It is the Summer of the Soul in December*

Isaiah 9:6 King James Version (KJV)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

My favorite Christmas scripture is found in the Old Testament – Isaiah 9:6. And while I realize that there are other really good Bible translations available, somehow the Christmas scriptures just sound better when they’re read in the Old King James Version.  I guess this is a throwback to my childhood when all scriptures were read in this version. 

Since this is the week of Christmas and I know that A) either some of us are sewing like mad people trying to get those last stitches in gifts or B) we’re too busy wrapping and shopping and baking to read a blog,  consider this my Christmas card to you.  As you have yourself a Merry Christmas, don’t forget that all the problems and troubles in this old world were really solved when a baby’s cry was heard in a manger in Bethlehem.  As the heaven’s rang with angelic praise and shepherds and wisemen made their way to a cold stable, an exhausted new mother cradled the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as He began His earthly journey. A journey that would, after 33 years, end on Golgotha and triumph in an empty tomb.  We had to have that first Christmas so that we could have an Easter.

So, as we exchange gifts, hug necks, and eat way too much, more than anything else remember the Christ Child.  He is the Reason for the Season.  He’s the Mighty God.  He’s the Everlasting Father.  He is the Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas from my house to yours….

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

*Taken from the song of the Ghost of Christmas Present in The Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

A part of childhood we’ll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas


Applique Supply Details

Last week I promised I would give some additional detail on the applique supplies I use. These are my personal preferences. One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to try different applique tools out for yourself. Don’t plunk down a huge chunk of money for any one product. Purchase small amounts and decide what works best for you. Then invest in what you love.

I crosshatched all of my backgrounds in Language of Flowers before I took the first applique stitch. The batting is Hobbs 80/20.

Batting – If I plan to crosshatch my applique background, I do this before I begin to applique.  I mark the crosshatch grid lines on the background fabric and cut a thin batting piece at least one inch larger than my background fabric.  I use a bit of spray adhesive to attach the batting and then sew across the crosshatch lines on my regular sewing machine.  It just makes the quilting process easier.   If you want a more detail on this particular technique, see my blog Making it Mine published back in October.

School Glue — which is water-soluble

          Water-soluble Glue Stick – There are literally hundreds of these on the market.  You can find them anywhere from a dollar store, office supply store, and the grocery store – not to mention the glue pens from quilting stores.  It is important that the glue stick be water soluble, so you don’t get a gummy, crumpled mess when the quilt is washed.  Even if the quilt is destined to be a wall hanging, water-soluble glue is easier to needle.  If you’re not sure if a glue stick will dissolve in water, look for the term school glue.  That about guarantees it’s not a permanent fix.  My favorite glue stick is this: 

Apliquick Glue Pen

It’s a glue pen, which I feel gives me a little more control with small applique pieces. This brand is from Apliquick and can be found on The Quilt Show’s website, Kathy McNeil’s website, and Amazon.  This glue tends to stay tackier a bit longer than other glues, so you generally don’t have to add more glue if you need to re-position the fabric. 

Sharon Schamber’s Applique Foundation Paper. It’s constructed of fibers that are water soluble, so once your applique piece is wet, the paper literally “melts.”

Applique Foundation Paper – Your choice in this medium is as personal as your favorite color.  I know fellow appliquers that prefer only the type sold by Apliquick.  I know other quilters that simply use the heavy-duty, iron-on interfacing used in garment construction.  Some folks like Alex Anderson’s.  I have tried them all, but my favorite is sold by Sharon Schamber.  You can find it here:  It’s a little thicker than the other foundation papers, so I can “feel” it better beneath my Apliquick tools.  It turns to fiber when wet, so there is no stiffness to the applique pieces at all.  It leaves a super-soft hand.  My advice to you is order as small amount of each as you can and try them all.  What is my favorite may not necessarily work best for you.

Aurifil Applique Thread

Thread – I could spend literally days talking about thread.  Thread has come such a long way in the last 15 years.  If someone would have told me back in 1986 (the year I started quilting) that I would plunk major money down for thread, I would has laughed at them.  Coats and Clark was the name of the game and they were about the only game in town – with occasional glimpses of Mettler on the horizon. 

