How I applique a patchwork bee

I recently posted a photo of a bumble bee quilt that I’d made for someone on my Facebook page (Quilty as Sin). In the centre of the quilt was a bee that I had appliqued on to some fabric and then patchworked it into the rest of the quilt. A few people asked me to explain how I did it, so while I was making a new quilt, I took photos as I went through the different stages and hopefully I’ll be able to explain properly how I made it.

So I started out by cutting out the different shapes I needed. You can use a template to do this so you know the measurements are correct. If I use a template, I like to cut a tiny bit bigger so that I know I’ll get a good overlap when I lay them all down. A bit like an overlapping jigsaw puzzle.


After I’ve cut everything out, I pick out the two main pieces of the bee (obviously if you are making a different shape/animal you will need to check which of your pieces are the main cut outs – all the other pieces will go on the top of these ones so it’s what everything centres around. Remember that once they are sewn down, you won’t be able to put pieces underneath,so it helps to start at the bottom and work up.)


 Above are the two main pieces, but the wings, antennae and sting will also need to be tucked underneath before sewing, so it will look a bit like this:


As you can see from the photo, I’ve tucked the wings etc under the body and head. This is where it can help to have cut out a bit bigger than necessary so that you’ve got enough to tuck in with it still looking in proportion.

Once everything is in place and you’re happy with it, it’s time to do some sewing. Some people find it easier to glue the pieces down with a small amount of fabric glue before sewing so that you know they will stay in the same place, or they can easily be pinned. I normally pin (and did to start off with) but they got in the way of the photos, so I unhooked the pins after everything underneath the head and the body had been more or less sewn down.

Depending on how neat/delicate you want the work to be is how big your stitches will be. I wanted the stitches to be seen, so I used a contrasting thread – black on the yellow gingham, and then went just inside the outline of the fabric with relatively large stitches. On the photo you can see the head is standing out a lot more now that it has an outline. The body has been tucked slightly underneath the body so that there aren’t any gaps. The wings, antennae and sting have been secured by the stitches so shouldn’t move too much now.


Once everything has been sewn down, it should look a bit like this. I should have taken a photo a bit closer, but the sting and antennae are sewn with yellow thread with a lot smaller stitches and the wings have been sewn with blue stitches. They were sewn in the same way as the body and head, stitch about a cm in from the edge. Each piece is now secure all the way round,


Next stop is his eyes and cheeks. Once again, these are sewn with small stitches (very small) just inside from the edge. I used black thread for the eyes as I didn’t want the yellow to be a distraction from the rest of the bee. Likewise with the cheeks, which are the same material as the wings.


Lastly, I sewed on a smile. I drew a very faint line with a pencil to use as a guide, and then used small stitches to follow and cover up the guideline and create his mouth!


He was then sewn into the middle of his new home.

Depending on what animal/shape etc it is will change the size of the stitches and the colour of the thread that I use. I liked the black on the yellow for this bee so that there was a bit more definition, but equally on different projects I’ve used much smaller stitching and less visible coloured thread so that the fabric is doing the talking.

I hope this was helpful, it was a lot harder than I’d expected to explain how to do this. I’m sure there are hundreds of people better qualified than me to explain! But this is the way that I make mine, and I like the way it looks. If you’ve got any questions about any of this process, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer helpfully!

If you have any other requests for a blog post, I’m more than happy to oblige, so leave a comment and I’ll gladly oblige!

Thank you for reading and don’t forget that until the end of September 2014, 25% of all quilts sold will go to EDS Support UK (see previous blog post for more information).


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