the fabrics such as leaves, animals, birds, and insects.

NOTE: It is important to have a wide selection of flowers that are different styles and sizes. This variety is what will make your piece special. I cut out lots of options from different fabric lines when making my compositions. More is better.

5. Play with the placement of the flowers and greenery as if you were arranging a bouquet of fresh flowers.

6. Use a camera or phone to take photos along the way for a ‘second opinion.’ It’s amazing how clearly you can see what works and what doesn’t when you look at a photo of your work.

Attached each flower, leaf, or element with a single pin
Attach each flower, leaf, or element with a single pin

7. Once you settle on your final design, attach each flower, leaf, or element with a single pin. Don’t use glue!

8. You actually want the fabrics to bunch and move a bit when you ‘recklessly’ stitch the project.

9. Prepare your sewing machine for free-motion sewing. Attach a darning foot and use light neutral thread. I like to sew with my feed dogs up—it provides me with more control—but lowered feed dogs work well, too.

10. Starting in the center of the arrangement, sew down the flowers and elements in a casual manner—no need to fret about folds or overlaps—and follow the outlines or designs within each one, removing pins as you go. This process will be messy and reckless. This is exactly what creates texture and dimension in the design.

Sew down the flowers and elements in a causal manner
Sew down the flowers and elements in a causal manner

11. Change the top and bobbin to black thread and free-motion sketch the outline of the flowers, greenery, and vase. The black thread unifies the design by adding detail. Be random and reckless with your stitching: it is ok to go over an element more than once and to add stitching that does not follow an edge or line precisely. The key is to think like an illustrator, as if you are outlining and sketching with a permanent black marker.

12. Spray the project with water and use the abrasive side of a clean, wet kitchen sponge to ‘scrub’ the top of the piece. This will encourage the raw edges to fray and stand up away from the floral elements, and the piece will bloom with texture when it has dried.

Outline the flowers, greenery, and vase
Outline the flowers, greenery, and vase

13. After the piece has dried, trim away the muslin base leaving 1/4″ around the outer edges of the entire appliqué.

14. Place the appliqué onto your chosen background (no pins are needed). Using black thread, sew around the perimeter and a few of the flowers to attach it to the background, but don’t overdo it; sew as if you were attaching a patch. See “Options for Finishing” to complete your work.

Options for Finishing

  • To create a pillow cover, arrange the muslin appliqué on a background. Quilting with batting is optional but will add wonderful dimension. Sew a second piece of fabric to the appliquéd front, turn right sides out, and stuff the cover with a pillow insert or fiberfill.
  • To make a framed piece of artwork, the appliqué can be mounted on a textured background or directly on to stretched canvas.
  • To use the appliqué as an embellishment, sew it onto a piece of clothing or accessory. It will look fantastic on the back of a denim jacket or on a tote bag.
  • To complete as a quilt, add batting, backing, and binding.
  • Embellish your design with additional background quilting or thread sketched elements. For example, consider adding outline-stitched dangling flowers and leaves or a thread sketch of a bird or butterfly.

Jean Impey is a committed textile artist and national quilt teacher who began her creative journey at the age of nine. In 2007, Jean discovered quilting and became passionate about quilting and teaching. Jean’s creative style blends a variety of quilting techniques. She lives with her husband and pets in San Juan Capistrano, California. Visit her website for more information. Sewjean.com

Jean Impey with the host of “Quilting Arts TV,” Susan Brubaker Knapp
Jean Impey with the host of “Quilting Arts TV,” Susan Brubaker Knapp

Want to learn more?

Watch Jean demonstrate her ‘reckless’ appliqué on “Quilting Arts TV” Series 2300 here or your local PBS station. Grab a copy of Quilting Arts June/July 2019!

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