How to Make a Freestyle Applique Landscape

I absolutely love to make freestyle landscape
quilts. As a matter of fact it’s where I got my
start. So today’s tutorial I’m going to show
you a bunch of basic techniques of making your own shapes with a rotary cutter. That’s right. Let’s get started. You probably recognize the quilt on the wall
behind me from our Eagle Over Alaska tutorial. Now that was a specific pattern. But I want to point out some of the elements. So just go ahead and just kind of look past
the eagle and the trees and the mountains and the rocks and everything. I want to teach you all how to do that kind
of on the freestyle. As a matter of fact I’m even using the exact
same fabrics from the Eagle over Alaska kit so you could see what it looks like without
the eagle. And it’s still available of course. So a couple of things I want to point out. In my stack of fabrics themselves, to make
it super easy for the creative process I put my Heat N Bond featherlite on the back of
all of my elements. So you can see my colors here. I’ve got them all set up with the exception
of one piece of fabric. The background fabric here. The blue that I’m using, I don’t put it
any fuse on because it would just becomes the background of the entire project. And the fun trick with doing that, and I want
you to choose your colors specifically, even though I won’t be talking about color management
today. The blue of the water can also be the blue
of the sky. So one more trip back to the quilt just to
point out what I’m talking about. If you look back into the valley way back
here, there’s a little river coming through, right? And that river coming through here is also
the water here. And in this quilt I’ve used the purple for
the sky. And I have another fun sample here that I
want to show you just to show you the same exact fabrics but I also used that same purple
over the blue as clouds. So you can do all kinds of different play
with using your blue background. And that can work as your water and your sky
all in the same element. Now I’ve got to clear off my work station
a little bit. And we’re going to get started. And I work from the background up. So what I want to show you first is how to
make our mountains with our snowcaps. So I’m going to use some of my black fabric. And I don’t believe I’ve already pointed
out that these are all batiks. And batiks are awesome for landscape because
and applique because they are a higher thread count and they do not fray nearly as much. So one of the things I’m going to do actually
is I’m going to put my white fabric which will become the peaks of my mountains on top
of my black. And I’m just going to put a pin in here
right now to hold it from shifting around. Scotch tape is actually a great trick as well
because with the Scotch tape you can cut right through it. And this is just to hold the black and white
together. So now what I want to do is I want to approach
this the way I’m going to really cut it. And I”m going to start over here on one
end. One of my tricks on the mountains is I always
start from the edge. And I start to head up over the top of the
mountain. And then I come back down and I start to form. And I’m going to cut past this snow, right? So you can start to see that that would form
a snowy peak on that mountain. And I’m going to do some pretty basic shapes
today. The more you work with this the more elaborate
you can become. Come back up in here. And I also want to point out that none of
our scraps are waste. These can be used as another mountain in just
a few seconds if we need, right? So I”m going to set that one aside. And I”m going to continue to keep cutting
my snowcaps. You also might be wondering, hey what is that
clever tool that you have in your hand there, Rob? And why does it corner so well? Well funny enough, this is called the Shark
Applicutter. And I actually invented this over the last
several years to do this exact trick. It’s a 14 millimeter blade which makes it
very easy for the curves and the cornering like you just saw me do. Now I want to set these aside also and the
bottom of my snow doesn’t look like the snow behind me. So I need to give it a little character too. So again I”m just kind of rolling my cutter
through here. And basically my one rule of thumb when doing
applique is no straight lines, ok? No straight lines exposed I should say. We can have straight lines that are hidden
underneath. So I’m just going to finish out my snow
as I go along there. And then I also need to trim the bottom of
my mountain. But I’m not sure where it needs to finish. So that looks good. Didn’t that work awesome? Ok. So now what I also like to do is I”m going
to bring it under the camera so you can see but then we’ll set it back aside over here. While I’m building I have my base and I
have something like batting or an ironing board underneath it. So that I can then go ahead and start to take
my mountains and I can just put them in. So what I do is I build an element and I set
it into my project. Build an element and set it into my project. For example I’ve been doing a little bit
of pre cutting as well. I’ve also made some of these shapes that
look like clouds or wonderful fog or something that would be coming in behind the mountains
here. So let’s talk about how we make those next. So let me move this out of our way a little
bit. So I can keep developing the elements. Sorry I just love this so much I kind of forget
that you’re watching me do this right now. This is really my happy place. Now here comes that fun purple kind of light
lavender kind of like clouds. There’s a couple of easy ways to do this. You can actually see some of my remnants from
before. The easiest cloud or wispy line to cut using
