Two questions I get asked quite often are, “Can I quilt over the iron on applique?” and “Do I need to stitch the applique down, and if so, how?”
The tote bag in the featured photo is my go to example to answer these questions. I made this tote bag almost three years ago, and use it regularly. I use it to carry sample kits when I call on quilt shops, and take it with me when I go away from home for a long weekend or longer to carry shipping supplies. As you can see in the photos, it is holding up well! I do not abuse it, and have not yet laundered it, but I would say it has done quite well.
All of our appliques are backed with Steam a Seam 2 fusible web before they are laser cut. I chose this product after reading reviews and then doing my own test of several products. (You can read about that here.) SaS2 came out far ahead of the others tested when I washed it repeatedly. Please keep in mind that I rigidly followed the manufacturers instructions for each of the products, and the manner that you use to iron your appliques will affect how they hold up.
After ironing the applique to my fabric for the tote bag, I raw edge appliqued the design down. To do this, I used a straight stitch and stitched about 1/8” from the edge of the applique all the way around the outside. I did not sew down every inside edge. Then, I used the walking foot on my home sewing machine, regular quilting thread, and a 14/100 needle, and quilted diagonally across the entire piece of fabric that I was making the bag from. I started at the center of the design and used the lines on my ruler to make sure I was getting a 45° angle and marked the first line of stitching with blue painters tape. I stitched close to both sides of the tape, and then repositioned the tape, with an edge against the stitched line, and stitched the other edge. I continued until that entire side of the piece was quilted, went back to the center and did the same to complete the other half. This diagonal quilting helps hold the applique in place as well.
I chose to do raw edge applique because there were smaller areas on this project and I did not want thread covering the applique and hiding the fabric. I could also have accomplished this by using a clear thread such as Monopoly and a zig zag stitch, or free motion embroidery to loosely cover the applique.
I did choose to use free motion embroidery on the cardinal on the back of my denim jacket to not only add interest to the applique, but also to protect it from the wear and tear the back of a jacket encounters on chair and seat backs. Even then, I used raw edge applique on the leaves, and they have held up fine! The process of using a laser to cut the pieces melts the fusible into the cut edge of the fibers and really helps to stabilize the edges.
Many of the samples that I display have no stitching to hold the applique in place, and they have held up well. These pieces are rolled up and unrolled on a regular basis. I would be very comfortable not stitching over appliques on items such as wall hangings that are not going to be washed often.
I hope this helps answers questions you might have about quilting and stitching on our appliques! There are contact forms throughout our website. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. We would be honored to help you with your project!