Tips for Quilting Around Applique or Embroidery

When you stitch right around the edges of applique or embroidery and then densely quilt around it, something really spectacular happens! Like trapunto, the unquilted areas under these motifs poof up and really catch the eye.

paisley embroidery free motion quilting detail

But stitching around intricate and multiple colored applique or embroidery can be a challenge! First, you don't want to accidentally stitch over the edges of them, leaving a noticeable line of colored thread. Plus there can be tricky edges and uneven lumps to quilt over or around. Plus it can seem like a lot of work.

What's a quilter to do?

Watch my video for one thing.

Get some invisible thread is another great idea. This stuff isn't that yellowing fishing line of old. I use Sulky's monofilament polyester and it works great for me. Make sure to use a low tension and to feed the thread off the side of the spool.

Really look at the piece and decide what needs to be stitched around and what doesn't. I chose the paisley shapes and the base where they come together to stitch around. I didn't stitch around the small floral bits between the pink paisleys above and the base. I also didn't stitch inside the paisleys. Too much stitching will flatten the applique or embroidery too much.

Also try to plan the order and direction of the stitching for the most efficient work. See if the stitch-in-the-ditch needs to be continuous or can it be worked by doing a fill along the edge. This sometimes leaves small areas not completely stitched along the edge but can save a lot of time. I tend to SID the applique or embroidery first so that I can do it with the invisible thread and do my background in regular thread and I like to make sure the entire shape is stitched. I think it looks better even if the only way you can tell is from the back.

Use a closed toe free motion foot for this work. It won't hang up on delicate edges or threads like an open-toe foot will. Also raise the level of the FMQ foot to compensate for the thickness of the applique or embroidery. Make sure to lower it back down when stitching in other areas.

I'm finding I like more applique in my quilts as it really gives my quilting a chance to shine. I've also been trying out machine embroidery when I'm working at my Janome dealer's shop. I can't wait to share the rest of this piece with you soon.


  1. Great tips for doing free-motion quilting around machine embroidery (or applique). Thank you.


  2. Thanks for sharing. I really appreciated the suggestion for the closed toe foot.

  3. I never use a closed toe foot. I will try and experience the benefits. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great post, Amy and timely for me as I have a dresser scarg I want to attempt to quilt on. Bookmarking this post.

  5. A great post Amy, thank you for sharing your tips about quilting around embroidery.

  6. Great information, I will try the closed foot from now on.

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