Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trifold Applique Stems – Easy, Fast, and Skinny

Baltimore Applique Society invited me to teach a “Sit-and-Sew,” so I shared my favorite method  for applique stems: Trifold Applique Stems – Easy, Fast, and Skinny. BAS member, Kristy Poindexter writes for their newsletter, and she graciously allowed me to share part of her article here.

November Sit-and-Sew with Barbara Burnham
by Kristy Poindexter
     Soft-spoken and congenial, Barbara Burnham gave a capacity crowd at November’s Sit-and-Sew the “skinny” on stems. As a charter member of BAS, author of Baltimore Garden Quilt, and veteran teacher, she knows many methods to make stems, but she demonstrated her favorite method—Trifold by Hand—for us. This is method #10 from her booklet, Appliqué Stems and Vines: So Many Methods! which includes more than a dozen other ways to fashion stems and vines.

Her Trifold by Hand method begins with a strip of fabric, either straight or bias cut, that is about three times the width of the finished stem. So, cut a 3/4” strip to finish at 1/4”.

Since the strip will be folded into thirds, Barbara showed us how to use a ruler and a hera marking tool to score the first fold line gently on the wrong side of the fabric 1/3 of the width of the strip.

Then, she folded the fabric into thirds (it was amazingly easy) and pressed the strip on a not-quite-cotton setting. Steam or spray mist can be used to reinforce the folds.

Barbara then shared an EXTRA TIP. If you have made your trifolded stem on the bias grain, you can “pre-curve” it at the ironing board. Place the folded strip with raw-edge-up. Gently bend the stem as you iron – bending the raw edge toward the outside curve – the raw edge is easier to bend outward. Applique the inside curve (folded edge) first.

In response to a question about estimating the total length of strips needed, Barbara held a bendable tape measure on its edge along the length of a stem, as we could do on a pattern. Simply add the various lengths to know how much to make.

Barbara also gave us the “super skinny” on making a 1/8” or 1/16” stems – method #9 in her booklet. To order Barbara’s books and patterns, visit her website

She is teaching a beautiful woven basket at the Academy of Applique in Williamsburg this February, so you might want to sign up for her class to learn more ways to make stems!

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2016 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.


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