Hi! I thought it would be a good time to share some of my needle-turn hand applique tips. Needle-turn applique is one of my favorite techniques since I learned it when I was a new quilter. I’ve been practicing for over 25 years and have some tried and true tips that have always served me well. I know many people are afraid of that “A” word. No need to be! These tips will be shared in a series of posts. This one today is focused on the notions and tools.
One of the tips that I think is very important is to have very good lighting. If you can’t see what you’re working on, you won’t be able to make small, disappearing stitches.
This is a really good light with a magnifier on top. It sits on a desk top so it’s easy for you to put your work under the light to use the magnifier if you choose.
Now it’s time to choose your needle and thread. I recommend applique needles over straw needles but you can use either. Applique needles are also referred to as sharps. The size of the needle you use is personal preference. I use John James Golden Glide size 9:
I like these Golden Glide needles because they stitch just as well on cottons and batiks. As the size number goes up, the length of the needle is shorter. Choose the needle length that is most comfortable for you.
The thread I use is a silk-finished 100% 50wt cotton thread. Mettler is one brand I have used often. It comes in a variety of colors. If you match the color of the thread to your applique, it helps to hide your stitches better. If your applique piece is multicolored, choose a neutral color. Some stitchers use all neutral colors in different shades from dark to light depending on the color of the applique piece.
Use a good applique glue to help affix your applique motif to your background fabric. This eliminates the need for pins. I like using Roxanne’s Glue Baste-it:
I was so happy when I was introduced to this glue. No more pins poking me while I try to stitch!
You will need a pencil to trace around templates onto your chosen fabric. a good pencil is Sewline.
This is a mechanical style pencil that uses chalk instead of pencil lead.
To go along with the pencil, I recommend reinforcing your applique templates for tracing. I like to copy them from the pattern directly onto card stock. If you can’t copy them, trace them onto regular paper, cut them out and glue them to card stock.
By reinforcing the templates, it makes it easier to keep the shape of the motif as you trace around it. Also, you can use the templates over an over! Make sure to have a scissors just for paper when working with applique templates.
Final Tip for This Week:
I like to have several needles loaded with the different color threads I will be using so I don’t have to stop and thread a needle every time I switch colors.
I have a small tin where I keep all my threads for the project I am working on. On the cover I have applied a magnet. I thread my needles with the different colors and put them there for easy access. This tin is also great if I want to take my stitching project on the road.
So, that’s all for now. Leave me a comment below on your thoughts on applique. In the coming few weeks, I’ll go over technique and share a few applique videos.
If you comment, I will enter you into a drawing to win this fun applique lap quilt, High Prairie Blooms:
The drawing will be Friday, October 4th after the applique series is done. ***We have a winner! Congrats, Ariel K.!***
Cathy Cavagnaro says
Great tips, especially the magnet in the lid of the tin to hold several threaded needles.
Glad you enjoyed the tips!
Great idea of threading the needles with the color of thread one will using on the project.
I am going to try that.
Dael Cowdrey says
Thank you for the tips. I have just recently learned to needle-turn appliqué and am really enjoying the process.
Yay! It’s fun to do. I find it relaxing.
Janice cook says
What do you think about using silk thread for appliqué ?
Silk thread works great too. It’s a lot thinner than the 50wt 100% cotton so it melts into the applique piece. It does tangle easily since it’s so thin.
I am a traditional appliquer – that means no glue, starch, etc. Good old freezer paper templates, press them on the fabric, mark the line, and cut 1/4″ all the around the pieces! High Prairie Blooms is a beauty! Pretty scrappy that is not overwhelming!
That’s a great applique technique too. Glad you like High Prairie Blooms!
Cathy Snider says
That’s what I do, but willing to learn new
things so I will continue to follow.
Judith Baker says
I love your appliqué tips and the little quilt. You are making it easier for me to learn to appliqué.
j’aime beaucoup High Prairie Blooms!!!!! Tout est OK , j’utilise du fil à gant car il est très fin!!!! et j’adore faire de l’appliqué!!!!