Concerning hand applique, you will want to decide whether to use silk thread, cotton thread, or a machine embroidery thread.  Each has its benefits and its drawbacks.  Again, this is a personal decision.  Silk thread is ultra-fine, and a few basic colors will cover all your applique needs.  It tends to snuggle right down into the fold of the fold of the fabric and makes your stitch nearly invisible.  The drawback to silk thread is that it must be knotted twice – once at the eye of the needle and then at the end of the thread.  If it’s not knotted at the needle’s eye, it will slip out because it’s so smooth and thin. 

Machine embroidery thread must be given careful consideration.  Much of this thread is thin, so it would work well for hand applique.  However, some it does not react well with heat.  Since applique pieces are ironed and blocked after completed, if you chose to use machine embroidery thread, make sure it’s heat resistant.

Cotton thread is my favorite. Yes, I have to match the color of thread to my applique piece, but there is no special knotting and I never have to worry about pressing, as cotton thread is heat resistant.  Use a fine cotton thread for this – remember the higher the number on the spool, the finer the thread.  I use a number 60 thread.  My favorites are the hand applique thread produced by Aurifil and Superior Threads.  You just can’t beat them. 

One thread you want to avoid in hand applique is monofilament thread.  This thread works great for machine applique, but it’s a bit much to handle for hand applique.

Water-soluble Basting Glue – Remember, this is different from the water-soluble glue stick.  This looks like regular glue and comes in a container like this:

Or this:

While it has more staying power than a glue stick, it isn’t permanent.  A basting glue that leaves fabric with a soft feel is a must, as often time you have to make a hand sewing needle go through it.  My favorite basting glue is Roxanne’s.

It comes in a variety of sizes and containers and it does not dry stiff. 

Dritz Liquid Stitch – I had no clue this product even existed until I read Sharon Schamber’s book Piece by Piece Machine Applique.  This handy-dandy little product comes in a tube with a pointed applicator tip.

I use a drop of this product when I’m prepping points.  I apply one drop on the edge of the point before I fold the fabric over. 

After I make the point, I heat set it and add another drop to hold the fibers in place and clip off the excess fabric.

Another handy-dandy thing about this wonderful product:  If you need a quick hem repair, this is an awesome thing to have on hand.

Hard Pressing Surface —  This is needed to press the edges and points of your applique.  A soft surface just doesn’t give you the crisp, clean edge like a hard surface does.  For years I used this:

This is simply a muslin sleeve with a thin, narrow piece of wood in it.  I believe it’s actually a piece of left-over flooring from a home renovation.  I left one of the short sides open so I could slip the sleeve off and replace if needed. 

I know some quilters glue a thin layer of batting to the wood before slipping the muslin sleeve on, but I don’t. 

Then a few years ago I purchased a wool mat.

This makes a perfect pressing surface for nearly everything, including applique.  I still have my wooden pressing board and use it in classes or on vacation when the mat may take up more room. 

Needles – The type of hand applique needles used is a very personal choice.  I was taught with the John James brand.  Since then I’ve had the opportunity to try several different brands as well as several different sized needles.  Remember, the larger the number on the needle package, the bigger the needle – longer length, thicker shaft, bigger eye.  Some appliquers – especially those that favor needle turn – like a longer needle as it really helps turn the edges of the fabric under as you applique.  The choice of brand and size needle is a personal choice.  I have small hands, so a larger needle literally feels like a sword in my hand and I find it awkward.  I use a small needle with any type of applique that I do.  However, I have found one brand of hand sewing needle I absolutely love and that is Tulip. 

What makes Tulip needles unique is their manufacturing process.  Most needles are spun off the machine in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.  Tulip needles are spun off lengthwise, which means the grain of the needle matches the direction it’s being pulled – up and down.  This makes sewing with a Tulip needle so much easier.  And if you do a great deal of hand sewing, you can appreciate the stress taken off your fingers, hands, and wrists. 

Fortunately, needles aren’t expensive, so allow yourself the time and luxury of trying out several brands and several sizes to find out what works best for you.  Final word on needles – they do wear out.  I preach regularly about replacing your sewing machine needles after about 8 hours of use (you can go longer if they’re titanium).  Likewise, hand sewing needles should be discarded as soon as they get difficult to push through the fabric. 