a rotary cutter again is kind of an S curving up. And then you just take that cutter and you
just roll backwards actually. And you kind of make almost like a flame shape. And I like to do in a couple of little loops
and that makes something like that. But that will park in behind a mountain very
nicely over time. So that straight line I created can be hidden. The other kinds of clouds I like to do, like
I said you can see the remnants of one I made behind me. I’ll do that and I’ll come across the
top with a really little wispy line. But I want a bumpy top of my cloud like yay. But then the bottom is kind of where the vapor
trails of the cloud kind of run out. So you still want a nice soft edge that goes
so you can run something like that as well so you can see it looks more like a fun fluffy
cumulous cloud. And of course you can use combinations of
the two in your landscape as well, ok? We’ve got our clouds. We’ve got our mountains. We’ve got our snowcaps. The next thing I like to do is I like to build
a background of a mountain, a foothill. I usually use a green fabric. I will usually use the darker of the two if
I can. So I’ve got like this big green right here. And what I’ll first do is I kind of just
look for what would be like my mountain scape. One of the things that’s cool about this
tool is the backend works like a Hera marker. So if I wanted to test something out I can
actually use this and you probably won’t be able to see it at home. But I could actually like score a little line
on the back of this and it leaves a little bit of, kind of a, basically what it does
is it’s flattening down the fiber. And so I can see this trace line. So then I can come in here and I can cut. And that works really great when I already
have elements on my quilt and I want to be able to draw on the top because if you draw
on the back everything is reversed due to the free, excuse me due to the fusible web. So now I’ve got this wonderful mountain
scape that could fit in this way. But what I like to do is add a little bit
of character along the top and I cannot do that with my scissors yet, or excuse me with
my rotary cutter yet. I do it with my little scissors. And that’s fun. What you really want to do is just spin your
foothill around. And now I’m going to come in here, and I’ll
just do a few because this part takes quite a while, but I love it. I come down and I’m going to cut in what
would look like little teeny tree shapes in the background. The best part about this is what you want
to do is you want to make yourself a really strong cup of coffee. And then you start trying to cut a straight
line and you’ll get these wonderful wiggly lines because all of the caffeine in your
system and it will look like these fun little trees up on the top of your hillside. Now what we’re really doing is we’re building
perspective and character into all of our shapes. And you just want everything to kind of look
organic. So that means nothing is ever exactly the
same as what you just did before. Ok, now this might be a little hard to see. I’m going to lay it down on my mountain
range. Try to slide it under the camera for us but
I have a feeling this is going to be a bit of a disaster. There. Maybe you can see it a little bit better underneath
the top cam for you. And that forms this wonderful mountain in
the background. But I also have a little bit of this river
valley that we could start to create as well. How do you fix the river valley, Rob, you’re
probably saying. I”m going to leave this here. I’m going to work around it. I think I can do that. I’m just going to slide it up a little bit. Because it’s the same kind of cut. What I do then is I bring another chunk of
this back in here and I figure out how is my river going to run with actually using
the piece of fabric that I had. So now I use that same Hera marker technique
and I come up and let’s say I’m going to make my foothill like that. Now I can lay this down
like here, come back in and I can set that right in there. And now I have a beautiful river starting
to run through my landscape. Deep breath. Ok. Now the things you do in the background due
to perspective are a little bit more blurry, kind of like these eyes of mine nowadays. They’re a little bit less accurate, a little
more generic is what I’m trying to say. So those were all basic easy, easy shapes
to make. Let’s start talking about some of the intricacy
of our trees and our rocks and things so I’m going to try once again to slide this over
here. You’re getting the idea, I know. I can feel you at home smiling. Ok. So let’s talk about some trees like this
first. I generally will go to a little lighter than
the background fabric that I was using. Ok. And then a lot of times my trees will get
a little tall if I’m not careful. So you notice I will actually take and just
remove a strip of fabric so that my trees don’t get much larger than my project. Now the trees are going to work very similar
to those vapor trails and the clouds and stuff. Often I’ll start at what would be the bottom
of my tree. And then I’m going to take my cutter and
I’m going to come into the fabric and then back out. See the triangle I just made, the little wedge
shape. Now pine trees get a little smaller as they
grow so you notice that I’m taking a cut in a little each time. And if you cut a little bit into your applique
it’s ok because this all has the fusible web on the back so you can just shape these
as you need, ok? Now I come to the other side and kind of duplicate. And you don’t have to cut each one individually. You can certainly do it in this fun rolling
motion like this. Ok, now you have that tree. Isn’t that easy? Now even better than that you already have
