Sunday, July 28, 2013

To Applique or Not to Applique

This is a rather whiny Slow Sunday Stitching post about my hand applique challenges.
I have been hand stitching some Votes For Women blocks while at my brother's house this week. I have taken several applique classes over the years with fantastic teachers, I really enjoy hand stitching, and I love the look of applique. I really want to be able to enjoy this technique. So why can't I get it?? 

Every applique class I have taken has been enjoyable, and I always pick up new tips to try. I have been using a toothpick to turn the edges under, which Becky Goldsmith taught me and it works really well. 



Right now the major problem is that the "freezer paper on top" technique is frustrating because the freezer paper never stays put in spite of vigorous pressing, thorough pinning, and in spite of carefully handling the pieces/block. 
I have an idea for one of my old UFO's (scrappy geese) for an applique border, so am really motivated to figure this out! It is so frustrating when the creative ideas precede the technical know how!!
Maybe I should try my friend Teresa's technique - see her great instructions here. But I still feel nervous about putting glue in my quilts. It's a weird "mental block" that I have about it. But if I could make quilt blocks like Teresa's, I should just get over it!
I also don't like struggling to get the pieces to line up the way they should to match the pattern, so maybe I would enjoy a more liberated (ie. no pattern) approach to applique?

Do you have any ideas for me? Techniques to try? Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments below. And I hope you will link up your blog post of the hand stitching project you are working on this week.

36 comments:

  1. Have you ever tried the back basting method Kathy ? I am not a fan of applique -love the look just can't get on with it. Recently made a small applique quilt with back basting and found it ok -and no glue involved x

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  2. Oh my goodness! Ditch the freezer paper after you trace around it with a fint tip chalk pencil ! That is not a good method to try. Trace around the shape, remove the paper, then trim to about 1/4" seam allowance. Then try the needleturn method, or even try turning under with your fingers, giving a little press as you go to help it turn better. I wish I were near to help you and I'm sure you'd love it as much as I do!! Please email if you have more questions!

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  3. I have to work on this block this week too! I plan to put the freezer paper on the back and press the edges around it (little cuts in the round parts to get them to behave). That should allow proper lining up since the shape should be true at that point. It might be worth a try on this one. Good luck.

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  4. I forgot to mention how to place your fabric. Not sure what brand or how much glue your friend uses, but Roxanne's Glue Baste It works wonderful. It only takes a few drops and it grabs fast and stays until you release it! It is washable school glue and many teachers recommend it! Give it a try!

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  5. Have you ever looked into back basting? Your pieces are basted exactly where they need to be within the design and you have the basting holes marking your turning line as you stitch the applique pieces down. Kim Diehl's method is great, too!

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  6. Sorry I'm no help with applique as I pretty much avoid it like the plague. I've appliqued one block and that one was frustrating enough for one life time. Good luck with your efforts to figure it out.

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  7. If you pre wash your fabric it makes the freezer paper stick better or so I have been told. I don't use this method myself. I am more of a starch and turn and glue woman.

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  8. Sorry you're having trouble with the applique. That is frustrating. I haven't tried hand applique myself, though I want to.

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  9. I am a beginner when it comes to doing applique too. I have discovered that each technique I have tried does have it's merits and that depending on the project - one technique might work better than another.

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  10. I agree with Missie...ditch the freezer paper. Drawing the shape on the right side and get rid of that paper. Sometime trimming to less than a 1/4" helps too! I do needle turning applique. I have used glue before I discovered needle turning. Just little bits at a time...it is definitely not a quick way of making a block. But I do love the hand sewing!! Good Luck friend you can do it!!!

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  11. Use a good quality fabric. Cut your shapes using the bias of the fabric. I started with back basting and eventually went to traditional needle turn marking the right side of the fabric, as of late I have retried freezer paper on top and have finally had success. I probably won't use it for intricate shapes but it is great small simple shapes like leaves. Applique is all about practice!

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  12. Jan Patek has some great videos on Youtube. Her technique has made applique so much easier for me. It involves tracing round the template like Missie mentioned... I"m a huge applique fanatic too! :-) Practicing is the best way to learn...

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  13. I agree with removing the freezer paper. I draw around the freezer paper with a Clover white marking pen. It goes on clear but drys to a thin white line. Then you need to cut your seam allowance to about an 1/8". It may sound crazy, but it will turn easier with less bulk. The basting down is a good way to keep everything where it belongs and flat. Once you are done and iron your piece, the white making lines simply disappear. For light fabrics I use a thin graphite pencil with a light touch. I agree with the toothpick - it is a great aid with tight curves and points! Hope this helps - I have been needleturn appliquing for many years, but it takes some practice and patience - Good luck!

