Man Sewing: How to Make a Freestyle Applique Landscape Quilt

Rob Appell

Man Sewing: How to Make a Freestyle Applique Landscape Quilt

Rob demonstrates how to make a Freestyle Applique Landscape quilt using Artisan Batiks - Prisma Dyes by Lunn Studios for Robert Kaufman, Heat N Bond Feather Lite Fusible Web, and a Man Sewing Shark Applicutter Rotary Cutter.

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video transcript

I absolutely love to make freestyle landscape quilts. As a matter of fact it’s where I got my start. So today’s tutorial I’m going to show you a bunch of basic techniques of making your own shapes with a rotary cutter. That’s right. Let’s get started.

You probably recognize the quilt on the wall behind me from our Eagle Over Alaska tutorial. Now that was a specific pattern. But I want to point out some of the elements. So just go ahead and just kind of look past the eagle and the trees and the mountains and the rocks and everything. I want to teach you all how to do that kind of on the freestyle. As a matter of fact I’m even using the exact same fabrics from the Eagle over Alaska kit so you could see what it looks like without the eagle. And it’s still available of course. So a couple of things I want to point out. In my stack of fabrics themselves, to make it super easy for the creative process I put my Heat N Bond featherlite on the back of all of my elements. So you can see my colors here. I’ve got them all set up with the exception of one piece of fabric. The background fabric here. The blue that I’m using, I don’t put it any fuse on because it would just becomes the background of the entire project. And the fun trick with doing that, and I want you to choose your colors specifically, even though I won’t be talking about color management today. The blue of the water can also be the blue of the sky. So one more trip back to the quilt just to point out what I’m talking about. If you look back into the valley way back here, there’s a little river coming through, right? And that river coming through here is also the water here. And in this quilt I’ve used the purple for the sky. And I have another fun sample here that I want to show you just to show you the same exact fabrics but I also used that same purple over the blue as clouds. So you can do all kinds of different play with using your blue background. And that can work as your water and your sky all in the same element.

Now I’ve got to clear off my work station a little bit. And we’re going to get started. And I work from the background up. So what I want to show you first is how to make our mountains with our snowcaps. So I’m going to use some of my black fabric. And I don’t believe I’ve already pointed out that these are all batiks. And batiks are awesome for landscape because and applique because they are a higher thread count and they do not fray nearly as much. So one of the things I’m going to do actually is I’m going to put my white fabric which will become the peaks of my mountains on top of my black. And I’m just going to put a pin in here right now to hold it from shifting around. Scotch tape is actually a great trick as well because with the Scotch tape you can cut right through it. And this is just to hold the black and white together. So now what I want to do is I want to approach this the way I’m going to really cut it. And I”m going to start over here on one end. One of my tricks on the mountains is I always start from the edge. And I start to head up over the top of the mountain. And then I come back down and I start to form. And I’m going to cut past this snow, right? So you can start to see that that would form a snowy peak on that mountain. And I’m going to do some pretty basic shapes today. The more you work with this the more elaborate you can become. Come back up in here. And I also want to point out that none of our scraps are waste. These can be used as another mountain in just a few seconds if we need, right? So I”m going to set that one aside.

And I”m going to continue to keep cutting my snowcaps. You also might be wondering, hey what is that clever tool that you have in your hand there, Rob? And why does it corner so well? Well funny enough, this is called the Shark Applicutter. And I actually invented this over the last several years to do this exact trick. It’s a 14 millimeter blade which makes it very easy for the curves and the cornering like you just saw me do. Now I want to set these aside also and the bottom of my snow doesn’t look like the snow behind me. So I need to give it a little character too. So again I”m just kind of rolling my cutter through here. And basically my one rule of thumb when doing applique is no straight lines, ok? No straight lines exposed I should say. We can have straight lines that are hidden underneath. So I’m just going to finish out my snow as I go along there. And then I also need to trim the bottom of my mountain. But I’m not sure where it needs to finish. So that looks good. Didn’t that work awesome? Ok.

So now what I also like to do is I”m going to bring it under the camera so you can see but then we’ll set it back aside over here. While I’m building I have my base and I have something like batting or an ironing board underneath it. So that I can then go ahead and start to take my mountains and I can just put them in. So what I do is I build an element and I set it into my project. Build an element and set it into my project. For example I’ve been doing a little bit of pre cutting as well. I’ve also made some of these shapes that look like clouds or wonderful fog or something that would be coming in behind the mountains here.

