Reverse Applique–A Tutorial

by Karen on December 11, 2010

in quilts, reverse applique, TUTORIALS

Yesterday and previous days I have mentioned doing reverse applique on some of my Dear Jane triangles and I was asked “how do you do that” “and what is reverse applique”. I am not really great at explaining with just words but I can explain better with pictures.  So here goes:

For this sample I am using two squares of fabric.  In most applique you cut a shape – like a leaf, or a flower petal or whatever out of the fabric you want on the top of your quilt.  In reverse you cut your shape out of the top fabric.


Here I draw a circle on the top fabric, I hope you can see it well enough I should have drawn a little darker:


Now cut your shape out leaving a seam allowance to turn under.  Position your two fabrics so one is on top of the other.   You can use fabric glue, basting thread, or pins to secure the two pieces together – that is up to you.   In this example I have both pieces being the same size but when you are actually doing it they do not need to be.  If you are doing a leaf for example you can have the fabric behind being just a little bigger than the leaf is going to be.  The fabric behind is trimmed to the correct size later.  Now this next step can be done by hand or by machine – that all depends on how you do your applique.  I do needle turn.  Using that method (I am using a different color thread than I normally would for example purpose – normally I would use matching thread).  By needle turn method I sweep my fabric ahead of the needle under and do applique stitch – either use the blind stitch or tiny whip stitch.  Your thread should match your top fabric.


Here is the circle completed – is it easier? the same? does it give the same look?  I guess that all depends on your own personal choice.  A lot of time I find reverse easier especially with the Dear Jane quilt involving tiny pieces – I don’t know why that is just me I guess and my personal preference.  (don’t forget if you use matching thread your stitches will barely be visible)


This is what it looks like on back:


Following your stitches on the back carefully cut away the excess fabric leaving the same size seam as you normally would 1/8 to 1/4” inch.  If you are using a piece of fabric only slightly larger than what your applique piece is you will have little waste – but remember to check it before you start stitching to make sure you have enough of a piece to cover the needed space and leave a seam allowance to prevent fraying when washed and used so it won’t pull out.


Easy – I did this in about 5 minutes.  The finished square:


Now of course when points are involved it is a little harder – I do not like points and usually do regular applique for that – but sometimes if it really doesn’t matter to me how pointed the point is I sometimes just have the points be a little more curved than they should be Smile but that is me and it depends on how precise you want to be.

I did finish one more triangle last night making 4 yesterday!!

This is triangle #10 on “Insanity Revisited” my second Dear Jane.  All done with regular piecing on this one – except I forgot! on the very bottom the two triangle pieces are regular appliqued.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle December 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Thanks so much, Karen! I’ve bookmarked this post for future reference.
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Marlene December 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Karen what a great tutorial…I’ve seen reverse applique many times but never a tutorial. It’s much clearer to me now! blessings, marlene
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Debra December 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Excellent Tutorial and your collection of Triangles really look quite beautiful together.
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Vivian December 11, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Thanks, Karen. I may have to use this technique sometime.
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Cara December 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Clever technique!
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Crispy December 12, 2010 at 5:59 am

Great tutorial Karen!! You make it look so easy…I struggle with reverse applique thus avoid it at every opportunity LOL.

Wow 4 blocks done yesterday!! You are a gal on a mission :0)


Mary L December 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

I love reverse applique, though I like the term “recessed” as the author of Dutch Treat suggests. Suppose you could have guessed how much I like it, right? LOL.
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Glenda Australia January 9, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Thanks for the tutorial very clear and easy to follow. A Great DJ block too. Cheers Glenda Australia

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