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Broderie Perse – A Quick Guide on How

April 13, 2023


One of our Online Quilt Magazine readers, Maria Rakaska, loves and teaches this wonderful Broderie Perse applique technique.

She wrote this article and quick “How To” guide for one of our earlier Online Quilt Magazine issues, and it’s well worth reading her story, and going through her guide on how to use the broderie perse technique to add to your own quilt projects.

Not only can you have some fun playing with different fabrics and designs, but it’s a great option for those fabrics with designs that are just too pretty to cut up into pieces for blocks.

Maria wrote:

“I was born in Brooklyn, New York city.  My mother made all my clothes when I was young and she taught me embroidery, sewing on a treadle machine as well as hand sewing.

After marriage and one daughter I made my first baby quilt for one of her teachers.  It was shades of blue patchwork and machine quilted.

A few years later we moved to Tennessee.  My mentor was Mildred Locke and I was hooked.  I could not get enough.  I took classes every chance I could.  There were not many books or magazines available (1984).  One of the classes I took was with Anita Shakelford who taught Broderie Perse, an applique technique.  It was simple and had an impressive impact.

I’m not specifically an original designer but I can take what is available and create something new.  I let the fabric work for me.

As there was interest in Broderie Perse as some quilters had not heard of it, I now teach locally.  I’ve even won three second place ribbons at State Fair.

I first embellished T-shirts for friends, then made pillows for gifts and went on to wall hangings.  These appliques can embellish pillow cases, valances and curtains, borders on tablecloths, on clothing and of course anything you can make into a quilt.


This is a French technique of embroidered applique motifs.  It first started in Europe when chintz fabric in 1 yard pieces was brought from the Middle East.

The motifs were usually large prints of animals, plants, flowers, fruits, vases, urns, etc.   These designs were cut out and then embroidered onto a background fabric in a new arrangement.  The background was then quilted or stitched with embroidered embellishments.

Here in the States, after cotton fabric was produced in Europe, traditionally the stitcher would cut the motifs out, make an arrangement and then buttonhole stitch the edges using black embroidery floss.  Sometimes they used a thin milk-based glue to hold them in place until they embroidered them.

When I did my first piece I had a multitude of prints; the subjects were a variety of prints and varied sizes.  I just basted them down with thread then buttonholed stitch in black.  My wreath was my first piece.

I used ossenburg fabric for this piece (which was hard to quilt) but I liked the texture and that I could fringe the edges.

Then I did the fruit still life (below).  I not only buttonhole stitched the edges but added stem stitches and French knots for more dimension.

The autumn leaves were from a yard of fabric a friend gave me.  After fussy cutting out the leaves I cut squares from the scraps and made a pieced background (not to waste this “sparkly” fabric).

I finished this piece as a pillow sham, and took second place in wall hangings at our state (Tennessee) fair.

This piece with an urn and flowers is slightly different. I found a picture of an urn in an antiques book at the library.  I copied it onto white cotton fabric and then trimmed off the parts I did not want (handles and scrolled embellishment) and put a bouquet in it.  It is a work in progress.

The mermaid and her fish was a round-robin I did with four of my cousins (out of state).  We each made a block, and then mailed it on to the first person on the list.

She would add a row and then pass it on to the next person.  The last person returned it to the original person.  This is a work in progress also.

I buttonhole stitched in gold thread to add sparkle.



You will need:

Background fabric

fat quarter medium print fabric

light fusible web (with paper backing)

good fabric scissors

100% cotton embroidery floss (colors to match your motifs)

embroidery needle


Prewash all fabric.  Press background fabric smooth.  The background should contrast with your motifs.  Cut out a mixed assortment of motifs from your print fabric.  Be sure to leave a fabric allowance around the motifs.

Cut fusible web to the same size.  Do NOT go over edges.  Place your motif/s right side down.  Then place the fusible web on the motif, paper side up.   Press with hot dry iron. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Let cool. Cut all your motifs out carefully.  Trim off points or any leaf stems.

Peel off the paper backing.  Position your motifs arrangement on your background fabric.  Re-arrange if necessary to get a pleasing finish. Press down with a hot, dry iron.  Let cool.

Using 2 strands of cotton embroidery floss (about 15″ in length), knot the end and buttonhole stitch around all edges in matching colored thread.

Additional embroidery can be added such as French knots, satin stitch, stem stitch, etc. to give a raised, more dimensional finish.”

You could definitely have some fun with this!

Give broderie perse a go on one of your new projects and see what you can come up with for new designs.  Please post pictures in the comments too – we love to see and share all of your creative ideas!!



8 responses to “Broderie Perse – A Quick Guide on How”

  1. Jeannette Needham says:

    Thank you for this delightful article, Maria is so artistic with her work’ will definitely give this a go. Will have to see how my old hands cope.

  2. Cynthia Ash says:

    Thank you for these great instructions, I’ve never done Broderie Perse and you have inspired me to have a go.

  3. Quilting Dee says:

    Thanks for your lesson. I’ve often wondered how this is done. I’d like to use this technique to build a centre motive for a quilt!

  4. Sue Rose says:

    A lovely article and realised I did quite a bit of this about 20 years ago but didn’t know it had such a pretty name. One of my daughters still has a wall hanging, will tell her it is ‘fancy’.

  5. Elizabeth L Sawyer says:

    where do you live now and do you teach classes?

    • Jody Admin says:

      Hi Elizabeth! I’m near Sydney, Australia. I’m not teaching currently, but am working on plans to do some online if that’s of any interest. Thanks for asking! Jody

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