So let’s talk about how we make those next. So let me move this out of our way a little bit. So I can keep developing the elements. Sorry I just love this so much I kind of forget that you’re watching me do this right now. This is really my happy place. Now here comes that fun purple kind of light lavender kind of like clouds. There’s a couple of easy ways to do this. You can actually see some of my remnants from before. The easiest cloud or wispy line to cut using a rotary cutter again is kind of an S curving up. And then you just take that cutter and you just roll backwards actually. And you kind of make almost like a flame shape. And I like to do in a couple of little loops and that makes something like that. But that will park in behind a mountain very nicely over time. So that straight line I created can be hidden. The other kinds of clouds I like to do, like I said you can see the remnants of one I made behind me. I’ll do that and I’ll come across the top with a really little wispy line. But I want a bumpy top of my cloud like yay. But then the bottom is kind of where the vapor trails of the cloud kind of run out. So you still want a nice soft edge that goes so you can run something like that as well so you can see it looks more like a fun fluffy cumulous cloud. And of course you can use combinations of the two in your landscape as well, ok? We’ve got our clouds. We’ve got our mountains. We’ve got our snowcaps.

The next thing I like to do is I like to build a background of a mountain, a foothill. I usually use a green fabric. I will usually use the darker of the two if I can. So I’ve got like this big green right here. And what I’ll first do is I kind of just look for what would be like my mountain scape. One of the things that’s cool about this tool is the backend works like a Hera marker. So if I wanted to test something out I can actually use this and you probably won’t be able to see it at home. But I could actually like score a little line on the back of this and it leaves a little bit of, kind of a, basically what it does is it’s flattening down the fiber. And so I can see this trace line. So then I can come in here and I can cut. And that works really great when I already have elements on my quilt and I want to be able to draw on the top because if you draw on the back everything is reversed due to the free, excuse me due to the fusible web. So now I’ve got this wonderful mountain scape that could fit in this way.

But what I like to do is add a little bit of character along the top and I cannot do that with my scissors yet, or excuse me with my rotary cutter yet. I do it with my little scissors. And that’s fun. What you really want to do is just spin your foothill around. And now I’m going to come in here, and I’ll just do a few because this part takes quite a while, but I love it. I come down and I’m going to cut in what would look like little teeny tree shapes in the background. The best part about this is what you want to do is you want to make yourself a really strong cup of coffee. And then you start trying to cut a straight line and you’ll get these wonderful wiggly lines because all of the caffeine in your system and it will look like these fun little trees up on the top of your hillside. Now what we’re really doing is we’re building perspective and character into all of our shapes. And you just want everything to kind of look organic. So that means nothing is ever exactly the same as what you just did before. Ok, now this might be a little hard to see. I’m going to lay it down on my mountain range. Try to slide it under the camera for us but I have a feeling this is going to be a bit of a disaster. There. Maybe you can see it a little bit better underneath the top cam for you. And that forms this wonderful mountain in the background. But I also have a little bit of this river valley that we could start to create as well.

How do you fix the river valley, Rob, you’re probably saying. I”m going to leave this here. I’m going to work around it. I think I can do that. I’m just going to slide it up a little bit. Because it’s the same kind of cut. What I do then is I bring another chunk of this back in here and I figure out how is my river going to run with actually using the piece of fabric that I had. So now I use that same Hera marker technique and I come up and let’s say I’m going to make my foothill like that. Now I can lay this down like here, come back in and I can set that right in there. And now I have a beautiful river starting to run through my landscape. Deep breath. Ok. Now the things you do in the background due to perspective are a little bit more blurry, kind of like these eyes of mine nowadays. They’re a little bit less accurate, a little more generic is what I’m trying to say. So those were all basic easy, easy shapes to make. Let’s start talking about some of the intricacy of our trees and our rocks and things so I’m going to try once again to slide this over here. You’re getting the idea, I know. I can feel you at home smiling. Ok.

So let’s talk about some trees like this first. I generally will go to a little lighter than the background fabric that I was using. Ok. And then a lot of times my trees will get a little tall if I’m not careful. So you notice I will actually take and just remove a strip of fabric so that my trees don’t get much larger than my project. Now the trees are going to work very similar to those vapor trails and the clouds and stuff. Often I’ll start at what would be the bottom of my tree. And then I’m going to take my cutter and I’m going to come into the fabric and then back out. See the triangle I just made, the little wedge shape. Now pine trees get a little smaller as they grow so you notice that I’m taking a cut in a little each time. And if you cut a little bit into your applique it’s ok because this all has the fusible web on the back so you can just shape these as you need, ok? Now I come to the other side and kind of duplicate. And you don’t have to cut each one individually. You can certainly do it in this fun rolling motion like this. Ok, now you have that tree. Isn’t that easy? Now even better than that you already have half a tree made on the other side, watch this. Just spin this around. And now you’ve got half your tree already developed. Now you come back over here a little bit wider than the first one so that your trees look like they were not all planted from seeds that were from the same source, right? And now we’ve got another tree. And another tree. And these trees we start to lay into our background as well, right? And then I’ll also use some of my lighter colored trees and I’ll start to build those up into my landscape.

