Introduction: Applique Quilting a Map

About: I'm a visual artist and fashion designer. I make pretty things. I post pictures of what I make on my website:

I love maps and decided I wanted a fabric version so I used applique quilting techniques to make a globe bag for myself. The following is my technique for applique quilting!

Click here for higher quality pictures

Step 1: Supplies & Equipment

Decorative Fabric - I found 3 fat quarter bundles that worked well together and a few more complimentary fabrics to use for the different pieces
Backing Fabric - Because I was making a bag, I chose a blue canvas for the backing fabric
Fusible Interfacing
Thread - For sewing pieces together and to the backing fabric
Embroidery Floss - I purchased embroidery floss for the quilting steps because it is thicker and would show better than regular thread.
Inspiration Images - I used vintage and modern maps, paintings, and photos

Sewing and Embroidery Needles
Embroidery Hoops and/or Quilting Hoop - I used a small embroidery hoop for quilting small areas. I found a 14" embroidery hoop which worked well as a replacement for the quilting hoop I don't have room for in my apartment. :)
Tracing Paper
A computer with a drawing program or paper and pencil - I used Adobe Illustrator for creating my map shapes

Step 2: Creating the Shapes and Image

I used Adobe Illustrator for making my shapes but any drawing program that lets you freely draw shapes would work.

1) Loaded the drawing program and past the main inspiration image to the artboard. (I also had a recent and more accurate map of the continent for reference.)
2) Using the Pencil Tool, do a rough trace of the image you want to create.
3) Reduce the transparency of the shape created so you can see what is underneath.
4) Refine my shape (still using the pencil tool) until you are happy with how it looks.
5) Once all the continents are traced, use the arc and line tools to create the latitude and longitude lines. Those will become the quilting lines.

Once the shapes are created, adjust the size, layout, and arrangement of your pieces to fit your final project. I am making a bag so I split the hemispheres between the front bag flap and the back of the bag. I also added a viking ship (using the same pencil tool tracing technique) and our solar system to pad out the design.

Print a version of the final layout onto tracing paper.

Step 3: Computer to Fabric

Open and work in a new document for the following steps (to preserve your original tracing/layout).

1) Copy the different shapes and paste them in an arrangement to print on 8 1/2" by 11" paper. Labeling the pieces is extremely helpful later on.
2) Print and cut out each shape from the paper.
3) Trace each piece onto fusible interfacing and carefully cut them out.
4) Fuse each shape onto the fabric you have selected to represent each part of the image.
5) Cut out each piece with a generous seam allowance.

Step 4: Placing the Applique on Its Backing

For my photographic demonstration, I am placing Antarctica on a small South Pole map.

1) When you are ready to attach an individual piece to the backing, trim the seam allowance to represent the shape. I left about a 1/8" to 3/16" seam allowance around the shape. For the inside curves, cut a notch up to the interfacing.

2) Fold the seam allowance back on the south pole map piece so you can accurately know where the edges are.

3) Place Antarctica approximately where it would sit, and lay the tracing paper layout over the fabric pieces. Align the edge of the south pole map with the circle on the tracing paper layout, then adjust Antarctica to the correct position. Pin in place.

4) Carefully fold the seam allowance under (it was easiest on the delicate spots to use the sewing needle as a tiny finger). Bring the needle up through the fabric at the fold line of the seam allowance and and then send it to the underside again in nearly the same spot. The idea is to make the stitch invisible.

5) Work your way around each shape until they are completely attached.

Step 5: The Larger Layout

While working with your main backing fabric, draw the final size/shape on the back. It can be very helpful to create a running stitch line of thread on what will be your sewing line. This will help you place your pieces on the front of your fabric.

Since I made a bag, the pieces were small-ish (the panels are approximately 12" x 17") and I did not separate the pieces from the larger piece of fabric. I did this so that I could use a large embroidery hoop for quilting and to maintain solid edges for final construction. The wear and tear of piecing and quilting will cause fraying on the cut edges of the backing fabric and it is better to trim those parts off after the quilting is done.

Step 6: Attach to the Backing

I chose to add frames around each map.

1) Sew the frame in place.
2) Trim away extra fabric.
3) Iron the piece flat.
4) Using the tracing paper layout for alignment, determine where the piece should fit on the backing fabric.
5) Using the same applique technique, bring the needle up through the fold of the fabric and down in nearly the same spot to hide the stitch.

Step 7: Creating Larger Shapes

Sometimes areas are a bit more complicated than a continent floating in an ocean. I incorporated a boat image into my design which required a bit of careful layout. I sewed the land, boat, and water into composite pieces this way:

1) Place the pieces right sides together. Carefully hand sew the pieces together matching the cut edges of the interfacing.
2) Iron the pieces flat.
3) Using the tracing paper layout for guidance, arrange the pieces on the backing fabric.
4) Remove the paper and adjust the pieces until you are happy with the layout.
5) Sew everything down in the same applique manner.
6) Use embroidery thread to add extra detail that is too small to accomplish with fabric.

Step 8: Quilting the Layers Together

Making a map offered a really fun and easy quilting pattern - latitude and longitude lines. The quilting was part of the design so I used embroidery floss for an accent as it is thicker than standard thread.

All of the pinning happens on top of cork panels - pinning into the panels offers support and stability for the pins in the marking process.

1) Align the tracing paper layout over the piece to be quilted. Place pins in each latitude/longitude line.
2) Lift the tracing paper up and replace the pins under the paper.
3) Using a straight edge, recreate the lines with pins
4) Quilt each line, removing the pins as you replace the line with a line of stitching.

Step 9: Ready for Finishing

Once all the pieces are appliqued, you are ready to finish your quilt (or, in my case the bag!)

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