Welcome to the wonderful world of wool and sashiko!
Wool applique is very easy and fun to work with; no edges to turn! If you find hand applique with cotton difficult, wool is a great alternative. After a decade of working only with turned appliqué, I discovered the joy of wool while designing 2016's Block of the Month, Perennial Favorites. Wool is so textural, soft and a delight to work with. No edges to turn! Complicated shapes can be used in combination with sashiko to great effect.
Some of the advantages:
Choosing wool for your project
Wool can be sourced from thrift store coats, bought by the yard, or in small quantities from many vendors specializing in wool appliqué. Look for 100% wool of good quality that can be easily cut and won't fray. It is not cheap, but for small quilts the quantities are minimal and worth every penny. It is more important to have a wide color palette of wool to work with rather than larger quantities of a few colors. My favorite source for high quality hand dyed wool: Olympic Wool Works .
Be sure to audition your wool on your chosen background fabric before committing and cutting out all the shapes . There needs to be enough contrast with the background so your appliqué "pops" and enough contrast between shapes so they do not look like a "blob" of one color. The good news is if there isn't enough contrast, you and always outline the shape in a contrasting colors!
I use ESSEX, a linen/cotton blend from Robert Kaufman Fabrics for the background of my wool and sashiko quilts. It has a luxurious hand and a loose enough weave to easily pull sashiko thread through it.I don't use wool because sashiko thread doesn't show up effectively on it. Bamboo felted fabric can be used; it has the look of wool.
One of the wonderful aspects of working with wool is the freedom to play and experiment with threads and stitches; there are no rules or appliqué police! Wool can be fastened down by machine or by hand with whatever stitches or thread suits your fancy or achieves the effect you envision.
I strive to make my flowers look realistic rather than primitive or folk style, so I don't use blanket stitch very often to fasten and ornament my wool shapes. I use #100 polyester Invisifil thread by Wonderfil to whip stitch the shapes down. Invisifil is very thin and is literally, invisible.
I then outline them in stem stitch with either Ellana wool thread or perle # 8 cotton. Sometimes I match the flower color, but often use a contrasting color thread for more effect. I use embroidery floss to add details to the centers of flowers.
I only use a few of the many decorative embroidery stitches available to ornament wool.