One of the things I do want to point out, I keep showing you the back. The paper is still on my fusible applique shapes because it is so much easier to cut and trim if the paper is on. So I do not take the paper off like I have on this one until I am sure that the applique piece is going to be just as I want it shaped, ok? So again working from the heavens down we’ve got our sky. We’ve got our mountains, our snow, our background hillside, our foreground trees. Another thing I like to do is I like to do really basic rocks. And so you can see here are a few really simple shapes of some rocks. I think the key to doing rocks is using a couple of different shades of fabric so I can lay them on top of each other and give them some character like you see here. Ok you can obviously assume how easy rocks would be to do so let’s grab one of these pieces here. But I want to show you yet another trick if I can. So let’s start with the rock itself. So I’m just going to come and these are really rounded shapes at first. Real easy cuts. Now of course a rock doesn’t often shape out that way so I want to take the bottom down. Now what I want to teach you here is let’s say this rock, let’s bring our landscape back into frame here if we can. We won’t bring much of it, we don’t need much. Let’s say this rock is sitting down here at the bottom. Well a straight line is no problem for us. But if this rock needed to sit along the water line or something like that, that straight line is going to drive us nuts because we know that the water likes to ripple along inanimate objects. So the way I fix that is I take the bottom of this and I’ll usually actually use my scissors. And I go along that straight line and then I make this cut where I go into the shape with a little curve. And then I come back out of the shape, ok? And I’ll probably do that again on this side or excuse me, this size of an applique piece. And then what happens is when I lay this along a body of water, now it looks like the water is rippling along the side of the rocks.

So join me back at this landscape. Let me see if I can point out a few more of these same things in a little bit more detail. So over here with the rocks you can see that I’ve got a little bit of a wavy edge and that helps give a little bit more of that watery texture there. If you look up here in the mountains you can see that’s where I’ve added in some of those fun little detail pieces. And again those were easily done with scissors. Very simple. Follow me to the other side of the eagle you can see they’re larger. They’re more intricate because I wanted you to feel like you were getting a little bit closer to the river body so that those trees are getting larger. So the way you cut those perspectives is actually showing your viewer where they’re standing in the project or in the landscape itself, ok? Some of our trees get lost in the quilt. Some of them are very stand outish in the quilt. And I do that on purpose not only to add energy to the project but also to balance the color. So while I’m moving things around a lot of times I”ll put splashes of one element of color on the opposite side of the quilt just to help bring it all back together.

Now one last thing I want to show you and that’s some shadowing and highlights and then we’re going to wrap it up for the day. But let’s say you’re dealing with this rock we were just playing with, right? And it looks a little generic. What I like to do is I like to make these kind of really jaggedy, raggedy cuts. And sometimes you want to do it with scissors. Sometimes you want to do it with your rotary cutter whatever you like. And what these are going to be is like the cracks in the rocks. And you can add moss. You can add plants to your rocks. And I do this in the mountains. I do this in the trees. I do this wherever I need to add some texture. So now you can see that I’ve started to create this crack but it doesn’t fit the rock shape. So the easiest way is to just flip this over and make it fit the rock shape as needed. And then you can flip it right back over. Of course I don’t remember where I had it. But somewhere in there is where it will fit, right? So you can add in these crazy character textures by adding other colors of fabric but the most fun way to do it is to add it in through your free motion machine quilting through opposite colors of thread. Through texturizing, through another technique we call thread painting. Or even something like adding nylon netting on top of your landscape which makes the free motion quilting even the easier. As a matter of fact that might be something we do down the road. So I hope you were able to pick up on some of the techniques and some of the tips I have. I wanted to try to keep it really basic because I know once you start doing this you’re going to explode with creativity and you’re going to create all kinds of fantastic shapes. So make sure you send us photos on our Facebook page. Make sure you put those comments in the link below right next to that subscribe button. We love that you’re out there. We love that you’re making landscapes. I’ve got to get back outside. We’ll see you next time at Man Sewing.

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