Fabric Scissors – Every quilter needs at least two different types of scissors in their quilt studio – one pair for fabric and fabric only, and one pair for paper and paper only.  The ones used for paper can be just about any type, but I get really picky about the type used on my fabric.  And honestly fabric scissors really deserve their own blog post – there are hundreds of different types and brands.  However, for all of my applique I use these:

Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Scissors.  These have tiny serrated blades that act like teeny, tiny pinking shears.  Your applique pieces or quilting patches won’t fray hardly any as you clip and cut.  These cost a bit more but they’re really worth every extra penny spent.  Couple of words of warning here:  If you need to have them sharpened, tell the sharpening tech that the blades are serrated — yes, the teeth on them are really that small.  If you don’t tell the tech, he or she may not realize it and file the tiny teeth off.  Second, don’t be fooled by knock-off brands.  A few months ago, there was a cheap knock off floating around on Facebook and other on-line sites that claimed to be Karen’s scissors.  They were not.  Order directly from her site to make sure you get the real deal. 

Now my last word on hand applique.  While I love my hybrid method and use it most of the time, I don’t let my preference dictate my outcome.  In other words, how my quilt will look when it’s finished is my priority.  In the first blog of this applique series I defined the different techniques and when you may want to use each.  If I were making a Baltimore Album Quilt, I would opt for needle turn since those quilts were initially made that way hundred of years ago.  If I’m using one of Ester Aliu’s wonderful patterns, I’d use my method, as her quilts lend themselves to the final look achieved by my hybrid process.  And I’m absolutely not afraid to mix methods.  In my Language of Flowers quilt, the scroll work is raw edge applique and the flowers in the center are hand appliqued.  Don’t let other quilters tell you that you can’t mix techniques.  You absolutely can. 

When I am finished with a block, I “block” it.  If you knit or crochet, you are familiar with this term.  It simply means you make sure the block is the correct size and then heat set it to make sure it maintains that size.  With an applique block, this process starts at the beginning of the block.  After I’ve cut the background fabric at least one inch larger than the required size, I stay stitch around the block (stitch all the way around the block about 1/8-inch from the edge).  This prevents any raveling and helps the block keep its shape.  Once my applique is complete, I spritz it with water, pin it face-side down to my ironing board, and press it dry.  Here’s where the beauty of not having prewashed the background fabric comes into play – when this process is done, the background fabric shrinks a bit and literally pulls your hand stitches beneath the applique piece, making your stitches invisible.  And that, my applique friend, is beautiful.  Then I trim it to the specified unfinished size on the pattern.

I hope above all else, this blog encourages you to try at least one type of hand applique.  This technique soothes my soul and I love and enjoy it so much!   Start small.  I hope you become as addicted as I am!

Standard disclaimer applies as always…I’m not employed by any of these companies, nor do I receive any type of compensation from recommending them.

Until Next Week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam 


My Applique Method

Before we jump into my hybrid Apliquck method, I would like to talk about a couple of other issues that are important to me before I begin the actual applique process.  The first of these is the background fabric. 

Neutral Tone-on-Tones are always classic applique backgrounds

Personally, I dislike a plain, solid background.  While I don’t want the background fighting with the applique for attention, I think a plain, solid background (unless your applique block is super-small), is kind of boring.  I either like my background pieced from similar-colored fabric or I use a white-on-white, white-on-ecru, ecru-on-ecru or other small print. I may even use another colored background altogether.  

These Tone-on-Tone pastels would make striking backgrounds for either piecing or applique

It just makes the block a little more interesting.  Once I cut out my background fabric at least an inch larger than the required unfinished  size, I draw a line with a Frixion pen down the center of the block, both horizontally and vertically. 

Then I draw lines diagonally from corner to corner.  If there’s a chance that I will iron the block and erase the marks, I will set my sewing machine to a basting stitch and sew across all of the lines.  I then mark my pattern in the same manner.  These lines will help me center and place my applique pieces correctly.

