Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hand Applique Tutorial

If you've ever thought about giving hand applique a try, but weren't sure how, you've come to the right place.  There are many methods for doing hand applique, but the one I am sharing here is the one that I find the easiest.

First, you will need some freezer paper.  You can find it at the grocery store where they sell the tin foil and plastic wrap.  You can also find it in quilt shops and fabric stores (aka JoAnn Fabrics).  They even make freezer paper in 8.5" x 11" sheets that can be put right into your printer, so you can print patterns directly to it!  If you aren't able to do that, then you can do it the old-fashioned way -- by tracing the pattern of your applique piece (in this case, a heart) onto a piece of freezer paper.  Then cut it out along the lines you just drew.

Next, place the heart shiny side down on the right side of your fabric and use a hot iron (on the "dry" setting -- no steam) to temporarily adhere the heart to the fabric.  If you aren't familiar with freezer paper, it is plastic-coated on one side.  When you press it to the fabric with the hot iron, it melts the plastic a little which makes the paper stick to your fabric.  It will stay as long as you need it, then peel off cleanly when you don't need it anymore.  I have found you can also re-use your freezer paper two or three times before the plastic wears off completely and it will no longer stick.

Once you have the heart in place, use a pair of sharp scissors to cut out your fabric heart about 3/8" beyond the pattern.  This will be your seam allowance that you will turn under to give the applique a nice, finished edge.

Use your fingers to fold over and "finger press" the seam allowance back toward the wrong side of the fabric.  If your pattern has curves (as this heart does), you will need to clip the curves to be able to fold it over flat (see next photo).

Notice how the bottom point is folded straight across at the tip of the point and then the sides are folded in one at a time to make the point.

Also, for an inside point (like at the top of this heart) you will need to clip into the center "v" to be able to fold the seam allowance back.

Once you have creased the seam allowance all the way around, you can remove the freezer paper template, which can actually be reused a few times before discarding.

This is how it should look from the back.

Now it is time to baste the seam allowance.  The color thread is not important, as these stitches will be removed in a later step and will not be seen in the final product.
Use a simple running stitch being careful not to pull the thread too tight.  The fabric should lay flat and there should be no puckering.

Here is a closer look at the basting stitches.

This is what the back side looks like with half of it basted.

This is what it should look like from the back when the basting is done.

Close-up of the bottom point.

All basted!

Now comes the fun part!  Position the applique on your foundation fabric.  I am stitching my heart to a 6" block.  To aide in centering the applique, I folded the foundation block in half (in both directions) and finger pressed it.
This gives creases which serve as guidelines to help center the applique.

Pin the applique in place.  I like to use applique pins, which are smaller and have smoother heads to keep the thread from getting tangled on them.

Always use thread that matches the applique piece.  I like to use an "applique sharp" needle and cotton thread.  These needles are very fine and have a very sharp point.  One downside is that the eye is pretty small, so you might need a needle threader to help thread the needle.

They can also bend fairly easily, so have several on hand in case yours gets bent.

Begin by tying a knot at the end of the thread.  Working from the top, poke the needle up through the back, catching a few threads of the applique.  Now put the needle down into the foundation fabric, close to the applique fabric, then angle it up and back through the applique fabric, catching just a few threads of the fabric.  Continue this stitch until your thread begins to run short.  

To finish off a thread, from the back side, take a few small stitches in the foundation fabric (underneath the applique, where it won't show), tie off a small knot and cut the thread.  When you are finished, it should look something like this from the back.

A close-up of the back.

Once you have sewn all the way around your applique piece, carefully remove the basting stitches.  
You have now just completed your applique block!  Congratulations!

Now that you know how to applique, take a look at some of the things you can create:

A beautiful, flowery border!
A garden of daisies!
A quilted alphabet!
A menagerie!
Whatever you decide to make, have fun with the possibilities of this technique!

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