Jo Morton shares the back-basting appliqué stitch: 9 reasons to try it

At Martingale, we’re totally over-the-top fanatical for Jo Morton. Aside from her stunning books filled with spectacular quilts, Jo has a wonderful way of explaining techniques—it fills you with the curiosity and confidence to try.

So, when Jo says her favorite way to appliqué is by using the back-basting method, we’re all ears!

Jo learned the back-basting appliqué technique from Martingale author Jeana Kimball years ago, and now she shares the technique step by step in her latest book, Jo’s Floral Album. The method doesn’t require freezer paper or templates, and it will help you achieve appliqué perfection, just like Jo:

From Jo's Floral Album

Here’s what Jo says about the technique:

Jo Morton“While you can use any appliqué method you like to make the Anna’s Blue Baskets quilt from Jo’s Floral Album, I hope you’ll try my back-basting method which is described in the book, complete with how-to photos. It’s a method that requires a bit of preparation, but it yields precise results for everyone.

Renowned quiltmaker Jeana Kimball calls this method template free, because there’s no need for any type of template-making material. You’ll create the appliqués directly from the design that you trace onto the background fabric. A couple of the benefits of this technique are that your pieces will be correctly positioned and your appliqués will lie flatter.”

There are three prep steps to complete before you start sewing:

1. Trace a pattern onto your background fabric

2. Baste oversized fabric pieces to the right side of your background fabric, following the traced lines

3. Cut the oversized fabrics to the shape of the motif, adding a fat ⅛" seam allowance

You’ll find more details about the first three steps in the book.

Back-basting applique technique

Now you’re ready to start the best part—the sewing! Here’s Jo demonstrating the stitching portion of the back-basting appliqué technique:

Viewing this post in email? Click here to view the video.

Once you have the back-basting appliqué technique down, you can join Jo and create the exquisite quilt from the book:

Jo's Floral Album quilt

Aren’t the blocks stunning?

From Jo's Floral Album

Jo’s spectacular blocks feature beautiful blossoms, twining vines, luscious berries, and other motifs that define traditional Album quilts. Make blocks one after another, or set a relaxed pace and sew just one block each month—by year’s end, you’ll have a breathtaking quilt to display, give, or save as a family heirloom. Plus, the book comes complete with full-sized pullout patterns—no visits to the copy shop for you!

If you create your own version of Jo’s quilt, share a photo on social media and use the hashtag #josfloralalbum—we’d love to see and share!

What’s your go-to appliqué method?

  • I use back-basting appliqué, just like Jo!
  • I prefer the needle-turn method.
  • I’m all about freezer-paper appliqué.
  • My machine and I prefer machine appliqué.
  • Fused and finished!

Tell us in the comments!


81 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I learned the back basting method from a fellow quilter here in South Carolina.
    Now I use it almost exclusively. Whatever method we choose, it takes practice and more practice to become proficient. I continue to work at it and enjoy the process. Love the book!

    Great point, Donna – practice makes progress! –Jenny

    —Donna Irmis on January 22, 2018
  • I have not done applique recently but used needle turn, freezer paper and machine methods. Am not sure about the back basting method but would like to try it.

    —Peggy on January 22, 2018
  • I back baste just like Jo. It took me a couple tries before I understood the procedure. I wish I had Jo’s tutorial to use. back basting is such a time saver and all of my piece placements are perfect. I’m always amazed at how wonderfully this method works. Each completed block just makes me giggle to think how great they look. I really made this?

    —Paula on January 22, 2018
  • I love beautiful applique but I don’t do it. The only way I applique is with the embroidery machine. I would love to have this book and learn to do it with this method. Jo Morton makes beautiful quilts and it would be nice to have some handwork to do at lunch. What a gorgeous book. 🙂

    —Kay Menefee on January 22, 2018
  • I prefer the needle-turn method.

    —Sabrina van Ginkel on January 22, 2018
  • I usually machine applique as I found the hand work ot be so tedious and I never seems to get things aligned properly. I watched the video and I am definitely going to try this technique NO parer! Yea!

    —Judi R on January 22, 2018
  • I am just beginning my journey into applique I love everything about Jo I will have this book!!! Can’t wait!!

    —cheryl on January 22, 2018
  • I have done both needle turn and backbasting. Love them both.

    —Vicki Krausz on January 22, 2018
  • I use plastic templates and starch and iron the edge over the template, remove the template and place it on the applique for hand stitching. I think it is called prepared edge. It has worked for me and I am please with the results. I’m anxious to try the back basting to see if I like it better. The prepared edge is A LOT of preparation.

