Orange Peel Quilt-Along: How to Applique Peels

Orange Peel Quilt-Along!

Today I’ll show you how to applique your orange peels onto your backing squares. This is the last thing you need to learn in order to go off on your own and whip up your 36 / 144 blocks!

First, press your peels. Leave the freezer paper and basting stitches exactly as they are, just press them so they lay nice and flat.

Then, place your peel on your backing square so that it is on the diagonal and centered. But don’t forget, our squares are a little larger than we really need, so there’s no need to go crazy being exact about it. The simplest way to mark your square for placement is to just make a light finger-pressed fold on the diagonal and align your peel ends to it:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

You’ll want to place it so there’s even spacing on either end – but again, eyeballing it will be fine since we’ll trim it to the exact seam allowance later. Place a couple of pins, keeping everything as flat as you can.

Now, we want to start sewing at around the mid-point of one side so that we can stop a couple of inches short at the end to pull the freezer paper out. Basically: sew around the peel, leaving a 2″-ish gap at the end – does that make sense? This is one of those things that’s silly to describe but easy to do, so read through the rest before start and you’ll see what I mean.

Thread a hand-sewing or applique needle with thread that matches your peel, tie a good knot, and then come up through the backing square, catching a tiny bit of the edge of your peel – about mid-way along one peel side. (Note: You want to catch a few threads of your peel fabric but not the freezer paper inside! Yet again, if you’ve sewn any paper pieces hexagons together, this is very similar.)

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Your knot will be at the back of your work, and your thread will now be coming out through the peel, having caught the tiniest stitch possible on its way through. In this same way – taking a stitch through the backing fabric and catching a teeeensy stitch of peel at the same time – work your way all the way around your peel, stopping about 2″ from where you started.

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

In the above photo, I’m mid-stitch and I’ve already done about a inch. Your goal is to catch so little of the peel fabric that your stitches are barely visible. This is why you use a thread to match the peel fabric, it helps to keep them as hidden as possible.

When you reach the pointy ends, take one stitch exactly at the point and tuck in (or fold under) that little tail as you go:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

When you’ve got about a 2″ gap remaining, pause your stitching and remove the basting stitches with a seam ripper:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Then reach inside your peel and remove the freezer paper:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

This isn’t always easy, sometimes you have to root around a bit to get it unstuck, and sometimes they tear. This is why I said you can usually re-use the applique shapes. If they come out in one piece, they’ll be a little rumpled, but that’s ok, just set it aside to re-use for another peel.

Now you can simply continue stitching until you’re back where you started (the shape’s edge will be nicely defined because you pressed your peel before you started), then bring your needle to the back and tie off with a knot. Huzzah, one block done! This is what your finished block will look like on the back:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

And from the front:

Orange Peel Quilt-Along: Applique Tutorial

Now you are fully equipped to make all 36 / 144 of your blocks. From today, we have just about 7 weeks until the next tutorial, during which we’ll all be peel-ing and applique-ing away, and hopefully sharing our progress regularly. (I’ll post here about every 10 days or so, and leave link-ups on each post.) Of course there’s no obligation to be finished with every single block by then, but if you aim to, here’s a little progress guideline:

– For the wall quilt, you should aim for about 5-6 finished blocks per week.
– For a lap quilt, your goal is 20-21 finished blocks per week.

Honestly, that sounds a lot more serious than it is, especially for us lap quilt (or larger) makers. It takes me about 20 minutes to make each block, basting and applique combined. Admittedly, I’ve made a whole bunch now and I’m used to the process, but after a few, I’m sure you’ll be just as quick. That means it’ll take me around 6 hours a week, or the equivalent of 2-3 hand-stitchy evenings. In my world, that’s totally do-able.

But of course, don’t feel that those are anything more than guidelines. Go your own way! You might like to make one finished block at a time, or maybe you’d rather make all of your peels first, then applique them (but keep in mind that you can’t reuse your freezer paper peels if you go that route). However you approach it, let me know at any time (by email / blog comment / Twitter @juliezryan / Instagram @juliezryan) if you run into trouble, and promise you’ll show your progress often!

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6 Comments on Orange Peel Quilt-Along: How to Applique Peels

  1. Ana
    September 19, 2014 at 10:34 (4 years ago)

    Perfectly clear tutorial Julie!! :))
    Can’t wait for the weekend to start!!
    Thank you so much!

  2. Rebecca Bell
    September 19, 2014 at 16:51 (4 years ago)

    Thanks Julie, very helpful. :)

  3. Andree
    September 24, 2014 at 04:14 (4 years ago)

    Hi Julie, I’m so happy that I got to prepare my orange peels to take with me on vacation (to China!!!) I should have them all appliqued by the time I get back in mid-October. Thanks!

  4. Jill Thomas
    March 4, 2017 at 18:03 (1 year ago)

    Do you ever trim away the background fabric from behind the appliqué to reduce weight and bulk?

  5. Anita Swayne
    June 17, 2017 at 23:11 (1 year ago)

    How big was your orange peel template? Thanks for the great tutorial!


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