Kuna tribeswomen living in Columbia and Panama use mola applique to create intricate textile designs that feature brightly color fabrics and bold geometric images. Mola applique is a form of reverse applique that incorporates three or more layers of fabric. You don't have to be a Kuna woman to design and sew your own molas; you can create your own mola-inspired designs to applique.
Preparing the Mola Design
Mola applique features multicolored and multishaped designs. When you draft your mola applique pattern, remember that each color you want to incorporate into your design will require a layer of fabric. If you've never attempted mola applique, stick to no more than three colors. When you master the applique technique, you can create more complex designs.
Create a design that features larger shapes with minimal fine detail. The smaller your shapes and more complex your details, the more difficult it will be to create clean lines.
Mola Applique Technique
Layer three equally sized pieces of contrasting fabric, pin the layers together and baste the edges. Flip over your stack of fabric so that the top faces upward and draw outlines of the shapes you want the middle layer of fabric to show through.
Pinch the top layer of fabric and cut a small slit in the center of each outlined shape. Cut away the shape's interior, leaving a 1/2 inch between the cut edge and the traced edge. Use a sharp pair of scissors to make your cuts. This will give you more control when cutting, which is critical if you don't want to mistakenly slice through multiple layers of fabric.
Cut slits into the remaining border and tuck the raw edges under the fabric. Fold them back far enough to conceal the traced edge. Press the folded edge with your finger to create a crisp crease.
Thread a quilting sharp with a neutral colored cotton thread and stitch the folded edge into place. Use a hem stitch to sew the folded edge to the middle layer of fabric. Grab a tiny bit of fabric from the middle layer, just inside the folded edge, push your needle under the folded edge and grab a tiny bit of fabric just above it.
Draw outlines of the shapes you want the bottom layer of fabric to sew through and create reverse appliques as described above, this time cutting through the upper and middle layers.
After you create a simple mola design, you can attempt more complex projects. Try adding one or two more layers of fabric to render more detailed and colorful scenes.