    —Jennifer P on January 22, 2018
  • My machine and I prefer machine applique. I use to do a lot of handwork, I may want to try this method, but on a wall hanging, not a big quilt.

    —Marti Morgan on January 22, 2018
  • I have tried several applique methods and usually use my machine for attaching my applique, but I have seen this method used by several quilters and it really intrigues me because I love to do handwork. I am thinking that I would love to do this quilt and give her method a try!

    —Ferne Watt on January 22, 2018
  • I adore appliqué quilting. It’s my absolute favorite. I have always used the needle-turn method.

    —April Lopez on January 22, 2018
  • this is fascinating – I just started working on an applique piece that will allow me to try several methods until I find the one I prefer – this is perfect…I’ll definitely give this a try!

    —Suzanne Kuhns on January 22, 2018
  • Fused and finished for me but since viewing her video, think I will try THAT method – it looks so GREAT!

    —Barbara Duval on January 22, 2018
  • I’ve done very little applique, but needle turn has been my first choice, followed by machine applique. But I’m open to learning anything that will make things better!

    —Carol Johnson on January 22, 2018
  • I prefer needleturn as it does not require a lot of preparation before I can start appliquing. Jo’s technique looks interesting and I might give it a try!

    —Dixe on January 22, 2018
  • I’m a beginning ‘needle turner’; after viewing the video, I don’t understand the advantage to Jo’s & Jeana’s tracing and back-basting method.

    Hi Marty, there are many advantages! One is that you don’t need to cut out precise pieces for applique. A second is that the basting stitches create a perforation for you to follow as you turn under raw edges and applique your pieces. You’ll find more details inside the book – thanks for your question! –Jenny

    —Marty on January 22, 2018
  • I usually do machine appliqué but would like to learn other methods.

    —Rilla Burnham on January 22, 2018
  • My applique changed 100 percent for the better when I discovered back basting. It is my only method now.

    —Brenda C on January 22, 2018
  • I have always done machine applique, but am now determined to learn hand applique.

    —Elizabeth McDonald on January 22, 2018
  • I have the book and have already made three blocks. Love her back basting method. I’m improving with every block. I expect the 9th one will be perfect! Try it. You may like it.

    —Judy Purcell on January 22, 2018
  • Needle turn for me! I’m going to try Jo’s back basting method… I already have this book!

    —Susan on January 22, 2018
  • Freezer paper, no basting, Needle turn

    —Kathie fleming on January 22, 2018
  • Trace, baste and trim are key parts to learn this technique
    I just saw Mimi Dietrich on craftsy demonstrate this ( great class on applique)
    You can’t really get the tech from this video demonstration
    But thanks for stirring the interest. I’ve Needle turned with freezer paper for decades but see how this tech. Might make this more portable.

    —Kathie Fleming on January 22, 2018
  • fused and finished machine applique. This is how I do it. Been doing it this way for 30 years.

    —Angela Bowling on January 22, 2018
  • I learned back basting from Jo! Took a class from her at the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show several years ago. I also love needleturn and the interfacing method…good for beginners to practice their tiny stitches. Learned needleturn at Indiana Heritage from Anita Shackelford even more years ago. I love appliqué!

    —Sue on January 22, 2018
  • If I’m using cotton, it’s the freezer paper method, but I have discovered applique with wool and have fallen in love with it. It is more dimensional and I don’t have to turn an edge. Love Jo Morton’s patterns

    —connie b on January 22, 2018
  • I prefer fused and machine appliqué except when using wool when I still like to fuse and hand appliqué.

    —Jeanne Nordquist on January 22, 2018
  • I use needle turn, but now will give the back basting method a try.

    —Nancy on January 22, 2018
  • I’ve done machine and freezer paper. Would love to learn Jo’s back stitch method. Looks very interesting and beautiful.

    —Jennifer A on January 22, 2018
  • I haven’t appliqued yet. Love her blocks. Amazing.

    —carol on January 22, 2018
  • I have severe arthritis, and I would not be able to baste and cut out the intricate designs shown. My machine and I do just fine appliqueing.

    —Kay on January 22, 2018
  • What an interesting process. I do needle turn now, and would like to try the back basting method. Love the book!

    —Eileen Heinze on January 22, 2018
  • Unless the fabric is wool, I fuse and then machine applique. I was introduced to back basting some years ago, but never took to it. Might have to give it another try since I do love hand work.

    —Sandy May on January 22, 2018
  • Needle turn is my method of preference, but I am very willing to do this one by back basting. I have a friend who absolutely swears by it!

