Recently Jo asked me to teach her how to hand appliqué so she could make a pillow, so while we were at it we decided to snap some pics for a tutorial. I’ve tried a lot of different methods of hand appliqué, and this is my favorite because I like the precise, sharp look it gives me. If you’re not into handwork, you can use this exact preparation method for machine appliqué too.
Supplies for hand appliqué: freezer paper, paper cup, heavy spray starch, pressing cloth, iron, Q-tips, applique needles, Roxanne’s Glue-Baste-It, scissors for paper, Sharpie ultra fine marker, scissors for fabric, appliqué fabric, foundation fabric, thread
Draw or trace you appliqué pattern onto the dull side of a sheet of freezer paper. If your design is not symmetrical you’ll need draw it on reversed. You can buy flat 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets at quilt shops.
Layer your drawn pattern shiny side down over a second sheet of freezer paper, also shiny side down.
Press the two sheets together, creating a 2 layer sheet. Peel it up from the ironing board.
Cut out your pattern piece exactly on the line. Be precise because the shape you cut will be the exact shape you end up with in fabric.
Press the freezer paper pattern shiny side down to the wrong side of your applique fabric.
Cut out the fabric around the pattern leaving about a 3/16 inch seam allowance.
Clip into the inner point, right to the paper.
Spread your pressing cloth out to work on. It will protect your ironing board from getting all starchy and scorched. Spray some heavy starch into a paper cup, or the lid of the starch can. Or mix up you own starch from concentrate if you prefer. With a Q-tip, paint the seam allowance of the appliqué fabric until it is saturated, all the way around the piece.
Now you are ready fold and press the seam allowance. Start with any points and corners. Fold the edge up straight against the point. This photo is kind of blurry, but I think you can see the angle that I folded the bottom point up against the pattern piece. Press with a dry iron.
Now fold the sides up over the point, forming a miter. Press.
Continue folding the starched seam allowance up against the pattern, smoothing out any wrinkles and bumps to make the front edge look the way you want it to, and pressing until dry.
When your piece is all pressed, check it from the front to make sure the edge looks right. Re-wet and press again any part that doesn’t.
When you have the edge looking the way you want it to, gently peel the freezer paper pattern away from the fabric.
The starched seam allowance should stay exactly where you have pressed it.
Position your pattern on the foundation fabric to make sure it will looks the way you want it to.
With Roxanne’s Glue-Baste-It, make a small bead of glue on the wrong side of the appliqué piece around the seam allowance. Stay slightly away from the very edge of the piece.
Position the piece where you want it on your foundation fabric and gently press it on. Now you are ready to start stitching. You can do this by hand or machine, but here I’ll show how to do it by hand.
Use thread that matches the appliqué piece, not the foundation fabric. I’m using red thread for visibility purposes in this tutorial. Thread the needle, knot the thread, and starting from the back, sticking the needle up just through the edge of the appliqué piece. Start on a straight part of the edge, not a point, if possible. Pull the thread all the way up.
Go back down into just the foundation fabric only, very near where you first came up.
Without pulling the thread all the way up, guide the needle up a short distance away and up into the edge of the appliqué piece.
Pull the thread all the way up and repeat the stitch all the way around the piece.
At an inner point like at the top of this heart, take a stitch right on the point.
Take two more stitches, one each just a hair on either side of the first stitch in the V. Three stitches should be enough at that spot. Then continue on in the normal manner.
When you get to the end of you stitching, knot the thread on the back in the foundation fabric underneath the appliqué piece without coming through to the top. Then admire your finished product!
One last photo to show you how choosing matching thread, in this case white, can make your stitches invisible.
The beauty of this method is that there is no messing with the seam allowance as you stitch along because you made it look right at the pressing stage. Another advantage is that there are no pins to get in the way as you sew. It is also highly portable once it is glue basted on, and you can take it with you to places where you might have a few minutes to stitch, only needing to pack your needle, thread, and scissors along with it.