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.
Small amount of matching thread, scissors and needle
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 home.....one 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.