    —Carole S on January 22, 2018
  • I use the needle-turn method, but would love to learn the back-basting technique.

    —Diana DeWitt on January 22, 2018
  • I’ve been a fan of needle-turn applique ever since I found Jan Patek’s tutorials online. not too much prep and no burns from irons, etc…grin.

    —Cheryl on January 22, 2018
  • I learned back basting 5 years ago, and I just love it. No need for freezer paper, glue, struggling to pull out templates after stitching. As far as I’m concerned, this is the simplest and most accurate technique. It allows me to needle turn with confidence!

    —Sally Atkinson on January 22, 2018
  • My carpal tunnel pain limits the amount of hand work I do. So applique is done on my machine. I love hand work, wish I could do more!

    —Sara on January 22, 2018
  • Although I am pretty partial to needle turn, I think I would love to try this method. Always looking for a way to improve my stitch!

    —Kathy G on January 22, 2018
  • I have mostly done needle turn, some freezer paper, but would love to try back basting.

    —Kristie Michalowski on January 22, 2018
  • I am 100% sold on the back basting method. I have tried the other methods and for me, back basting is the easiest and most accurate. I enjoy the whole process! I learned it about 16 years ago and have taught many people how it is done. I even had the pleasure of doing a demo of it at our State Fair !
    I find most people have "heard of it" but until they actually see it done, they do not really "get it". Your video is awesome and I hope it helps people see that this method will simplify the process for them and make back basting applique their go to technique!

    Thanks for sharing your story, Peggy – how wonderful you were able to share the technique with others at your state fair! We’ll bet you created some converts 🙂 –Jenny

    —Peggy on January 22, 2018
  • I have always loved hand appliqué, sometimes machine appliqué, but like the idea of basting.. The quilt is absolutely stunning. Thank you for a chance to win so generous…..Noelene..

    —Noelene on January 22, 2018
  • I prefer needle turning

    —Rommy Van Houten on January 22, 2018
  • I am new to Applique. So far I have used machine applique and for wall hangings, fuse and go! I love it. A great boredom buster and budget friendly!! 😊😊 Have been quilting for 9 years and always wanted to try this. Jo’s method looks exciting.

    —Jilly on January 22, 2018
  • I love needleturn but I have tried the backbasting method also. I do enjoy the starch method also!

    —Sue on January 22, 2018
  • I primarily use needle turning, but I’m intrigued by the back-basting appliqué technique.

    —Elizabeth P. on January 22, 2018
  • My go to method for applique is freezer paper on the top – the prep is so fast! I do back baste for larger pieces though. I don’t like that there is more wasted fabric.

    —Janet on January 22, 2018
  • Fuse and finish; I am new at this!

    —Sandy Trachsel on January 22, 2018
  • I use needle turn and freezer paper methods. I am interested in learning back basting. It looks interesting.

    —Sherill V on January 22, 2018
  • I don’t really do well with hand sewing other than English Paper Piecing. I love appliqué though and prefer a turned under edge. So I do it the hard way…. I cut my pieces, painstakingly glue the edges under, then I machine sew them into place with a very fine decorative stitch. Perfect every time 🙂

    —Nancy Bart on January 22, 2018
  • Predominantly I use back basting the I learned from Jeana Kimball years ago with the exception of Nancy Brown’s animal quilts then I’ll use Nancy’s techniques though I have done some as back basted. I love the accuracy of placement of pieces.

    —Kathy Callahan on January 23, 2018
  • I use needleturn but would like to try back basting. The book would be helpfull and gives lovely patterns.

    A. Bouwman on January 23, 2018
  • I prefer needle turn applique but would love to try back basting.

    —Joanne on January 23, 2018
  • I have the first book about back stitch applique. I haven’t tried it yet. I love hand applique.I find it very relaxing. I avoid machine applique. I tend to prefer the old fashioned methods.

    —Karen on January 23, 2018
  • Freezer paper was how I learned many years ago, and the technique I am most comfortable with. Needle turn—turning under small sections of fabric as stitching progresses is too slow for me. I am a little hyper—-I can stitch along freezer paper turned fabric very quickly. Quilting is my therapy, but I still want to see progress. I received quilting lessons from a local quilter—she has won many contests for her art/ quiltwork. She liked my small stitches and applique during my lessons. I do have Jo’s books (Christmas presents from my daughters), but have not tried the back basting method yet.

    —jo on January 23, 2018
  • I prefer fusing and then I machine applique.

    —Kaye Walker on January 23, 2018
  • I use the Kim Diehl method, freezer paper & sewing machine.

