Celtic Applique`

I love needle turn applique`.   I enjoy teaching hand applique` but I never wanted to make a Celtic applique` quilt.  That’s what I’ve been doing though since the beginning of this year.  Brenda at Mama’s Quilt Shop did a little arm twisting  and the class had its heart set on learning Celtic applique`, so there you go !

I did some research on books to find one I thought would be suitable for the class.  I have a friend who is a librarian (thanks, Rita) who helped me find books to compare.  Don’t forget to check your local library when you’re looking for quilting references.  Even if they don’t have it on their shelf, they can usually get one via the inter-library loan system.

I narrowed it down to 2 books—

Celtic Quilt Designs II: The Children of Lir by Philomena Durcan

Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams

They’re both very good books but the instructions in the first one are the best of the two in my opinion.  The only thing I don’t like about the book is that the author give no instructions whatsoever for completing the quilts shown.  That meant I had to use EQ7 to draw and calculate fabrics/instructions.

I wound up buying both books and I did something different with them.  (Some of my students also bought both books.   Each person had to their own book that we worked from)  I went to Office Depot and had the books spiral bound back to back.  I had them put the plastic on both covers.  This way, I can easily turn one book over to see the front cover of the other book.

I’ll show you how I trace & transfer the patterns to fabric in another post.  I could just explain it but I think pictures will be better.

The worst part of the whole thing—the most time consuming part—is making the bias.  I do a quickie bias cut for my strips and I’ll show you how to that later too.  What I want to show you right now is the process of forming the bias using the metal bias bars.  I only use the metal ones.  Yes, they get hot with pressing but they also give you the crispest edges.

Here’s what it looks like when you’re starting.  Just insert one end of the bar into the tube you’ve sewn. The tube is sewn wrong sides together and should be just a little larger than the bias bar you are using.  You want the bar to fit nicely inside the tube…just enough space to slide it easily but not a sloppy fit.

Give the seam a little twist to make it lie in the center of one side of the bar.  Press the seam flat as you move the bar down the tube.

After you finish pressing on the bar, slide the bar out and press the now flattened tube again.  Using a good pair of scissors, very carefully trim the seam allowance closely.  Don’t worry if it seems to close.  The seam is going to be on the underside when you stitch so even if it separates later, you’ll never know it.

I only press and trim enough strips at one time for the particular block that I’m working on as the bias tends to  lose it’s crispness if it sits too long.

I’ll talk more about Celtic work later but for now I’ve got to go check on Chris’s progress in the Daylily/Iris bed.

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  1. VickiT

     /  October 22, 2012

    Oh how I wish you would have posted this about a year ago. I bought bias bars because I have a few wall quilts that use bias to create them and I could not find anything about why either was better (opinion or not) and I bought the plastic ones. I had the feeling that I should buy the metal but let the shop owner talk me into the plastic ones because they don’t get hot.

    • Hi Vicki. I don’t like the way the plastic ones feel. The metal bars are thinner and it only takes a minute for them to cool enough to handle.

  2. Peggy Dawson

     /  October 22, 2012

    Philomena Durcan
    was just here in Wichita. She taught workshops 2 days and did a lecture with trunk show in between. She is one talented lady and a joy to have for a teacher. Everyone in the classes had a great time and learned a lot. I am looking forward to next months guild meeting to see some finished projects from the workshops. If you aren’t familiar with celtic applique you owe it to yourself to check it out.

    • I would love to see her in person, Peggy. Even though I wasn’t crazy about making a celtic applique` quilt, I have enjoyed the process. I just finished my last block last night and we’ll start putting our quilts together in class this week.

  3. Judy

     /  October 23, 2012

    When I had to make 50 Yds of 1/4″ bias for each of 6 stained glass wall hangings several (many) years ago, I used My Singer 600 which had an attachment that made a single thread chain stitch, I cut the bias 3/4″ wide and joined the strips to each other. I then took a foot that had a 1/4″ opening, folded the sides in on each other and threaded the bias through the foot (a 1/4″ bias make wasn’t available at that time). I then stitched away. I could make 50 yds of bias an a couple of hours, I could then stitch the bias over the edges of the “appliqued” (basted) colors of the stained glass and stitch down with an invisible thread and blind hem sttch. The application of the bias was the only quilting on the wall hangings that were 72×42 inches. After the quilting was done, it was easy to remove the chain stitch basting.

  4. Kathy Conte

     /  February 15, 2016

    I’ ve used the 1/4 inch bias bars to make bias strips and on my Celtic pattern, there are some rather small tight curves that I’m having trouble with puckers on the inside curve. Are there any methods or tricks to help?

    • Hi Kathy. I use an applique glue to tack my bias into place before stitching. I always secure inside curves first. The bias allows you to stretch the strip to fit the larger curve. After the glue drys, stitch the inside curves first. That should eliminate any puckering.

  5. Kathy Conte

     /  February 23, 2016

    Thank you for your advice. I tried it and it does look much better than my first attempt.


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