I have quilted a number of applique quilts over the last few years. I have always started at the top and worked down the quilt, completing the quilting in each block across the width of the quilt before I advanced the quilt to the next section. However, I decided to try a new approach with my current project (my mother's Primavera quilt top). I quilted the top border on the quilt and then used Stitch in the Ditch (SID) to stabilize each applique block. I advanced from the top all the way to the bottom of the quilt where I quilted the bottom border in what I call my "nested feathers." Now I am working from the bottom of the quilt back toward the top doing outline quilting around the applique and background filler designs around them.
The block below is one of the Butterfly Blocks with my "curlicue" background filler.