    —Connie on January 23, 2018
  • I prefer the needle-turn method, but actually very interested in Jo’s technique, will try it for certain!

    Tatiana Kishchinskaya on January 23, 2018
  • I always done freezer paper applique, but would like to try back-basting.

    —Donna on January 24, 2018
  • Depends on the pattern, I like everything except fusable

    —Jennifer on January 24, 2018
  • I have been doing needleturn but I am going to try back basting. looks easier and more accurate

    —Donna Merrifield on January 24, 2018
  • I learned applique using the freezer paper method. Back-basting is new to me. I think I’ll have to try it. Love everything Jo does!

    —Annette F. on January 24, 2018
  • I’m all about freezer paper appliqué!

    —Leann Weatherly on January 24, 2018
  • I love applique and have tried many methods. I prefer the look of needle-turned applique and will try back basting next. It might be the only way I haven’t yet tried! Thanks for the opportunity to win this inspiring book.

    —Tamara Hutchinson on January 26, 2018
  • Maybe you can teach and old dog new tricks, I’ll have to give this a try sometime, I have my own method of appliqueing by hand, also do a lot of machine applique…but I’m willing to try something new.

    —Ruth Spencer on January 26, 2018
  • I prefer needle turn applique. I have never tried back basting, so maybe I should give it a try.

    —Donna W on January 26, 2018
  • My go-to appliqué method is back basting appliqué, just like Jo! I love everything she makes and would love to win this book.

    —debby on January 26, 2018
  • I do the machine applique. I have done a hand stitched project but was not satisfied on how it turned out. This book looks amazing.

    —Renea on January 26, 2018
  • I use the back basting method just like Jo. I took a class and we used every kind of hand applique technique, and unbelievable to me this was the method I like best. I really resisted this technique until I tried it and loved it. Hopefully Jo explains to use a contrasting thread when basting, if you use the same color it is hard to follow the line. Love all her books.

    —stephanie woodward on January 26, 2018
  • I learned the freezer paper method but the back basting applique looks like a method I want to learn. I agree with one of the comments it takes practice to be good at applique. I love the look of applique and hope to include more of it on my quilts.

    —Diana Lentz on January 26, 2018
  • Well I have used all of the methods, except back basting. Looks like I will be trying that method next. Thanks for demonstrating how to do it.

    —Debbie on January 26, 2018
  • I have experimented briefly with back basting applique and would like to try it again. I liked what I did some time ago.

    Lorene Soderstroom on January 26, 2018
  • Hi, it seems I’ve been back basting for years and didn’t know it haha. When doing my appliqué I wanted to hide my stitches as much as I could so started doing it like this. Clever me it seems. Thanks for the video I’ve saved it with my others. I live in Adelaide South Australia where it’s extremely hot at the moment, our last month of summer coming up in February.

    —Margaret Lee on January 26, 2018
  • I prefer needle turn. But I’m ready to learn back basting. Maybe it’ll become the catalyst for me to enjoy appliqué.

    —Linda Towers on January 26, 2018
  • I use the needle turn method but am always willing to learn something new.

    —Joanne O'Neal on January 29, 2018
  • I’ve never done applique, I’m afraid!

    —bookboxer on January 29, 2018
  • I used be afraid to do applique! How silly, after I learned how, I do it all the time. I usually prefer fusible over needle-turn or template, but after watching the video, I will enjoy Jo’s back basting method.

    —Pamela Fritz on February 6, 2018
  • I love to hand applique, its my favorite method of quilting. I especially love Jo Morton’s quilts and books. Her tastes are right in tune with mine. I watched your back basting video. I have been taught that method before but I really prefer to mark my pieces, baste them down to the background fabric, and needle turn my fabric. The only exception is that I use a wet, flat toothpick for turning, it grabs the fabric nicely. I would love to win her book.

    —Donnamarie on February 9, 2018
  • I just recently learned machine applique. It is a lot of work. I like the look of this method because you don’t have to spend so much money on the applique (glue ) sheets. The one quilt I have almost finished cost a fortune for all the steam a seam. This looks so portable as well. I don’t hand sew so much anymore, but I am going to give this a try on a couple of Art pieces for hanging.

    —Cynthia Maki on March 23, 2018
  • Learned this technique from the Kimball books, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Literally changed my mind about the applique process! Allows for extreme portability, no surface marks to worry about. Very relaxing. I teach applique to children, and am amazed with their results. I have won several prizes and shows since back basting. Great way to really enjoy applique.

    —Linda Silver on June 4, 2018

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