The second issue to deal is to prewash or not.  I get asked this question quite a bit in the applique classes and workshops I give.  It’s still kind of a hot-button issue for a lot of quilters believe me, I’ve seen near fights break out over this in guild meetings.   I’m going to answer this question here the same way I answer it in my classes and workshops:  I’m a prewasher.  There usually isn’t a piece of fabric that goes into any of my quilts that hasn’t been prewashed, line dried, ironed, and set with Best Press or starch.  Yes, this is the way I was taught, but most of all it eliminates any worries about crocking, bleeding, or uneven shrinkage.  For me, it’s worth the effort not to have to worry about any of that by simply throwing the fabric in the washer as soon as it comes through my front door.  However, for applique I do not prewash the background fabric.  I will explain why I don’t a little later.

And I also know that many of my readers are not prewashers.  So let me give a few words of caution at this juncture.  If you’re constructing a wall hanging or mini quilt that’s probably not ever going to see the inside of a washing machine, it truthfully doesn’t matter whether you prewash or not.  Nothing is going to get wet, so there will be no bleeding or crocking, or uneven shrinking.  All those quilts will do is look pretty.  But….

If you’re making a quilt that may at any point in time be washed, it’s a good idea to prewash all the fabric, except the background fabric.  This not only prevents bleeding; it eliminates any uneven shrinking.  Uneven shrinkage occurs when some of the fabrics have been prewashed and others have not.  With hand applique, uneven shrinkage can cause the pieces to wrinkle and even pull away from the background.  Yes, it’s an extra step.  Yes, fabrics that are manufactured today are much better than ones made years ago, so shrinkage is minimal.  But my train of thought is this:  Why risk it?  It would make me sick to my stomach to put in all the time and effort a hand appliqued quilt would take and then have it come to some catastrophe (big or little) in the washing machine. 

Now let’s discuss the way that I applique.  It’s kind of a hybrid version of Apliquick – I use that basic method and then throw in a couple of my own ideas to make it work for me. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

Background fabric cut at least one inch larger than the required unfinished size

Batting (more on this later)


Fabric for applique pieces

Apliquick tools or orange sticks

Water-soluble glue stick (more about this later)

Small iron (My favorites are the Clover mini-iron or the Black and Decker travel iron)

Applique foundation paper (more about this later)

Thread (more about this later)

Water-soluble basting glue (more about this later)

Dritz liquid stitch  (more on this later)

Spray starch (not Best Press)

Fine grit sandpaper

Clip Board

Hard pressing surface (more on this later)

Stapler and staple remover

Needles (more on this later)

Fabric and paper scissors (more on the fabric scissor end of this later)

Wet wipes to keep your fingers clean

Tudor Rose and Ribbon on Foundation Paper
  1.  The first step in my applique process is to trace the pattern pieces onto the applique foundation paper or freezer paper.  If you’re trying to decide about my method and don’t want to sink money into the applique foundation paper just yet, freezer paper is a good starting point.  You will probably want to iron two layers of freezer paper together to make the foundation piece a little sturdier.  And unlike the applique foundation paper, the freezer paper will have to be removed before sewing the applique piece to the background fabric.  In either case, if the pattern is not symmetrical or the directions do not state the pattern is already reversed, you will need to trace the pattern from the backside.  This is where a light box really comes in handy.  If you have to make multiple pieces of the same part of the pattern, trace the pattern onto one sheet of the freezer paper or applique foundation paper.  Then staple several pieces of the freezer paper or foundation paper together with the traced pattern on top and cut.  This way you won’t have to make multiple tracings.  Cut out the pieces on the drawn line.  If the applique foundation paper is fusible, be sure to draw on the dull side of the paper.
Making sure the foundation pieces are adhered to the wrong side of the fabric is important.
  •  Working with the fabric is the second step.  If you’ve pre-washed your fabric, you may need to put a little sizing or starch back into it to give it a some body.  While a “stiff” fabric is difficult to use with this method, a “limp” fabric is just as awkward.  It needs to be somewhere in the middle.  If you’re using fusible applique foundation paper, read the directions that come with it to make sure you use the correct heat setting on your iron.  Press the foundation paper to the wrong side of the fabric.  If you’re using freezer paper, a dab of basting glue or glue stick can be used to hold it in place on the wrong side of the fabric.  Remember, freezer paper will have to be removed before appliqueing the piece to the background.  You don’t want to fight to get it out, and too much glue will make you struggle.  This can cause the piece to lose its shape. 

