Creating a Stain Glass Quilt using the Reverse Applique Method

I’ve been asked by many people just exactly how I made these quilts. What pattern did I use? Where can you buy the pattern? Honestly, you can’t buy the pattern, because there isn’t one. The important thing is to start with a good photo of the window you want to replicate.

Supplies Needed

To Create the Pattern

  • Muslin (if using Option 1)
  • Roll of White Pattern Paper (for both Option 1 & Option 2)
  • Sharpie markers (do not use water-soluble or disappearing markers for this. You want them to be permanent, but they will not show on the finished quilt.
  • Rulers to make sure everything lines up correctly
  • Blue painters tape – you’ll see in the photos where I used this
  • Base fabric that is larger than the size of the piece. Make sure this is a light color because you will be tracing your lines onto it. HELPFUL HINT: If your window has a large amount of a light color in it, make that your base fabric. I was able to use the light blue fabric for the base in both of my windows, saving time.

To Assemble the Quilt

  • Sewing machine with a zig-zag foot
  • A seam ripper. (I use this to carefully cut a small slit in the top layer to insert the scissors between the layers.)
  • Applique scissors to cut the top layer of fabric away. If you don’t have them, other small scissors will do. Just be careful not to cut the bottom layer.
  • ¼-inch bias tape. Fusible is best because it is a little stiffer than non-fusible.
  • Small iron (like the Clover Iron) to tack down the fusible bias tape
  • Two spools of black thread (can be wound onto bobbins as well)
  • 4.0 Twin Needle
  • Fabrics for your design
  • Tearaway Stabilizer

Making the Pattern

To create your pattern, you have two options. I’ve tried each, and I definitely recommend Option 2. However, I’m going to tell you Option 1 so you know how I made the quilt on the left, which was the largest one.

Option 1 – Tracing the Window Directly

  • Tape a piece of muslin to the window
  • Carefully trace every line of the stain glass pattern
  • Be sure to note cracks, etc. and do not trace those
  • Once all lines are drawn, tape the muslin to your light source – preferably on a window or door with lots of light coming in.
  • Tape your tracing paper over the muslin
  • Carefully trace all lines
  • This is now your pattern
  • Piece the different sections together on a wall to make sure your lines are meeting. If you do this step now, it will save you from having to fix uneven lines later!
  • Once you have the pattern the way you want it, then the fun begins.
  • Take each section and trace it on the base fabric.

Option 2 – Making a Copy of the Picture and Tracing That

  • Print a good-quality image of the window you are replicating. This can be on regular paper, but it should be in color because you’ll be referring to it often.
  • Take it to your favorite copy place. I used our local Fedex store. You want a place that can enlarge your image to the actual size of the finished piece (not including background fabric and borders-just the window)
  • Decide a good place for the window to be divided, because most likely, it will be printed on more than one sheet. The employee should be able to tell you how wide their printer is.
  • As you can see, my pattern is split in the middle. The photo of the window is at the left so that I can refer to it as I work.
  • Using the blue painter’s tape, tape each section to your window or door.
  • You will tape your pattern paper over this and trace your lines,
  • Trace all lines for the entire quilt on white pattern paper
  • If you are fortunate like I was for Option 2 and it will all fit on one side of your sliding glass door, then you can piece the window together
  • If not, as was the case for the larger window I did, do this next step in sections as I did in Option 1.
  • Tape everything together, making sure to match cross lines and keep everything straight.
  • Once you have it the way you want it, tape your base fabric over the pattern and trace every line. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but your lines should match.
  • Congratulations! You now have your quilt top ready for color.

Creating the Magic

Notes About The Process

  • With this technique, you can make notes on the base fabric about color choice for each section because you will be cutting the top piece away
  • The black lines do not need to be perfectly straight. You will be doing a 1.0-1.5 zig-zag stitch over them.
  • Thread color choice is not important with this step, because you will be covering it with the bias tape.

Adding The Color – similar to reverse applique

  • Referring to your color photo, choose the corresponding fabric for that section.
  • Cut a piece a little larger than the section you are working on.
  • Turn your base fabric over and pin your color piece with the right side of the color to the wrong side of the base. This way, when you turn the quilt over, both right sides are facing up.
  • Turn the quilt over, and using a 1.5w x 1.5l zigzag stitch, follow your drawn line all the way around that one section.
  • Once you have a section stitched all the way around, carefully cut the base fabric next to, but not through, the stitching.
  • Helpful Hint: Pull the two fabric pieces apart and use a seam ripper or small scissors to cut just the base (top) fabric, not the color fabric.
  • Continue adding your color pieces for the entire quilt.
  • For sections where there is a lot of the same color (such as the picture on the right), work them using a larger piece. Pin well so the under fabric doesn’t shift as you stitch.

Adding the Black Bias “Leading”

Once you have completed coloring the entire window, then it’s time to add the “leading” to complete your stain glass look.

  • Use 1/4″ black fusible bias tape, a 4.0 double needle, and 2 spools of black thread
  • Pin tearaway stabilizer to the back before you stitch. The piece will need the support! You can also fuse lightweight (or knit) interfacing, as I did for both. Just make sure it fuses completely.
  • Helpful Hint: As you peel the backing off the tape, it is a bit sticky – just enough to stay in place as you sew. You don’t want to press at this point, because that can activate the glue and gum up your needle.
  • When you are stitching the bias tape in place, pay attention to where lines cross and intersect. You can leave ends unstitched if they will be hidden by a crossing line. this will give your quilt a clean look.
  • Once you are completely finished (see picture on the right below), your window is ready for the background fabric, borders, and finishing! NOTE: You will add the final leading around the outside after attaching your background fabric and before you complete the assembly.

The Finishing Touches

As you can see below, I used my embroidery machine to make one of the quilts more personal for my church. It hangs in the entryway, and I wanted to welcome visitors.

I also used my zig zag option to complete the delicate work on the right. Bias tape would have been nearly impossible to recreate this portion of the window. If you’re really ambitious, you could do this for the entire quilt and skip the bias tape altogether!

Completing the Quilt

Once you have completed all the steps above, it’s time to finish the quilt using your favorite method.

This process can be used in so many different ways, not just for church windows. Get creative and have fun!

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