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  14. Have you seen any of Erin Russek's tutorials on her blog, One Piece at a Time. She uses no melt template plastic and starch and turns her edges that way. No glue stick leaving glue in your quilt, and no freezer paper. I love her method, and it is my go to applique choice.

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  15. Ditto what others have said about getting rid of the freezer paper on top technique. I never could get it to work either. I'm still an applique novice, but I'll try anything once in order to get the applique to work. If one technique isn't to your liking, there are plenty of alternatives! The internet is a great resource for applique tutorials and videos.

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  16. Think of the freezer paper as a guideline and no one will know if pieces aren't perfectly placed. Just do your best and enjoy the process!

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  17. Sorry, can't help you with the freezer paper or any of those other methods out there. I NEVER use glue and I don't stress over having to be perfect with the pattern. I go for the freer method when it comes to placement and I needleturn my pieces. No stress. If someone wants to take a tape measure to what my stuff looks like, good for them.

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  18. The nicest, most "perfect" applique I've seen in person was done with the starch method. If you aren't happy with a folky handmade look, then perhaps this would be worth a try? Takes a while to prepare, but then the stitching goes very quickly. The end result is nice and flat, I suppose it is because the handling is minimized. Your work is always so nice - go easy on yourself!

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  19. What interesting and varied comments with lots of good tips! I wish for you to enjoy applique too!! I happen to love the freezer paper on the top method because the prep is so fast. If placement is important I use an overlay with the design drawn on it. As with anything, practice will help you get better at it and enjoy it more.

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  20. Looks like it's going to be a beautiful block.
    May be it would be less difficult for you to use starch instead of glue?
    Here's a tutorial http://www.sewmamasew.com/2011/05/easy-applique-the-starch-method-by-joanna-from-fig-tree-co/
    And when you go to Youtube and search 'applique starch' you'll see several tutorials as well.
    And don't forget: it's suposed to be fun :-)
    Dutch hugs
    Dea

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  21. I do the freezer paper on top, draw around it with a chalk pencil or whatever you use....maybe the sewline in white, remove the paper and then I needle turn using the chalk lines as my guide.

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  22. Sorry about your troubles with applique. My love for applique began right after I took a class with Nancy Chong & learned needleturn applique. I have also ditched the freezer paper, all I do now is trace the applique shape onto my fabric then I will baste the shape onto the background, just clip every other baste thread as you get to them & needleturn.

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  23. Glad you asked the question so I could see the answers. I've tried several methods of applique and decided I hated them all because my pieces never looked right. Or maybe I don't have the patience to do it right. My eyes are bad...I think I need to use a magnifying glass to do that kind of work! I'm inspired by those who can applique.

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  24. I too have had trouble with the freezer paper on top and do not like using glue so instead, I started ironing the freezer paper to the back of the applique piece, pinning or basting it to the background and then needle turning using the freezer paper to give form to the shape. Also, I use size 10 milner's of straw needles. So much easier to remove the paper after.

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  25. This method using freezer paper
    http://tatteredgarden.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/flower-garden-by-kim-mcclean.html works quite well, I have used it on both small and large pieces, although I usually remove the freezer paper and then tack down the turned under edges before appliquing in place. The back basting method also works quite well, there is a good tutorial on Glorious Applique for that.

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  26. I can't remember whether or not I've recommended my applique tutorials to you. The list of tutorials is near the top of the left sidebar on my blog.

    I tried the freezer paper on top method years ago and hated it. I couldn't see the edge of the applique when I turned it and it blocked the view of my stitches. Yet a good friend of mine loves this method.

    I did needleturn for years, and two of my three tutorials are for needle turn. I, too, use a toothpick for turning as needed. My newest tutorial is for a method I learned a few years ago in a Jo's Little Women Club meeting. It works great for most all applique. I've discovered that needleturn is still the best for a "folded snowflake-type design" as it is hard not to mess up already turned edges when turning others as I work around the block.

    I just watched this online video yesterday. I've not tried this method but I'm VERY intrigued. This is how I've made my circles for years, but it never occurred to me to do it for other simple shapes.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoocCGd-FzU

    Good luck!

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  27. looks like you got lots of ideas for trying different methods of applique. I never liked the freezer paper on top. For your blocks the back basting technique would be a good technique. I hope you find something you like.

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  28. I attend a Friday bee every week and there are two (master) applique teachers in this bee. I kid you not. They both recommend the freezer paper on the back and then the glue stick around the edges of the paper and then turn the edge of the applique over onto the glue. Zap it real quick with an iron to 'set' the glue and then applique, hopefully without catching the paper. When it comes time to remove the paper, cut out the background from behind the applique leaving a quarter inch seam and remove the paper. Sometimes you might have to spritz the paper and soften it to be able to remove it. YMMV.

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  29. I use the freezer paper for English Paper Piecing. I stitch through the edge with the fabric folded under. I have also done the back basting. Much easier.

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  30. I'm a glue stick-er too and it's so much easier. Plus it washes right out anyway so the fabric is nice and soft afterwards.

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  31. I struggle to get good applique results sometimes - my two favourite techniques for precision are 1) freezer paper under (turned so that the shiny side is facing away from the back of the fabric, and the seam allowance ironed to the shiny side with the tip of a hot iron) and 2) back basting, which I do by sewing machine. Hope you find a favourite technique!

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  32. No tips that differ from those already shared, but I was thinking that since you are hesitant to use the glue, maybe you should try it on a test (Heart applique on a rug mug) project so that you can wash it & gain confidence with it.

    I like the glue stick method, the starch method, the back basting method, etc. depends on the project. (back basting works better on some while glue basting works better on others.)

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  33. I agree with your second commenter - ditch the freezer paper. Just mark around the edge of the paper and remove it. Then you just have to turn under your marked line. You can trim the seam allowance more as you go along. I sometimes use dots of Roxanne's glue to hold small pieces in place. I normally thread baste the pieces in place with a very large stitch. I have a spool of hot pink thread that I use for that! But most of all, your applique layout doesn't have to match your pattern. Robyn Pandolph told me years ago that the pattern is only a suggestion as to the layout. I eyeball most layouts. The only exception is if there are multiple blocks all the same. Then I make a quick over-lay using the plastic that comes on a roll from Joanne's so that I can position each one exactly the same. Prepping applique, I think, is what discourages wantabe appliquers. It doesn't have to be hard and you don't have to spend a lot of time on it. Robyn also said that day, and I always remember this, "Would you rather be prepping, or would you rather be stitching?"

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  34. Oh Kathy.....I ADORE hand applique. You can find a tutorial on how I do it (I learned from Rosemary Makhan appliquer extrordiner!)

    My tutorial is here
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8wfb7BOVIDAV2gyZEJEY3d2aFU/preview

    Don't give up.....find what works for you

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  35. Oh honey...I wish I was there to turn you to the "dark side" (hee-hee) of my applique method in person! Your "votes for women" applique blocks would be the perfect time to try my glue method because your blocks are sampler style (only one of each) and they are small.

    First, the freezer paper...I have trouble sometimes with the freezer paper too. The nice thing about using the freezer paper on top is that it makes it hard to scorch the fabric underneath while pressing it to make it stick, LOL! If my freezer paper is getting old or is an "off" brand, sometimes that can make it "less sticky." Freezer paper is cheap...treat yourself and buy a new roll. Also, sometimes the fabric itself can be causing the problem. Even though I wash my stash as I buy it, there can be chemicals left over from the manufacturing process that interfere with the adhesion. I would practice with a scrap and IRON THE HECK OUT OF IT! Sometimes I scorch the paper a little, LOL! I use a dry iron with the heat on full blast!

    Also, when I am using the glue stick to glue my edges under, I work on a rotary ruler, like a square, and my piece of fabric is on a completely flat surface, with the paper side down and the wrong side looking up at me. This way I am putting the least amount of strain on that adhered freezer paper. I imagine that trying to poke edges under with a toothpick or needle while your piece is being flexed may be causing the freezer paper to come loose. I also glue in tiny strokes perpendicular to the edge instead of along the edge, which can pull the fabric away from the paper.

    Now let's get you over your glue phobia, LOL! Cut your background a little larger so that when you are through hand stitching everything down, you can soak your block in a little bowl of water. The Elmer's glue stick soaks out easily and quickly. I gently squeeze the block in the water, and on a big block, I change the water a couple of times. (I like using a second archival glue, the Roxanne's glue baste, instead of pins, and that glue takes a little longer to soak out.) Then I gently spread out my stitched, soaked block on a clean towel, roll and squeeze gently (never wring!), spread it out on the towel on your pressing surface, wrong side up, and press it dry with the iron. Then I trim it to the size I need.

    When I first cut out my piece, I leave about a 1/8 inch glue under allowance. Better to leave too big a margin and trim it down if you need to than make one that is too narrow. IF another piece will cover part of the piece, I leave a 1/4 inch allowance on the edges that will be overlapped.

    Your darling little Sunbonnet Sue block would be a good one to practice this method with...I challenge you to try it! The Elmer's brand glue stick is archival quality...even if you leave a little in, it won't harm your fabric. I mostly like to remove it to get rid of the stiffness.

    And very important...I use as little glue as possible...just to keep myself from sticking to everything around my work table. It is clumsy to begin with, then you will marvel at the speed of your block prep!

    I challenge you to try it!

    In stitches,
    Teresa :o)

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  36. Back basting! No glue, no freezer paper, no frustration.

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