If the foundation paper is not fusible, apply glue from the glue stick to the piece and then use your iron to heat set the piece to the wrong side of the fabric.  Foundation paper does not have to be removed before hand stitching the piece down, so this method can be used for non-fusible applique foundation paper. 

My fabric margins are generally scant 1/4-inch. The smaller the piece, the smaller I make the margins to reduce bulk.
  •  Cut out the pieces, leaving about a ¼-inch fabric margin around them.  As you get more proficient with this method, you may decide smaller margins work better for you, but begin with a ¼-inch margin.  You can always trim it a bit if the piece begins to feel too bulky.  Remember if the pattern piece has curves or points, placing the pattern on the bias will make it easier to obtain smooth curves and sharp points.
  •  Now we move to prepping the applique pieces.  Personally, I discovered a long time ago that a nice Netflix binge works well with this step.  When you’re prepping hundreds of leaves or circles, it’s nice to have something to watch as you move through this step. 
I apply the glue to the paper. That’s my preference, but do what works best for you. If you’d rather apply it to the fabric, the quilt police are not going to show up at your door.

Take a sheet of the fine-grit sandpaper and put it on your clipboard.  This will help keep your applique piece from sliding around as you turn the edges under.  You also will want to heat up your mini or travel iron at this point.  Lay your pattern piece on the sandpaper with the foundation paper or freezer paper side facing up.  Grab your glue stick and your Apliquick tools or orange sticks.  At this point, you will begin to apply the glue in order to turn that  ¼-inch fabric margin over the freezer or foundation paper.  So now we need to discuss whether to apply the glue to the fabric or the paper.  This is kind of a personal preference.  I have applique friends that apply it to the fabric.  I apply it to the paper.  I do it this way because to me this is easier.  I have found that if I put the glue on the fabric and have to reposition it, sometimes I need to apply more glue.  The more glue that ends up on the fabric, the “gummier” the material gets and then it becomes difficult to work with.  Not so much with the paper.  If the glue simply dries on the paper, so if you need to apply more of it, it doesn’t matter.  Putting the glue on the paper doesn’t affect the fabric as much as applying the glue directly to the material.  And if the applique pattern piece is large, I don’t apply the glue all at once.  I will do smaller sections at a time. 

Clip the curves after the glue is applied to either the foundation paper or the fabric.

Whether you decide to apply the glue to the fabric or the paper, clip the curves after the glue is applied. Clipping works better after the glue is put on in either circumstance.  

Wrong side of applique piece after the edges are turned under….
Right side of applique piece. Notice the nice, smooth edges.
  •  At this point, it’s time to press the edges of the fabric over the paper.  If it’s a large applique piece, your fingers may work better (and faster) than anything else.  If you’re using the Apliquick tools, use the forked stick to hold the pattern piece in place and the other stick to turn the edges over the paper.  If you’re using orange sticks (cuticle sticks), use one to hold the pattern piece and the other to turn the edges over.  This takes a little time to get the feel of, but once you’ve begun to master the technique, it moves really quickly.  Try to smooth out any lumps or irregular bumps as you go.  Sometimes this means prying the fabric loose and repeating the process.  Once the applique piece meets your satisfaction, if you’re using applique foundation paper, use a mini or travel iron and the hard pressing surface to heat set the edges in place.  If you’re using freezer paper, remove the paper, tidy up the edges of the fabric if you need to, and then heat set. 
  •  Now it’s time to position your applique pieces to the background.  There are several different ways this can be done.  You can make a transparent overlay out of clear vinyl.  If the background fabric is light, you lay the pattern diagram over a lightbox, then lay the background fabric on top of the pattern so you can see where all the pieces should go and use this to lay your pieces out.  Or, if you’re like me, and have more than several years of applique under your quilting belt, you may opt to simply “eyeball” it and lay it out. 
  • Once you’re satisfied with your applique placement, now is the time to adhere the applique pieces to the background fabric so you can stitch them.  Some appliquers will pin their pieces into place and then stitch.  I find pins allow the pieces to “wiggle” out of place too much and the thread catches around the heads of the pins – even applique pins.  Some quilters will pin their applique pieces in place and then thread baste them down, remove the pins, and then stitch.  This works well if you’ve used freezer paper and have removed it before stitching. However, I find it’s a little difficult to work a needle through the fabric and applique paper.  I glue baste my pieces in place with basting glue.  Basting glue is different from glue stick.  Basting glue will hold longer than glue stick, and since you will be handling the block quite a bit, you will need that better adhesive quality.  Basting glue will wash out, and it’s important to use just enough to hold the piece into place – don’t coat the back of the applique piece.  This will leave it feeling stiff and difficult to hand stitch.
  • Once every piece is glued into place, I let my block set for 24-hours before I begin to stitch.  This allows me to be sure that the glue has had time to dry.  If there are lots of layers in the applique, I will lightly press the piece with a dry, hot iron before stitching. 

