Preparing Patches for Needle-turn Appliqué

There are many methods for hand appliqué and everyone has their personal preferences.  My favorite is needle-turn.  When it comes right down to it, every method is stitched the same way in the end.  So what differentiates each method is the way the patches are prepared beforehand. 

This is why I prefer needle-turn appliqué.  There is no need for basting to freezer paper.  There is no need to reverse the pattern as with methods that work from the back.  There is nothing that must be removed once the stitching is complete.  Here is how I prepare the patches for needle-turn appliqué.     

1.  Mark the Background Fabric

Marking the background fabric

Marking the background fabric

If it is possible to see through the background fabric, trace the entire appliqué design onto the background fabric.  I use a light box for this step, but you can also use a bright window or place a light under a glass-top table.  Having the design marked on the background provides the most accurate placement for each patch.     

If the background fabric is dark and cannot be traced, then it needs to be marked from the top.  Simple appliqué designs can be marked on the background the same way they are marked on the appliqué fabric in Step 3.  For more complex designs, a sheet of graphite paper or other transfer paper can be placed between the design on top and the background fabric on the bottom.  Tracing over the design lines with a sharp pencil on the top layer will transfer the design to the fabric.     

Make sure that the markings are removable, since everything rarely lines up perfectly.  Next week I’ll review my favorite tools for marking fabric

2.  Make Freezer Paper Templates

Making a freezer paper template

Making a freezer paper template

Trace every unique patch in the design onto freezer paper, label it and record any other important information about stitching that patch.  (For example, you might note areas where part of one patch is covered by another.)  Cut out the freezer paper patches on the traced lines.  The freezer paper is not used for basting, but for marking the appliqué fabric.  Freezer paper templates can be reused, so multiple patches can share a single template.        




3.  Mark the Appliqué Fabric

Ironing freezer paper on applique fabric

Ironing freezer paper on appliqué fabric

Marking the applique fabric

Marking the appliqué fabric

Iron the freezer paper patch onto the right side of the appropriate appliqué fabric.  Trace around the edges of the freezer paper, again using a marker that will be removable.  Transfer any markings.  Carefully remove the freezer paper.  Repeat as necessary.     



 4.  Cut out the Appliqué Patches 

Cutting out the applique patch

Cutting out the appliqué patch

Cut out each patch leaving a scant ¼” seam allowance.  “Scant” typically means “slightly less than”, the logic being that this is easier to visualize than, say, 3/16″. 

And that’s it!  The patches are now ready for needle-turn appliqué.  Just line up each patch with the markings on the background fabric, and away you go.  

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