Quilt school: Reverse applique

Raw Edge Reverse Applique main image

We’re going back to school here on the LPQ blog with a brand new Quilt School tutorial to celebrate the start of term! Join us in getting to grips with reverse appliqué. You’ll find this nifty technique is perfect for showing off fussy cut prints, or adding a pop of colour to your quilt tops. Our in-house tech expert Sarah Griffiths shows you how…

Reverse applique tutorial

Freezer paper method: step-by-step

Step one: Draw your design on the smooth side of a piece of freezer paper. If you’re using a directional design (like letters), you should trace it in reverse for it to show the right way up once completed. Cut out your design from the freezer paper, and discard the middle section, leaving you with the framed outline. Press this in place on the reverse of your background fabric.

Reverse applique tutorial step 1

Missed out on our earlier classes? Catch up here…

Step two: Carefully trim the fabric away from the centre of the freezer paper, leaving about 14in of fabric inside the freezer paper outline. For sharp outer points, clip a straight line in the seam allowance, 1-2 threads away from the point. For inner points, trim straight across the point, as pictured.

Reverse applique tutorial step 2

Step three: Use a small paintbrush to apply starch to the seam allowance along a small section. Fold the seam down over the freezer paper and press with a hot iron. You may find it useful to use a stiletto or pointed pair of tweezers to hold the seam in place and avoid scorching your fingers. Allow your fabric to lie flat while it cools. Once cool, carefully peel away the freezer paper. Your folds should remain in place nicely, but it’s a good idea to give them a final press to make sure they stay put!

Reverse applique tutorial step 3

Step four: Place your background fabric over your print and pin in place. Make sure you get your print centred exactly where you want it under the background fabric. Also make sure both fabrics are lying nice and flat to avoid any distortion. Once you’re happy with the fabric placement, stitch the two fabrics together along the edge of the background fabric. You can stitch by hand, for an invisible finish. Or attach by machine, with your stitch line about 18in from the edge.

Reverse applique tutorial step 4

Step five: Finally, cut away any excess fabric from the reverse. Be careful to cut the print fabric only – without cutting into your background fabric. If you have a pair of appliqué scissors, they’ll come in handy for this last step.

Reverse applique tutorial step 5

Raw edge reverse applique

For a super-speedy finish with all the charm of reverse appliqué, try this raw edge technique…

Raw Edge Reverse Applique

Layer your background fabric over your print fabric, both right side up. Use a machine zigzag stitch to make a closed shape, sewing both fabrics together.

Raw Edge Reverse Applique 2

Pinch the top layer to separate from the print below, and carefully cut away the fabric within the stitched area. Cut as close to the stitching as you can, without clipping into the seam. Cut away excess print fabric from the reverse, leaving a 14in seam allowance. And that’s it! Simple, right?

How to sew peekaboo portholes

Use these clever appliqué portholes to showcase a cute fussy cut or to add a little peek at some piecing!

Step one: For perfectly turned portholes, draw a circle on a piece of scrap fabric, similar in colour to your background fabric. Place this over your background fabric where you want the porthole to be. Sew all the way around your traced line with a machine stitch. Cut out the centre of the circle, leaving a 14in seam allowance. Then cut notches into the seam all the way around the circle, taking extra care not to cut into the stitching.

How to applique portholes

Step two: Push the scrap fabric through the hole, to the reverse of the background fabric.

How to applique portholes

Step three: Carefully press the seam, creating your porthole. The photo below shows the reverse of our porthole.

Applique portholes 2


Step four: Place this porthole over your print fabric, pin and stitch in place by hand or machine. Here we used a machine buttonhole stitch to secure the layers together. Once you’re finished sewing together, trim excess fabric from the back, leaving a 14in seam allowance.

Applique portholes 4

Test out your new skills! Make a Peekaboo mini quilt

Put your new-found skills to the test with our oh-so sweet mini quilt

Quilt school reverse appliqué mini quilt

You will need…

  • Background fabric 26in square
  • Fussy cut print, at least one (1) fat quarter (see notes below)
  • Five (5) print fabrics, 14yd each
  • Scrap fabric, two (2) 5in squares (for porthole facing)
  • Batting 28in square
  • Backing fabric 28in square
  • Binding fabric three (3) 212in x 42in strips
  • Freezer paper 16in square
  • Embroidery thread (optional)
  • Download our free appliqué templates (PDF) to make this project


  • Finished size: 24in square
  • Seams are 14in throughout, unless otherwise noted.
  • WOF = width of fabric.
  • For fussy cut fabric, you may need more fabric to cut the motifs you want.
  • We used Packmates Sorbet fabric by Michael Miller (see EQS for stockists)

Reverse appliqué instructions

Step one: From each of three print fabrics, cut two (2) 134in x WOF strips. From one remaining print fabric cut two (2) 2in x WOF strips, and from last print fabric cut two (2) 212in x WOF strips.

Step two: Sew one of each strip together along the long edges, with the 212in strip at the top, followed by the 2in strip and then three 134in strips. Your strip set should be approximately 734in x 42in. Repeat to make a second strip set.

Step three: Download and use our Triangle template to cut eight (8) identical triangles. Make sure the pointed end of each triangle aligns with the 212in strip. Sew the triangles together in pairs, then sew the pairs together to form a circular block, carefully matching seams.

Step four: Download and use our Flower template on your freezer paper four times to make an eight pointed flower. Use the freezer paper method (above) to create a flower in the bottom left corner of your background fabric with the pieced circular block underneath.

Now make the portholes…

Step five: To complete our quilt top, we added two 3in diameter portholes in the bottom right corner and a 5in diameter raw edge circle in the top corner, with fussy cut prints underneath.

Quilting and finishing

Step six: Make a quilt sandwich with your backing, batting and quilt top. Quilt as desired – we used coordinating embroidery thread to quilt circles. Trim to 24in square.

Step seven: Sew your binding strips end to end and use to bind your quilt. We used two colours for a scrappy binding.