And that’s it.  That’s the way I hand applique. Earlier, when I listed all the supplies needed to use my applique technique, I mentioned that several of the items I would give more detail on a bit later.  I will do that with next week’s blog.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Applique Apps

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, then you know it’s no secret my very favorite quilt technique is applique.  In the past, I have written some fairly extensive columns on the joys of raw-edge applique by machine.  However, I haven’t discussed hand applique in a while, and I promised a few blogs ago I would explain exactly how I worked my hand applique. 

I love hand applique.  Shortly after my friend and quilt mentor, Ellen, taught me how to piece, she introduced me to applique and it was love at first stitch.  I was initially taught the needle turn method, but after a few years I branched out into the other applique types and eventually developed my own “hybrid” method that I use on most of my applique pieces.  In this first of a three-part hand applique series, I want to define the different types of hand applique so you will understand what I mean when I throw out a term like “freezer paper method,” or “interfaced applique.”  I also tend to “mix methods” – I’ll use more than one type of applique in a quilt to get the look I want, and I would like to tell you how I make those decisions.  Frankly, some methods of applique are better for obtaining sharp points and others work better for curves.  With most blocks, I like my applique layered so the block has more texture and doesn’t lie flat.  There is no rule that you must use the same technique throughout the quilt.  Trust me, if the quilt police would show up for this one, I’d still be in quilt jail. 

The very basic definition of any type of applique is this:  Appliqué is ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn or stuck onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern.  This definition applies to hand or machine applique.  Since I’m only dealing with hand applique with this blog, I want to take this definition and break it down into the five general categories of that type of applique. 

Needle Turn Applique
  1.  Needle Turn Applique

This is a technique in which you cut a shaped piece of fabric and sew it to a background piece of material. You hand stitch the design and use your needle to turn the seam allowance under the design as you sew.  This is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) method of hand applique, as it was used for hundreds of years before things like freezer paper and Mylar were invented.  This type of applique tends to have a very “soft” look to it.  For instance, while you can get sharp points on your leaves with this technique, those points are not as sharp as freezer paper or Mylar applique.  I love needle turn applique on Baltimore Album quilts, most floral quilts, Mountain Mist quilts, and Sunbonnet Sue quilts.  I think the softness and antique look it leaves on these quilts just fit the patterns.  And while this technique used to be my hands-down favorite, it no longer is.  I still love it and use it but prefer my “hybrid” method more. 

Freezer Paper Applique
  •  Freezer Paper Applique

I’m not sure what quilter looked at a roll of freezer paper and decided “Wow…this would work great in quilting!” but he or she was sheer genius.  Readily available in most grocery stores (look on the aisle that has the foil and plastic wrap), it’s relatively inexpensive.  As a matter of fact, Reynolds touts the fact that freezer paper can be used in quilting on the box their freezer paper is packaged.  This paper can be used in paper piecing (more on that in another blog) and applique.  The applique pattern is drawn out on the dull side of the paper, ironed to the wrong side of the fabric, cut out with about a ¼-inch seam allowance or less, and then a small iron and starch is used to press the seam allowance over the edge of the freezer paper pattern.  There are even 8 ½ x 11-inch sheets of freezer paper (usually available in quilt shops or on-line) for patterns that can be run through an ink jet printer. The freezer paper is removed from the applique piece either before it’s sewn down (my favorite method), or after the hand stitching is completed, a small slit is made in the back of the piece and the freezer paper is removed through this.  This ink-jet friendly freezer paper can also be used for making quilt labels.