half a tree made on the other side, watch this. Just spin this around. And now you’ve got half your tree already
developed. Now you come back over here a little bit wider
than the first one so that your trees look like they were not all planted from seeds
that were from the same source, right? And now we’ve got another tree. And another tree. And these trees we start to lay into our background
as well, right? And then I’ll also use some of my lighter
colored trees and I’ll start to build those up into my landscape. One of the things I do want to point out,
I keep showing you the back. The paper is still on my fusible applique
shapes because it is so much easier to cut and trim if the paper is on. So I do not take the paper off like I have
on this one until I am sure that the applique piece is going to be just as I want it shaped,
ok? So again working from the heavens down we’ve
got our sky. We’ve got our mountains, our snow, our background
hillside, our foreground trees. Another thing I like to do is I like to do
really basic rocks. And so you can see here are a few really simple
shapes of some rocks. I think the key to doing rocks is using a
couple of different shades of fabric so I can lay them on top of each other and give
them some character like you see here. Ok you can obviously assume how easy rocks
would be to do so let’s grab one of these pieces here. But I want to show you yet another trick if
I can. So let’s start with the rock itself. So I’m just going to come and these are
really rounded shapes at first. Real easy cuts. Now of course a rock doesn’t often shape
out that way so I want to take the bottom down. Now what I want to teach you here is let’s
say this rock, let’s bring our landscape back into frame here if we can. We won’t bring much of it, we don’t need
much. Let’s say this rock is sitting down here
at the bottom. Well a straight line is no problem for us. But if this rock needed to sit along the water
line or something like that, that straight line is going to drive us nuts because we
know that the water likes to ripple along inanimate objects. So the way I fix that is I take the bottom
of this and I’ll usually actually use my scissors. And I go along that straight line and then
I make this cut where I go into the shape with a little curve. And then I come back out of the shape, ok? And I’ll probably do that again on this
side or excuse me, this size of an applique piece. And then what happens is when I lay this along
a body of water, now it looks like the water is rippling along the side of the rocks. So join me back at this landscape. Let me see if I can point out a few more of
these same things in a little bit more detail. So over here with the rocks you can see that
I’ve got a little bit of a wavy edge and that helps give a little bit more of that
watery texture there. If you look up here in the mountains you can
see that’s where I’ve added in some of those fun little detail pieces. And again those were easily done with scissors. Very simple. Follow me to the other side of the eagle you
can see they’re larger. They’re more intricate because I wanted
you to feel like you were getting a little bit closer to the river body so that those
trees are getting larger. So the way you cut those perspectives is actually
showing your viewer where they’re standing in the project or in the landscape itself,
ok? Some of our trees get lost in the quilt. Some of them are very stand outish in the
quilt. And I do that on purpose not only to add energy
to the project but also to balance the color. So while I’m moving things around a lot
of times I”ll put splashes of one element of color on the opposite side of the quilt
just to help bring it all back together. Now one last thing I want to show you and
that’s some shadowing and highlights and then we’re going to wrap it up for the day. But let’s say you’re dealing with this
rock we were just playing with, right? And it looks a little generic. What I like to do is I like to make these
kind of really jaggedy, raggedy cuts. And sometimes you want to do it with scissors. Sometimes you want to do it with your rotary
cutter whatever you like. And what these are going to be is like the
cracks in the rocks. And you can add moss. You can add plants to your rocks. And I do this in the mountains. I do this in the trees. I do this wherever I need to add some texture. So now you can see that I’ve started to
create this crack but it doesn’t fit the rock shape. So the easiest way is to just flip this over
and make it fit the rock shape as needed. And then you can flip it right back over. Of course I don’t remember where I had it. But somewhere in there is where it will fit,
right? So you can add in these crazy character textures
by adding other colors of fabric but the most fun way to do it is to add it in through your
free motion machine quilting through opposite colors of thread. Through texturizing, through another technique
we call thread painting. Or even something like adding nylon netting
on top of your landscape which makes the free motion quilting even the easier. As a matter of fact that might be something
we do down the road. So I hope you were able to pick up on some
of the techniques and some of the tips I have. I wanted to try to keep it really basic because
I know once you start doing this you’re going to explode with creativity and you’re
going to create all kinds of fantastic shapes. So make sure you send us photos on our Facebook
page. Make sure you put those comments in the link
below right next to that subscribe button. We love that you’re out there. We love that you’re making landscapes. I’ve got to get back outside. We’ll see you next time at Man Sewing.

66 thoughts on “How to Make a Freestyle Applique Landscape

  • You kind of remind me of Bob Ross in this episode… but with fabric instead of paint! especially when you said happy little trees!!

  • Thank you so much for this tutorial, I have not been quilting long but this technique is exactly what I so keen to try 👍🏻👍🏻

  • Super freaking awesome tutorial!!! I LOVE the tool. That little shark cuts like a DREAM!! I love love love it. Thanks for another fantastic tutorial! 🙂

  • LOVE this tutorial and my shark cutter!! Thank you for showing this. It answers so many questions for me.

  • Rob, this is amazing. Would this be considered an "Art Quilt"? I am interested in making an Art Quilt.. but not sure where to start. 🙂

  • Love it! always wanted to make an "art" quilt but never had courage. NOw I can attempt to make one. I enjoy all other quilt tutorials of you put out. Keep up your good tutorials for people like me. "Strawberry" Jewel

  • See? There you go being fabulous again… making imagination run rampant! I did a wall hanging years ago that was similar but add elk, bear and moose… Surely could have used that cutter!!! I feel another wall hanging coming on! Thanks Rob for all you do… this is complete awesomeness!

  • I can't thank you enough for showing this!! I've always wanted to do landscape quilts but I didn't know how to start or what to do. You have really made me feel like it's relatively easy to do. Could you please show how you see it together? Your tips are always good & I'm sure you would give great advice on doing it the best way possible. Thank you for giving me the confidence to try these!!!

  • Rob, I love watching you do any of your video's. I get so motivated after I have viewed them. This one really did it for me, but I was wondering if you can guide me to "how to stitch " these once they are cut/layed out. Do you have a video on that if not can you show us how! Want one of your Shark Applicuters and as soon as they come in I will order.

  • Next video – show us the fusing process you use – and the free motion/thread painting process for this project. Cutting out the shapes and setting the scene is great, but how do you put it all together on the background?

  • When you quilt the applique, are you ignoring the outer edges of each applique piece? If so, wouldn't this encourage the appliqued pieces to start fraying at the edges? Or do you cover the entire quilt with tulle fabric before quilting?

  • Thank you so much for this video! I love appliqué art quilts and this and your self portrait idea are similar to what I really want to do. Thanks for your help! I'm a happy subscriber!

  • want the tool but it was out right now can't wait till it comes in love applique I am working on Something Fishy

  • Hey Rob. because of your tutorials I have finished 3 quilts and am working on a celtic pattern and am free style in the large areas in the center of the squares.  Thank you for all the inspiration.

