How to Appliqué the Red Bear Block

Red Bear Free Motion appliqué

How to put together the Red Bear of New Beginnings

One of the techniques I have done a lot since I learned to free motion quilt is raw edge free motion appliqué. Primarily because free motion appliqué is the fastest form of appliqué I know. And for me, currently, fast is good……. I have young kids and an often travelling husband…..

But there is also another reason…. I have found that free motion appliqué is a great way to improve my free motion skills for quilting. The act of tracing around a shape several times in a row. then another shape, and another shape (and so on) has definitely helped with my FMQ confidence and accuracy. 

So, if you are still working on your free motion quilting skills and don’t do raw edge free motion appliqué yet, you might just want to give it a go. Here’s how to do it, using the Red Bear Block from the Beary Colourful BOM as an example.

What you will need to make the Red Bear appliqué block

Before we get started, if you haven’t got the Red Bear of New Beginnings pattern yet, you can download it here from yesterday’s blog post. Reminder: if you are a beginner and don’t want to jump in the deep end, I will share a slightly simplified pattern later this week once I have the all main instructions posted.

Here is also a brief reiteration of everything you will need to make the Red Bear block. If you require more detail, this list was covered more fully yesterday.

  • Background fabric 13.5″ by 17″
  • Thin batting for trapunto 11″ x 15″.
  • Fusible paper-backed fabric adhesive (for example vliesofix). 15″ x 24″
  • Red fabric scraps for the main sections of the bear. The whole bear requires the equivalent of 6″ x 24″ of red fabric. 
  • White/light colour fabric scraps for the muzzle and tummy,  5″ x 8″. Or 10″ x 8″ if you would like to make the light fabrics double layered.
  • Various coloured small fabric scraps for eyes, nose, mouth, paws, inner ears and tummy motif appliqué shapes. 
  • Machine embroidery or sewing threads to match your appliqué fabrics 
  • General tools: sewing machine, iron etc, teflon ironing sheet or baking paper, small sharp scissors, pencil, chalk/washout fabric marker, quilting pins, black permanent fabric marker, curved blade embroidery snips, greaseproof paper.

Where to start

Step 1

First, print out your appliqué templates. Pay attention to the size of the check box on the printout. It is actually really important that this box is square. If it is not square, then all sorts of bad things will happen. I.e. your pieces won’t all overlap, your bear will be misshapen and rain will fall on your nearly dry washing….. just kidding about that last one, but the other two consequences are 100% true. 

Step 2

Choose whether you are making the Butterfly Bear or the Beetle Bear and tape together the large outline of the entire bear. This is a placement guide to build your bear appliqué over later. Put it aside.

Red Bear Appliqué assembly guide

Step 3

Now, from the appliqué pieces pattern sheets (the first 5 pages of the Red Bear pattern) trace your appliqué shapes onto the paper side of your fusible fabric adhesive. The pieces are already reversed to give you a bear that faces the same way as my sample. The arrows indicate the top of each piece. Leave space between the tracings so that you can cut out the pieces with 1/8th inch or slightly more excess paper around them.

Step 4

fused adhesive for raw edge appliqué
Red Bear pieces fused onto my scrap of red batik

Fuse each traced piece to the back of your chosen fabric, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Protect your iron by covering your work with an non-stick ironing sheet or baking paper – the really shiny kind that is used for lining cookie baking trays. Carefully cut out each fused shape on the traced line. Cut the centre out of the “outer tummy” shape, so you get a tummy doughnut.

baking paper
Here’s the baking paper I use for appliqué. I save the cheap stuff for cooking with…… 🙂

Building the Appliqué for the Red Bear Block

Step 5

Lay your bear outline face up on your ironing board and cover it with a see-through teflon ironing sheet or baking paper, I have an ironing sheet (somewhere) but I had to use baking paper because it is lost. I did mention that taking control of my sewing space is a 2018 goal.….. Actually I like using baking paper for this step, because I can happily stick pins through the baking paper and the template into my ironing board, and nothing moves.

baking paper over appliqué template

Step 6

Peel the paper backing off your appliqué pieces. If you can get them off in one piece, save the backing paper pieces from the left foot, both arms, the tummy, muzzle and head (otherwise you will just have to trace them again later – no biggy).

Place the arms, legs and outer ears into position and tack each down with a quick touch of the iron. If anything moves out of place carefully peel it off the baking paper and try again.

red bear appliqué first layer
First layer of the red bear appliqué temporarily adhered to baking paper.

Step 7

Join up all the limbs by adding the outer tummy ring over the top.

Tummy added to red bear appliqué

Step 8

Now add the inner ears over the outer ears and lightly press. Notice that the edges of the outer ear and the inner ear pieces are slightly offset? This creates a gradual decrease in layers under the head, and prevents a pronounced  bump forming on the head at the edge of the ear pieces.

offset appliqué layers

Step 9

Now add the main head section and the feet, overlapping the already placed pieces.