Freezer paper applique tends to lie flatter than other applique techniques because the fabric edges surrounding the freezer paper template are constantly starched and pressed throughout the process.  This method works well for larger applique pieces that may be awkward with needle turn applique and it is less expensive than Mylar applique.  It’s really easy to make sharp points with this method, but I find it difficult to make small circles or pieces with tight curves with freezer paper.

Mylar Applique
  •  Mylar Applique

Some people use the word “Mylar” generically to refer to polyester film or plastic sheet. In reality, Mylar® brand is a registered trademark owned by Dupont Tejjin Films for a specific family of plastic sheet products made from the resin Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). The true generic terms for this material are either polyester film or plastic sheet.  And that is probably more information about Mylar than you ever wanted to know. What is important to know about Mylar is there are two types:  Heat resistant and non-heat resistant.  You want to make sure you have the heat resistant kind for applique, unless you really enjoy cleaning a gooey mess off your iron.

Mylar applique is similar to freezer applique in one sense – the way you make your applique patch.  You trace your pattern onto the Mylar, cut the piece out of the plastic, lay the template on the wrong side of the fabric, trace around the template and cut it out with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Then use a small iron and starch to press the seam allowance around the edge of the Mylar (see why using the heat resistant kind is super important?), remove the Mylar and then stitch the applique piece down. 

Like the freezer paper method, the applique pieces lie flat and you can get sharp points with it.  Unlike freezer paper, I find Mylar difficult to use on large pattern pieces because it slips.  It’s also expensive.  One sheet of heat-resistant Mylar can cost as much as an entire roll of freezer paper (if not more). I use Mylar for shapes that I repeatedly use, such as circles or leaves.  If you don’t want to cut your own Mylar pieces, Karen Kay Buckley has a line of pre-cut Mylar shapes for leaves, stems, ovals, and circles.  If you love applique, these are worth the investment – especially the circles.  Piecing the Past also has several sets of Mylar templates for flowers, birds, circles, etc., you may also want to look at. 

Back Basting Applique
  •  Back Basting Applique

When you boil this technique down, it’s simply another type of needle turn method, just as the Mylar applique is really an off shoot of freezer paper applique.  There are three   basic steps to back basting applique:  Baste, trim, applique.  The technique works like this – Start by drawing the full-sized design on the wrong side of the background fabric.  Reverse the design if it’s asymmetrical.   Place the applique fabric right side up, in position, on the right side of the background.  From the wrong side of the background fabric, baste the pattern line with small, even basting stitches.  Turn it over and look at the right side.  The motif will be outlined with the basting stitches.  Trim the applique fabric, leaving a scant ¼-inch seam allowance to be turned under.  Remove a few of the basting stitches.  You should be able to see the holes left by the basting stitches to use as a guide as you turn the seam allowance under and proceed to sew into place. 

I like this method for a couple of reasons.  In my opinion, this the most accurate applique technique available.  If I’ve chosen a particularly detailed, exacting pattern, this is the method I use.  I also like it because there are no marks made on the right side of the background fabric.  I really don’t like to make any type of marks on the right side of my applique background fabric, as no matter what you use, these marks tend to come back and haunt you.  Being able to mark your background fabric from the back is a lot safer.  However, there are a couple of possible drawbacks to this method.  First, like regular needle turn, points can be sharp, but not as sharp as those made by the freezer paper or Mylar methods.  Secondly, because you’re literally cutting “chunks” of your applique fabric to fit over the design, it does use more fabric.  However, like paper piecing, you’re trading fabric for accuracy.

Reverse Applique
  •  Reverse Applique

I get a mixed bag of reactions when I throw this out at workshops and classes I teach.  It seems quilters either love it or hate it – there is no middle ground.  The broad definition of reverse applique is an applique technique in which an outline is cut from a top layer of fabric and the raw edges are turned under and stitched to expose one or more layers of fabric underneath.  This technique adds depth and dimension to your quilt.  Reverse applique probably began as a way to patch worn areas on clothes.  There are cultures that have taken this method to great heights, such the use of this method in many quilts originating from the Hawaiian culture and the Kuna Indian women from Panama. 