Paula M says
I tried needle turn applique once…loving the look, not the technique (would of liked to of known about glue back then!)…yet, I enjoyed scrappy applique, and collage applique but have not completed the pieces with the actual stitching of the piece….my only success with applique that I can claim is wool applique, which I look forward to do more in the future. I am always attracted to those quilts that are scrappy in look, and have beautiful large pieces of flowers birds ect. appliqued to them…
Joanne Cronk says
I’ll have to try Roxanne’s Glue Baste It. Does it rinse out with water?
The glue is water soluble. If I get some on my background where it shouldn’t be, I dip a Q-tip in water and rub the area gently.
Connie Rademacher says
In the past, I never would have tried applique but I like the look of wool applique and, your needle turned applique with cotton fabrics sounds like something I would like to try. I will be “tuning in” for your lessons. Thanks for the opportunity to win the beautiful quilt.
Laurel D says
Love the tips! Although I’ve tried needle turn applique in the past, it completely intimidates me! I’m looking forward to your videos 🙂
Deanna Bassett says
The tray tip was my favorite…I love to needle turn applique!
Deborah George says
Beautiful pattern. Great tips❣️
Mary Beard says
thanks for the post!! I do use straw needles but will try the applique/sharps to see how I like it…I handquilt with #12 and love using tiny needles as I feel I have more control….
I enjoyed reading your tips on appliqué, and especially the part about the magnetic tin and multiple needles threaded. It’s all about being organized. 😊 I’ve made a few attempts at needle turn appliqué and while I love the finish, I don’t quite have the process down so it’s quite cumbersome for me. I’m hoping your tips will make that process go more smoothly. I love that this is a portable quilting project.
Suzanne isola says
Love the idea of no pins! Thread will no longer get caught!
I find the LED lights better for hand work. Does anyone know of a similar type lamp with the LED lights? Also 4x magnification would be great if it was the entire lens and not just a one inch spot.
Ott makes a good LED light with a strong magnifier. You can find one here at Amazon:
I’ve also seen some at JoAnn Fabrics.
Paula somers says
Several I had never heard about.
Erin Fodor says
I love needle turn applique. Great tips.
It was nice meeting you at the Madison Quilt expo.
Karen Shurts says
It tickles me to know I use the same appliqué tools that you do! 😊. Recently started using Back Basting technique which I love.
Janet Polley says
Needle turn appliqué is my favorite thing. Love the Sewline markers. Thank you for the tips.
Love applique and your tip with multiple needles on the tin!
Karen Juckem says
Have been quilting since 1976. Your tips are excellent, love the quilt.
Gail Blauw says
I also collect and use tins for my projects. But never thought about adding a magnet! Thanks for this great suggestion.
Alice johnson says
Great tips. Yours are always so helpful. Thanks
Deanna Womack says
Is wool fabric suitable for needle-turn? I’ve seen something that says wool should be appliquéd with the edge raw. Or does that depend on thickness and personal preference? Love the pattern and tips. Now that I’ve retired, I hope to do more appliqué as long as my fingers hold out.
Wool is typically done raw edge, stitched down with a blanket or whip stitch. Some also do it by machine. I have not heard of needle-turn for wool.
Always enjoy getting tips from others when it comes to anything quilt related. I also love Sewline pencils.
Scrappy quilts are my favorites and I’ve made many. What a generous giveaway.
Keeping my fingers crossed… 😎
Kathie Tomazic says
Your tips are great…I’m working up my courage to get into needle turn…looking forward to more of your tips
Toni Bourdette says
I have done some, I`m not very good at it. Great tips, I never heard about marking the templates on to my fabric, have always used pins, I will be getting a sewline pencil and Roxann`s glue. The A word scares me, and I have bought the material and a pattern to make a quilt 2 years ago, need to jump on it this winter for sure. Thank You, looking forward to the next hits.
Jacqueline Hale says
Thank you for the great tips! I’m learning how to do needleturn applique. Not going very well, but hopefully with practice it will get easier.
Brenda Hayes says
I love traditional needle turn appliqué and use many of the same tools as you.
Carol Forbes says
I’ve always been a little intimidated by turn appliqué. I’ve been working with wool applique lately which seems a little more forgiving. That leads me to ask if you can recommend the correct type of needle to use for the thicker threads used such as the
#5 or #8 cottons.
The needle I use is a chenille needle, size 22 or 24.
Peggy Simpson says
I started doing needle turn applique many years ago and then got busy making quick scrap quilts and stopped doing anything else. Your suggestions inspired me to try some John James applique needles ,Roxanne’s Glue Baste- it and a Sewline pencil and
get back to some of the relaxing and portable sewing that I love. The Glue Baste-it is my favorite tip because applique needles are very hard to find in the carpet and the tiny dots of glue will solve that problem. Thanks for the tips……
Ariel Koenigsberg says
I want to get better at appliqué. So these tips really help to feel motivated to pick up the needle and thread.
Linda McLean says
I love appliqué work, very relaxing, thank you for sharing your tips – the metal lid and attaching a magnet for your needles, what a great idea!
Susan Stanley says
Great tips, Deanne! Looking forward to see what more you have for us.
Mary Puskar says
Love the play of applique off the pieced blocks! So pretty!
I really like to use Roxanne Needles
I love your tips, and I particularly like your magnet to hold threaded needles. What a timesaver!
Lynette Dixon says
I have done needle turn applique in the past using the back basting method & very much enjoyed it. I have been doing wool applique recently which I love. I am looking forward to learning more from you about needle turn. All of the information about the necessary tools is great.
Mary Whipkey says
Thank you great tips!
Kathy Padilla says
Excellent tips you shared with us
Gloria murray says
Great tips, especially the magnets. I love your quilt. I love needleturn till I don’t x hard places
I need to finish an applique project I started years ago. Great tips and an awesome quilt.
Teri LaVoy says
Thanks for your tips. No matter how long you’ve been Appliqueing, you always learn something useful!
Sheila Moore says
Thanks so much for these tips. I have just started Needle turn appliqué so I love learning these tips and techniques.
Thank you , the magnet in the lid to hold needles, and threading more than one needle with other colors, Have not been appliqueing very long, always like tips to make it a little easier.
Catherine Erlanger says
Thank you for the tips — I’ve been too cautious! Been basting the seam allowance, then pressing it, followed by basting the prepped applique to the background. I’m inspired to try throwing caution to thr wind and am looking forward to the rest of your tips.
Kay Potenski says
I love having a project that includes handwork! My challenge with applique tends to be having smooth curves and finishing! Love your quilt!
Pam Nichols says
I love needle-turn applique, although I didn’t always feel that way. One problem for sure was holding everything too tight. Then I watched a few of Jan Patek’s videos and she always looked so relaxed, like she was having the time of her life. I now realize how important it is to get that relaxed feeling–shake your hands a bit before starting, use the James John needles everytime, and have fun. I’d also have even more fun if I had that High Prairie Blooms quilt in my sunroom too!
Mary Jo McDaniel says
Such great tips! I will be trying the Sewline markers, as I’ve yet to discover the perfect fabric marker for me. I feel blessed to live in a time when so many new tools are available to us . . . how did we survive without rotary cutters?! I enjoy needle-turn applique, and after a few years of immersing myself in the paper crafting craze (which I will always do, just on a smaller scale) I’m ready to get stitchin’!
Laura Lane says
Thanks for the tips. I love applique as well!
Brenda K says
I enjoy hand work so needle turn appliqué has become a favorite of mine. I always feel I learn something when I read your posting–thank you for sharing.
Eilleen Bartlett says
I’m new to appliqué. I’m looking forward to your demonstration, especially turning points. Thanks for your tips
Judy Henshaw says
Thank you for your tips. I belong to Sandhills Quilters Guild where many members do applique. My Bee all
do Applique, some do cotton needle turn and I mostly enjoy wool which is not needle turn but blanket stitch
and whip stitch.