Step 10

Add the tummy centre and muzzle. If you wish to make the white areas double layered, now is the time to do that (use fusible adhesive to stick two layers of fabric together before you cut out the white shapes).

comparison of one vs two layers of fabric
Upper picture shows muzzle with one layer of white fabric. Lower picture has two layers of fabric on the muzzle.

Step 11

Add the whites of the eyes, the irises, the nose, mouth and paws. You most likely will not be able to see the position guidelines through your appliqué now, with the possible exception of the white areas. You can position your pieces by eye, or if you want them placed exactly, you can use the following trick:

Take the saved backing papers from your appliqué pieces (or trace new shapes on tracing paper if the originals tore during the removal process). Move your bear (still on the baking paper) off the appliqué positioning guide. Use the guide to trace the positions of the paws, facial features and tummy motif onto the backing papers.

add details to backing paper
This arm backing paper now has the paw location marked on it

Align the marked backing paper over the corresponding part of your bear appliqué. For instance, this arm backing paper now has the position of the paw marked on it. Gently slide the paw piece in under the arm backing paper  until the paw piece is aligned with the paw outline on the backing paper. Press to fix the paw in place. 

Align paw under backing paper
Align paw under backing paper and iron down

Actually, you can see this process better with an eye…..

aligning eye with backing paper
White eye piece aligned under marked backing paper

Repeat with two remaining paws and the facial features.

appliqué bear face
Bear face all assembled

Step 12 – Butterfly motif

Add the butterfly motif. The butterfly construction follows the same method as the paws and face (step 11).

butterfly assembled
Butterfly appliqué assembled

Step12a – Beetle motif

To do the beetle, use your favourite marking method (chalk, pencil, washout pen, greaseprroof paper) to mark out the beetle’s legs. Then either: use the permanent fabric marker to draw the beetle’s legs. Or, if you are confident with FMQ, you can thread paint the legs in a later step (and go straight to step 14 now).

If you have drawn the legs on, you can now add the beetle body. If you wish to thread paint the legs, leave the beetle body off.

Step 13

Mark the pupils with the permanent fabric pen. I thread paint over these later, but you could leave them as is, or hand embroider them instead.

add details with texta
Add small details with permanent marker

Step 14

Once you are happy that all of your pieces are in place, give the appliqué a thorough pressing to adhere all the pieces together. Once it has cooled, your appliqué should peel off the baking paper in one large piece.

Lay the bear onto the centre of your block background fabric and iron down.

Step 15

Lay the whole block over the polyester batting and pin into place with a few quilting pins around the bear.

pinned block
Pin the polyester batting under the bear. Make sure the whole bear is sitting over batting.

Step 16

Set your machine up as you would for free motion quilting. 

Starting with the white areas, sew straight stitch around the edge of every piece to secure the appliqué. If your quilt is to be a wall hanging, one or two rounds of stitching around each raw edge will suffice. However, if you would like to make this as a bed quilt to be used and loved, stitch around each appliqué piece 4 or 5 times. 

White appliqué done
White appliqué areas stitched down with free motion straight stitch

Step 16a

If you are thread painting the beetle legs, do these next.  I used my favourite marking method….. drawing onto greaseproof paper and stitching around the outline. You can find out more about this method here.

Marking out the beetle legs with greaseproof paper
Marking out the beetle legs with greaseproof paper
stitching on greaseproof paper
Once the outline is stitched, remove the paper before you colour in the shapes.
thread painting
Thread paint in the legs and antennae
thread painting done
Thread painting all done

Press the beetle body into place. It will hide the travel stitching between each appendage.

finished beetle
Press on the remaining beetle parts

Step 17

Free motion stitch around all the remaining raw edges as for the white areas in Step 16. 

Don’t forget to add a few stitches of white to give his nose some shine. And of course, thread paint or embroider the pupils.

Step 18

Remove the safety pins. Turn your finished work over and carefully cut away the batting just outside the perimeter of the bear. Take care not cut your fabric or stitching, just the batting!! Curved embroidery scissors work wonderfully for this job. The result is padding left behind the bear, so that the bear will be a greater thickness than the surrounding quilt. For those who have never heard of trapunto, that is exactly what this is.

Back of appliqué
The back of your appliqué should look something like this
Cut away excess batting
All excess batting cut away.

Once the excess batting has been removed your red bear block is done! Fabulous!

If you have any trouble with the pattern please let me know.  And don’t forget to link up a photo with Jen’s linky party at the end of January.

Then hold tight for the Blue Bear of February.

Red Clever Chameleon logoAnd  to finish off, I didn’t forget that it is Tuesday…… and the first Colour Inspiration Tuesday of the year, no less! I do admit that this past week has been a bit manic getting the Beary Colourful BOM up and running, so there has been no time for my usual dose of wandering creative thoughts….. so we will simply take this opportunity to celebrate the colours of the Butterfly Bear of New Beginnings. Happy Colour Inspiration Tuesday!!

Beary Red Colour scheme from Clever Chameleon


Don’t want to miss a bear in the Beary Colourful BOM? You can follow my blog directly for email updates, or through Bloglovin’. Sneak peeks of next month’s bear will also appear throughout the year at Clever Chameleon Quilting on Facebook. All your follow options can be found here

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