Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Tutorial. My preparation technique for needleturn applique.

During the last few years I have been reading about lots of ways to prepare a block for applique. There are probably as many ways of applique preparation as there are appliquers! I have tried several ways of doing things and decided which combination of steps work best for me.
The following steps outline my preparation of a block for the Roseville Album quilt. I do basically the same steps for the Friends of Baltimore blocks.

Materials used.

Background fabric
Small amount of matching thread, scissors and needle
Lead pencil
Transparent plastic
Permanent marker
Freezer paper and paper scissors.

I have all my background fabrics cut into the required block sizes before I do anything else. As I cut each piece out I place a pin in the top right hand corner of each piece of fabric. That way I always know which side is the right side and any background patterns will always run in the same direction.

My first step is to take a pre cut piece of the background fabric and finger press horizontally and vertically to mark the centres. These lines are used to accurately line up the fabric with the pattern when placing applique pieces.

Next I mark these lines again by making a large running stitch along the lines. It is important to use a thread that is close to the colour of the background so there is no chance of any colour from the thread being transferred to the background when the thread is removed. I tend to use up almost finished reels of thread for this job.

Now take out your pattern and number every single piece. Flowers are sometimes made with several layers. Number every one of them. Some pattern designers will have already done this step for you. If you don't want to write on the original, make a copy and use that to number the pieces. Be careful that the copy is accurate (some photocopiers can disort a copy), especially if you are using the copy for the next few steps.

Next I prepare the overlay. This is a clear sheet of plastic, a little larger than the background piece, that is used to help accurately place all the applique pieces. I use clear pieces of A4 plastic that can be used in a photocopier. (I just happen to have some here) If your pattern is presented as A4 sheets you can photocopy the pattern on to photocopier tranparencies. I get this step done at Officeworks here in Australia. (I tried this step with the printers here at had ink that smudged as soon as it was touched. The other distorted the plastic because it got too hot. For a simple design with large pieces this may not be a big problem)
You can also use the plastic sold as table protectors. That way you can cut the plastic any size you need.

My steps for the Roseville Album are:

1. Tape together the A4 transparent sheets to make a piece large enough to overlap the edges of my background fabric.
2. Place the transparent sheet over the original pattern and mark the placement lines. I mark just the edges where they intersect and the centre.

I use the sharpie because it doesn't rub off and it has both a fine and a wider tip.
3. Now trace all the pattern pieces remembering to number each one using the same numbers as before.

Now the overlay is ready and it is time to prepare all the freezer paper pieces.

Take the original pattern and your freezer paper and carefully trace over each pattern piece, again remembering to number each one. (you can see in the right hand photo below I forgot to number the piece on the bottom right!!)

You will notice the list of numbers in the bottom left hand corner of the second photo above. They are the pattern pieces that are small circles. For those pieces I don't make a freezer paper template. I use mylar circles to make those pattern pieces.

Lastly I carefully cut out each piece of freezer paper, ensuring all lines are smooth. I cut along the inside of the traced line to ensure an exact size of the fabric piece when it is sewn down. These freezer paper pieces determine the final fabric shape and size so it is important to have them accurate.

Now we are ready for the fun part; choosing your fabrics for your block!

I will be back in a few days with the next steps.

I hope this post is clear and helpful. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


  1. What a neat tutorial. It is always fun to see how someone does the different steps to prepare for applique. I have already learned a few things I did not know!!! Will be back for more info thanks

  2. Great tutorial, yes we prep our appliqué the same way
    good tip to number the pieces I normally don't' just match them up as I go.

  3. Great help Miriam! Our methods are similar -- I always love a peek into how others do things!

  4. That's how I was taught and although I do not like to do applique it worked out well for me. I LOVE to admire the applique of others. There are so many ways to do one thing and everyone finds what works best for them. I know how much work it takes to do a tutorial. Great job and nice of you to share your method. Thank you.

  5. Great instructions! I just need to remember you've done this the next time I applique. Thanks!

  6. I love seeing how other people do their needleturn, great tute Miriam. xo

  7. My goodness, I have a new appreciation of needle-turn applique. I have only had one try at this, in a very small way. When I get brave enough to have another go, I'll be re-visiting your blog and following step by step.

  8. this is going to be a great tutorial for beginners. well done.

  9. Very interesting, Maureen! Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed seeing how you prep your applique. It must work well because your results are stellar :)

  10. Found your blog through Karen's and promptly subscribed. I've been on a long quest to find an applique method I like. Yours looks like it might be "it".

  11. Thanks for your great tutorial. I have never been brave enough to give needleturn a go, but will now. Am looking forward to your next installment! Judith