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Working with Wool Applique & Sashiko 

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:

    • Intricate shapes can be cut 
    • Effective way to fill in shapes within sashiko designs
    • Very little waste of wool
  •  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!

    Choosing Background Fabric for Wool Appliqué and Sashiko

    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.

    Tracing and Cutting Shapes

  • 1. Trace your applique patterns directly onto the non-shiny side of freezer paper. Mark letters or numbers on each shape.
    2. Where applique shapes overlap, be sure to add at least a quarter inch to the shape underneath.
    3. Rough cut out each individual applique shape, leaving at least 1/4 inch of extra paper outside traced line.
    4. Iron freezer paper shape shiny side down on the right side of wool .
    5.Using fine serrated scissors, cut out shape on traced line.

  • Applying shapes to background

    1. Use a starch based glue pen such as Sewline Glue Pen to glue each shape onto the background.
    NOTE: Be sure to glue down shapes in numerical or alphabetical order, overlapping where necessary.
    2. Glue and then stitch down each shape one at a time.
    This prevents un-stitched shapes from accidently falling  off.  Extra glue baste can be removed with a soft dampened cloth. 

  • Stitching Wool Appliqué

    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.

    • Whipstitch: Strictly utilitarian, to attach the shape to the background.
    • Stem stitch: For outlining wool shapes to give contrast and for embellishing flower centers
    • Colonial Knots: Like a French knot, but easier to execute with heavier threads.
    • Satin stitch: to embellish the center of flowers.


    Remember it is all about the journey along the way.....happy Stitching!