I like reverse applique for a couple of reasons.  First, it works really well with curved edges that may give you issues if you use one of the other traditional applique methods.  For me circles, even small ones, are easier with reverse applique, as well as other curvy shapes as hearts, since it’s actually the background fabric that’s turned under rather than the applique material. The second reason I like it is that it adds dimension to my blocks.  And while I can’t use reverse applique for every heart and circle, with a bit of pre-planning, it’s a technique I can use in some patterns. 

Apliquick Applique
  •  Apliquick Applique

Admittedly, I was introduced to the Apliquick method years ago during my first trip to the AQS show in Paducah.  Previously, I had seen Alex Anderson and Kathy McNeil use this method on their websites.  Cognitively, it seemed like an accurate way to applique.  I purchased the Apliquick tools, glue, scissors, and interfacing.  Back in my hotel room, I pulled them out and gave it a try.  The two knitting-needle like sticks seemed heavy and awkward in my hand.  After about 45 minutes of frustration, I gave up, put all the Apliquick tools back in my suitcase, and decided to try it again when I got home.

Six months later, they had made it no further than the box I keep my applique supplies in.  I just simply couldn’t figure out the best way for me to use the tools.  And in the great scheme of my work life, family life, and quilt life, I just never seemed to have the time to learn this method – or the inclination since needle turn, freezer paper and Mylar appeared to be working just fine for me thankyouverymuch. 

However, I noticed this method being used more and more in award-winning quilts.  The applique quilts that were taking ribbons – those that had the teeny-tiny, eye-crossingly small pieces – were using Apliquick.  Not only were those little pieces eye-catchingly detailed, they also were amazingly accurate.  Circles were smooth.  Leaves had points so sharp they could pop balloons.  Once again, I took those tools out, but still couldn’t figure out the best way to use them.

Enter my BFF, Janet.  Janet likes to applique as much as I do.  Janet had figured out how to use the tools.  “Do you have these?” she asked.

“Yeah.  Sure,” I replied.  I knew she read the doubt all over my face.

“Then why the heck aren’t you using them?”

Janet is a former middle school science teacher.  She can smell a lie or even a false euphemism a mile away. She narrowed her eyes.  “You don’t know how.”


And because she is my BFF, she showed me how she worked this method.  Her trick was to use a piece of sandpaper to hold the fabric in place while she used the tools and glue to fold the edges of the fabric around the interfacing.  I had tried the method on my tabletop, and everything just slid all over the place. 

The Apliquick method is everything it says it is:  It’s accurate and fast.  However, it is also an investment.  The tools can cost between $29 – $40 depending on where you purchase them.  Before you spend that kind of money, may I suggest you try a couple of orange sticks (those things you can use to push back your cuticles), and a glue stick that’s water soluble.  Both of these items can be picked up from dollar or drug store.  Try the method with freezer paper before investing in any of the interfacings or Apliquick papers.  Be sure to use a sheet of fine-grit sandpaper as your work surface.  If this method works for you and you know it’s a technique you will return to time and time again, invest in the tools.  You won’t regret it.

There is one more reason I like the Apliquick method – I don’t burn my fingers.  With the Mylar or freezer paper applique, a small iron must be used to with the starch to press those seam allowances around the edges of either media used. The smaller the applique piece, the more likely you’ll burn your fingers.  With Apliquick, you’re using glue.  No burned fingers. 

Okay…so there are the six categories of applique technique as I define them.  Admittedly there may be more, but those are the six I see and hear about the most.  Couple of disclaimers here:  First, my hybrid method may not be the best method for you.  The best applique method for any quilter is the technique that works best for you and the one you look forward to using the most.  Secondly, I’m not employed by any company that produces freezer paper, Mylar, or the Apliquick Tools, nor do I receive any type of compensation from any of these manufacturers.  These are strictly my observations after over 30 years of quilting experience. 

Mull over these types of applique.  Google them.  Search for them on Pinterest.  Next week we’ll talk about how I work my applique method.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam