Applique Tips

>> Saturday, January 2, 2010

I've been obsessing about applique lately! I've read books, blogs, watched DVD's etc to improve my skills. I've tried everything from glue stick, back stitching, needle turn to fusing. I've finally determined that I prefer the looks of needle-turn and have blended several other techniques to find one that fits me. If you're exploring applique, I hope this will be helpful.

Melanie's Applique System

1. Make a copy of the master pattern
2. On this copy, mark the order the pieces will be placed on the background fabric (ex 1, 2, 3). Also highlight areas that won't need to be turned under because they will be covered by another pattern piece.
3. Trace each piece of the pattern individually on the paper side of freezer paper. (if you're doing a flower, trace the center, petals, stem, leaves etc separately)
4. Cut these pattern pieces out carefully, on the lines
5. Iron pattern pieces on the front side of chosen fabrics.
6. Draw around the pattern pieces with a chalk pencil or pencil
7. Cut out pattern pieces, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance or less
     a) if you're doing a very large, small or fiddly piece, use cut-away applique. You will leave several
         inches of seam allowance.
8. Remove freezer paper
9. Cut background fabric, allowing an extra one inch on all sides
10. Fold background fabric in half and half again and crease fabric. Unfold and mark center with pencil. Also mark center of sides.
11. Place background fabric on top of pattern copy, matching center points. Tape down with painters tape. (a light box may be helpful)
12. Place the first piece of the pattern (pattern #1) in place on background and pin using applique pins.
13. Use needle-turn applique to secure piece.
      a. Cut about 18" of silk thread the color of the applique piece
      b. The end you cut is the end you knot. This makes a big difference. Use quilter's knot
      c. Using your needle or a toothpick, turn the seam allowance edges under, about an inch at a time and sew. The secret is to not turn under more than an inch at a time. Use your non dominant thumb to press  and hold the turn under in place as you stitch.
      d. You will start by coming up from the back of the background fabric and catching just the edge of the turn under. Then bring needle down, going through the background fabric, just under the applique fabric and short of the edge. You should not be able to see where the stitch goes later. The needle should scratch your finger under the background fabric and come up next to the last stitch, but through the applique fabric. Repeat.
14.  If an applique piece is small (or very large), use cut-away applique. Basically you don't trim the seam allowance until it is pinned in place and then you cut away a bit at a time and stitch. On the picture below I'm about to cut a little more fabric to continue stitching.


1. The less clipping you do on inside curves, the smoother your applique will be
2. If you are right handed, you will stitch from right to left. Use a toothpick to sweep under the edge to be stitched. It is best to only sweep an inch or so at a time. Use your left thumb to press hard the area just swept under.
3. For outside points (like a star), take two stitches at the point's end, turn fabric, trim away any dog-ears, use toothpick to sweep and stuff seam allowance under fabric. Then press hard with thumb and use toothpick to fiddle with point until it is sharp.
4. For inside points (like a heart), just before the point, take one stitch slightly longer than normal (biting into more of the applique fabric), then take an even longer stitch in the center of the point, repeat but only stitch through the applique piece, not the background, then take one more longer stitch to the left of the center stitches. Now continue on as normal.
5. If there is fray or the point isn't as sharp as you'd like, roll the point of the toothpick in a glue stick and then try manipulating the fabric with this point.
6. Circles are actually fun! Treat as you would any other piece, cut out, pin in place but only turn under a stitch or two at a time. That's the secret. You may want to try cut-away applique as described in #14
7. The more you needle turn, the better you'll get. It's a soothing, enjoyable form of quilting. Be patient with yourself.

Suggested supplies
1. Freezer paper
2. The best thimble I've found is the pinkey end of a kitchen rubber glove. Cut about 1" off.
3. The Clover needle threader will save your sanity
4. Use #11 straw needles
5. Use YLI 100 wt silk thread. Your stitches will disappear.
6. Toothpicks
7. White chalk pencil and regular pencil
8. Small, sharp scissors
9. Glue Stick
10. Applique pins with a white teardrop head. It keeps your thread from catching on it.
11. Beam N' Read light with magnifier. It costs about $25 and is worth every penny.

I'd like to suggest the book "Artful Applique" by Jane Townswick. She covers all types of applique techniques in a clear manner. This book has been the most useful resource for me to date. Hope this post is helpful! Now go out and have some fun!



Rhonda January 3, 2010 at 8:31 PM  

Great tips.....I've thought about applique` just to spruce up my quilts but have done very little. You've inspired me. Thanks!

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