Debbie Horton says
I love the tip of threading up needles to leave in a tin ready to go. Thanks!
Thanks for the tips! Love the Roxanne’s glue- SO much easier than pins!
Rose Franson says
I love anything that is hand appliqued. Have just started doing wool applique and love your patterns. Thanks for the applique tips, I first started appliqueing cotton using the spray starch method and cardboard templates.
Appliqué is my absolute favorite technique to use in quilting. As I have gotten older, my eyes have gotten where I feel the strain more as i stitch. I’m going to try the lamp/magnifying glass tip! And the magnet for the threaded needles.
Thanks for the tips!
Cheryl Kissling says
Someday add to your tip an easy way to thread the sharps. My least fav part of appliqué.
Pam Ronning says
As someone new to appliqué I appreciated all the tips! I have done penny quilts but yours are beautiful.
Elaine Anne says
Thank you for the tips Deanne. I have done a little needle-turn appliqué and enjoyed the process, I love hand work. I am now aiming to do more. Using the glue will be so much better and it’s interesting to learn what needles and thread you use.
Sue Austin says
Thank you Deanne, I don’t have a lot of experience appliqueing and am doing my second project this way so I appreciate the tips and advice.
Beth Marine says
Thank you for the tips. I have not done a lot of needle turn applique but it looks like a good “cozying up for winter with a quilt on your lap” thing to do. I like the tip about glue basting, that I will definitely do.
Love the tip about putting a magnet in a small metal container and threading extra needles. I haven’t done that but the other tips I am doing. Needle turn applique is my favorite handwork. I have made several quilt tops with applique. If only I could learn to love the quilting process. Thanks for the tips.
Acker Nancy says
So fascinating to learn of someone’s way to needle turn. I think that lighting is almost the most important, but I use a milliner size 11 and 100% silk thread. I’ve been doing this for about 20 years and enjoy it very much. I also do wool appliqué.
Jo Anne Hawks says
I especially like your tip about having multiple needles threaded and ready to go.
Sally Ricketson says
Can’t wait to hear your needle turn appliqué tips. I really want to know how to do this.
Sally Ricketson says
Can’t wait for your needle turn appliqué tips. I really want to learn this technique.
Pegi Cromartie says
Love the tip about the multiple threaded needles and the magnet! I have a magnet needle catcher but now will thread several for the project.
Also, would enjoy learning about back basting techniques if you have any.
Pegi Cromartie says
Oh yeah, the lighting. I’ve purchased one that fits on my head and is adjustable. Works great and not expensive. Am looking for a rechargable one though because battery usage is high.
Lynne Woods says
I like your tips, and the applique quilt too. My first attempt at needleturn wasn’t fun, but 5 years later, I love it. Practice and the right tools make all the difference!
Sandra Massey says
Great article, thanks so much for sharing.
Lori Grenier says
I will try the sew line pencil. Love appliqué but was always intimidated by needle turn. After your tips I will start a small pillow project thanks
Bev Wallace says
I have found using freezer paper for needle turn applique to be most successful for me.
Rachel Childress says
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your tips!! I love needle turn appliqué and I loved the magnet with the different threads ready tip….need to do this!!! I also have not seen that specific light….I want to try that one. Thank you and I will be subscribing to your blog!
Appreciate your tips and love your designs.
Love these tips!
Gail Holmes says
I’ve never tried needle turn appliqué, but I love a challenge 😊
Just ordered my first pattern from you, anxious to give this a try! That little quilt is a beauty and I’d be happy to give it a loving forever home!
Thanks for your tips!!
Jane Johanns says
Thanks for all the tips!
Ann P. says
Some great tips. I will put them to use on my next project.
Debbi Fuerst says
Thank you so much for the tips, I especially liked the magnet on the lid to hold your needles. I am looking forward to more tips and love your designs. The are interesting without being overwhelming!
Pam P says
Thank you for the tips. I have not done much applique, but I do have a small project I want to do.
Carol mina says
I love the High Prairie Blooms! Thanks for the tips …. especially the magnet in the tin!