Glad you are back and I didn’t scare you away last week. If you are back, you must be ready for more hand appliqué tips! If you missed the opening post for this series, you can find that here.
Last week I talked about my preferred and recommended needle-turn hand appliqué tools, how to prepare and use templates, and how to prepare the appliqué shapes for stitching. This week, I will cover preparing your quilt top or background block, laying out the appliqué design and the appliqué stitch.
Preparing the Background
Step 1: Whether your background is just a block or a quilt top, I recommend applying Fray Check to the edges of the fabric as shown:
Since you are handling the background a lot while you are stitching down an appliqué motif, adding the Fray Check to the edges limits the chance that your seam allowance will fray away by the time you are finished. This is an optional step, so you can choose to do it or not.
Step 2: When laying out an appliqué motif, it’s nice to have a guide so you get the design in the right place. You can either fold the piece of fabric or use your chalk pencil to draw light lines.
Of course the folding technique will not work with a full quilt top, but you can use the chalk pencil in that case. My finger is pointing to the center where the fold lines cross. This is beneficial if your motif needs to be centered.
On projects where the appliqué is in a border area, along the edges of a quilt, or blocks that will have to be pieced together, I like to draw a line 1/2″ in from the fabric edge (see below). This allows for the 1/4″ seam allowance and an extra 1/4″ to keep your appliqué design away from any future seams.
Before I did this, I would often get an appliqué stitched down and then notice it was too close to the edge of my project. Time to remove stitches & re-stitch…. and I like to avoid that as much as possible!
- Helpful TIP: Appliqué stitching can shrink down your block as you stitch the design. If your block or blocks are supposed to be 12 1/2″ when you are done stitching, consider cutting them larger (easy to do if it’s not a pieced block). In most of my newer patterns, for example, for a 12 1/2″ block I will have you cut your background pieces 13″ so there’s an extra 1/2″ to play with. Then the block is trimmed down to 12 1/2″ when the stitching is done.
Step 3: Below are photos of a design layout using a few of the tips talked about above. I’m using creases in the background and my ruler to lay out my design. When positioning stems, I use other appliqué pieces as a guide to make sure the stems are placed correctly on the background.
If an appliqué project has stems, I recommend laying those out first following a diagram or photo in the pattern. Use the other pieces from the design to get the stems positioned correctly (as shown above) and then use small dots of Roxanne’s Glue Baste-it to secure them in place for stitching. Then use little dots of glue to secure the other appliqué pieces down for stitching:
Make sure not to use too much of this glue. A little goes a long way and the bond becomes secure after about 30 seconds of pressure. Too much glue may bleed through the appliqué piece and show on the top. The glue is water soluble so if you accidentally get some on the top of the appliqué or background, dip a Q-tip swab in water and rub it over the area to remove it.
To start stitching, begin on a side of the piece that is the straightest. However, if you are stitching a circle, no side is straight! The goal when you are stitching is to hide the stitches on the top of your project as much as possible. That’s where thread color, good lighting and even a magnifier comes in handy (the lighting and magnifier was discussed last week). You can either use a thread that matches the color of your appliqué or use neutral threads of various shades that blend in well with any color. So on to the stitching steps:
Step 1: Use the tip of your needle to sweep the clipped seam allowance under, up to the drawn line, in the direction you will be stitching. Hold this in place with your thumb as you move to the next step.
Step 2: Start your stitch from underneath your project pushing the needle up and catching the edge of the fold on the appliqué created by sweeping the seam allowance under.
Step 3: Push the needle back down into the background fabric only, right next to where your needle came up initially. In the photo (below, right) once the needle is pulled back through from underneath, you can see how the stitch is just a little “dot” visible on top. That’s what you want the stitches to look like… barely noticeable.
So that’s it for this week. The stitching demonstration should give you something to practice. Consider grabbing a scrap piece of background fabric and tracing out a shape to appliqué onto it for practice. You can then use that piece to make a pin cushion when your are done (see this blog post for ideas for orphan blocks).
Until next week, here’s parts 3 and 4 of my needle-turn appliqué mini tutorials. Part 2 will show up next week because that’s where I demonstrate making stems.
Remember to comment or ask questions below to be entered into the drawing for the appliqué prize package!
The drawing will be on Monday, January 9, 2023.**We have a winner. Congrats, Debbie Toth!**