What is back-basting appliqué? (+ giveaway!)

From Back-Basting Applique, Step by StepHave you heard of back-basting appliqué? Many quilters in our office had. They’d heard it made any kind of appliqué easier—not to mention more accurate. They’d heard it was unbelievably simple to do by hand or machine. And they’d heard the technique could change the minds of quilters who had decided, defeatedly, that appliqué techniques were never going to fit into their quilting tool belts.

Yep, most everyone in the office had heard about the wonders of back-basting appliqué. Unfortunately, no one in the office was quite sure what back-basting appliqué was!

Four-time Martingale author Barbara J. Eikmeier was teaching needle-turn appliqué to her students when she found a short tutorial about a method of appliqué she’d never heard of—back-basting appliqué—and her world changed with just one stitch. Turns out, the mysterious technique is no mystery at all. It works like this: baste, trim, appliqué. No templates, no marking, no careful cutting. Just the 1, 2, 3 mantra. Now Barbara is sharing her own approach to back-basting appliqué, stretching way beyond the basic method, in her new book, Back-Basting Appliqué, Step by Step. At spring Quilt Market, staff sat in on Barbara’s Schoolhouse talk about the technique and watched as light bulbs turned on over every head in the room. What did Barbara say to make those bulbs burn bright? “It’s all about the holes, people!” (More explanation below.)

We’re excited to have Barbara as our guest blogger today at Stitch This! Barb, please help us understand back-basting appliqué techniques, step by step—let the method be a mystery no more!


Barbara EikmeierBack-basting appliqué? What is it? Basically, it’s a needle-turn appliqué technique. The thing that makes it different is the way the pieces are prepared. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Start by drawing the full-sized design on the wrong side of the background fabric. Reverse it if it’s asymmetrical.

2. Place the appliqué fabric right side up, in position, on the right side of the background.

3. From the wrong side, baste on the pattern line with small, even basting stitches.

4. Turn it over and look at the right side. The motif will be outlined with basting stitches.

Hand-baste the applique fabric in place

5. Trim, leaving the seam allowance that will be turned under.

Trim excess fabric

6. Snip every other basting stitch and remove about 1″ of the basting.

Now here’s the magic part: the basting leaves a dotted line or a row of perforations right on the turning edge. See—it’s all about the holes!

7. Needle-turn the edge and appliqué in place.

Remove stitches and applique

That’s it.

Back-Basting Applique, Step by StepSo, you might be wondering—if that’s it, why a whole book on the topic? Well, it’s a bit like making a pie. Have you ever read a recipe for pie crust that instructs you to “roll out the dough”? Recently I taught myself to make pies and I learned that a lot can go wrong in that one simple little step of rolling out the dough. I needed more instruction, tips from someone who had been there and could relate to my frustration as I peeled my sticky pie dough off the counter. I turned to vintage cookbooks with their step-by-step instructions and pictures. With those tried-and-true hints, I eventually became successful at rolling out pie dough. Back-Basting Appliqué, Step by Step is somewhat like those old cookbooks. It’s a collection of methods, tips, and tricks, often with step-by-step photos and illustrations. I wrote it for all of you who need a little bit more instruction—like me with my pie crust.

The lessons in the book are from my student’s questions—they’re the techniques that others before you needed a little more help with. The projects are small, designed to give you a taste of the back-basting technique without the commitment of a bed-sized appliqué quilt. If you want to sample all the techniques in the book, you can make “Blue Pot,” a vase of flowers designed as a summary of techniques.

Blue Pot quilt

If you think all that basting sounds tedious, consider completing the basting step on the machine, and then appliquéing the edge by hand. It’s my favorite method.

Machine baste the applique in place

Maybe you don’t really like to hand appliqué but would like to add an occasional appliquéd motif to a project. Check out the instructions for back basting by machine. There’s no freezer paper or fusible interfacing, and the raw edge is finished with a narrow zigzag stitch—I call it teeny-tiny zigzag appliqué. I used it on “At the Beach.”
At the Beach quilt

Whichever method you choose or whichever project you make, the main thing is to get started. Try it. Grab some fabric, trace a pattern on it, and jump right in. I’ll be stitching with you and sending you happy appliqué vibes.


Vibes received, Barbara! Everyone at the office has been waiting patiently for your book to arrive so that they can give the technique a try. We’re thrilled it’s finally here!

Barb’s book covers more than basic one-layer appliqué shapes, too. You’ll also find techniques for the following:

Back-basting applique techniques
Stacked motifs, overlapped motifs, and over-and-under motifs

Back basting applique techniques 2
Reverse appliqué, kissing shapes, and stems and vines

Have you tried back-basting appliqué? If not, what’s the appliqué method you typically use? Share your appliqué story in the comments and you could win a copy of the Back-Basting Appliqué, Step by Step eBook! We’ll choose a winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win.

But why wait to see if you win? Order Barbara’s book now and you’ll receive an instant eBook download so that you can get stitching right away.

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The randomly chosen winner is Loris, who writes:

“This cracks me up! I have read instructions for back basting about 10 times and just could never get it. Finally, the light bulb has gone on! Thank you for posting these instructions. Barbara’s book is surely fantastic! I would love to win one :-)”

Loris, we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!


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