  • I am excited to see this as I've been looking for a unique quilting project to do next. These are really amazing and beautiful.

  • wow I love this!!! keep doing landscape quilts so we can learn more of your tips and use what you have taught us already in different situations. Keep them coming! great positive energy too.

  • love love love your teachings rob. I hope you can help with my question and possibly do a tutorial on this. I like to paint, and emborder…and of course quilt. I like to use intricate coloring book pages as my transfer. For instance , we have work horses to do our farmwork, and i have found a coloring book with these horses that are working in a field, and they have very intricate pieces to the harnes that they are wearing. and colors, and bridals, and very thin lines. I want to make a quilt with these pages. what is the best way to transfer, cut and sew all of this? Please help!!!

  • Hi Rob, I have two landscape quilts to make for friends. One is part of a queen size quilt. As you know I zigzagged the lion quilt recently, but don't want to do that on these art quilts. Do you think the raw edges will hold with straight stitching in the wash, or should I plan to toole over the top? I'm so glad I have my Sharky. Jane D.

  • thank you again,. This tutorial inspired me to think "outside the box" by using a fusible interfacing/stabilizer to create my own saiboat and create a quilt block; the fabric sews very nicely. I still have my water portion remaining, but just wanted to thank you. I thought I could share a pic, but that's ok. thank you for your tutorials.

  • Thanks so much Rob for outlaying the basics so well. Your easy explanation has inspired this newbie to give it a go.

  • I just love watching your presentations! So much great mojo! On top of that, your creativity is off the charts! Thank you!

  • Thanks for the great video, for I've been wanting to do a wall quilt with hard and soft scape in it. Here's a suggestion for your background fabric, take some freezer paper and iron it to the back of your fabric, it will give you some stability while you are creating your landscape and can be removed later, this is one of the ways for hand Appliqué.

  • Hi Rob Appell, what is the type of paper you used on the back of the fabric and did you iron your pieces in place after removing the paper? Thank you for the intro to this type of appliqué.

  • I love your enthusiasm! You've inspired me to work on my "UFO'S" this Fall and Winter! Especially my landscaping quilts! And we loved you in Florence, Oregon! You ARE an amazing teacher/Dr. 🙂

  • I enjoy your videos and I have one suggestion that you may already have made but while watching this video I kept screaming at you to make yourself a portable design board. It would have come in handy when you kept moving the project back and forth. Thanks from Canada!

  • Why are people disliking this video ITS GREAT really helped if you dont like it get over it no need to dislike it there is nothing wrong with it very informative

  • Very cool! I like this freestyle method. I am making a wall hanging with a big tree, birds in the tree, and flowers on the ground. This really helped me; I can add some hills and pine trees in the background! I am not using templates, except for the tree; I want to freestyle it and just let my creativity flow. I have discovered that I am too dependent on patterns and I want to be a little more creative. Thanks a bunch and keep the videos coming! I really enjoy them. My momma taught me to sew years ago, but she did not teach me all these cool artistic things!

  • Thank you for all your teachings. My husband loves watching you, also. I am teaching him to piece and quilt!! He is a natural as he built two of our homes—one was a cabin in the mountains of the Sierras.

  • Hi Rob. Hoping you can help me. I am making a throw landscape quilt with applique pieces on top of a pieced background. There are many applique pieces, many small. I would like to use a stabilizer behind the background fabric so that I can stitch the appliques on top to stabilize them prior to putting all the sections together and then making the quilt sandwich for top quilting. What stabilizer would you recommend? I would prefer to avoid having to tear away or cut away alot of stabilizer and was wondering if the washable stabilizer would work. would that type of stabilizer be ok to leave in with the quilt sandwich? I did try asking the nice folks at MSQ but customer service had no idea what to use. Love your tutorials and keep up the good work:)

  • Highlight those trees, to show us the cuts by putting something light behind them instead of the black mountains. Easier to see.

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