I've had many comments and questions on my needle turn applique so in hopes of getting others to give it a try I've decided to write a multi-part tutorial on the topic. My goal is to get others to fall in love with Needle Turn Applique as I have.
Before we dive into the details of Part 1, I would like to give special thanks to the two ladies from whom I learned Needle Turn Applique. One of my very first quilting classes was a two day Hand Applique Retreat by Sharon Stroud (Click here for Sharon's Blog - She's out of her mind!). Amongst many other things, Sharon is the author of "Dresden Plates of Distinction" published by AQS. I was fortunate to attend Sharon's Hand Applique retreat which focused on her Dancing Flowers design. Sharon shares a wealth of information in this class -- I highly recommend taking any class from her.
Below is a picture of my Dancing Flowers flimsy (I have yet to complete it -- but I do have a plan - you can see it here).
After a year of playing with Needle Turn applique I took another class at a different QS from instructor Debbie Wick. Debbie taught "Winter Apple" by Blackbird Designs. Debbie's method of needle turn is slightly different than Sharon's but the end results are just as beautiful. Again I would highly recommend taking any class from Debbie. One of Debbie's beautiful cotton and wool applique designs was recently published in the Winter edition of Primitive Quilts and Projects Magazine. You can visit Debbie's blog here. Below is an image of one of my Winter Apple Pomegranates as taught and kitted by Debbie Wick:
Both of these special ladies have helped shape my quilting life -- I'm grateful to have learned from them. I cherish their skill, patience and guidance and I owe them a ton of credit. They both have so much to offer to their students that I highly recommend you take a class with them if you're in the area. Thanks again Sharon and Debbie.
Now, onto Part 1 of Teardrops of Love: Tools - a few of my favorite things
Fabric:Always, always, always use quilt shop quality fabric for hand applique. Good fabric frays less and is easier to manage - not to mention how well it washes and wears. Please consider that you're putting many hours into an heirloom piece that you want to last forever and ever. In my opinion, high quality fabric is the only way to go.
For this tutorial you'll use a fat quarter of a neutral background fabric and some 5x5 inch scraps of fabric -- I used one of my favorite French General Charm packs.
Marking Tools:Always be sure that whatever you mark your fabric with washes, brushes, irons, or erases out without damaging the fabric. I have had very good luck with the following tools:
- Soapstone - works great on darker colors, highly visible, brushes away - find at Joann Fabric
- Sewline Fabric Pencils with Ceramic Leads - pink and yellow are my favorite - pink works great on lighter colors too
- Prismacolor Verithin pencils - metallic grey works great on light or dark fabrics
- Clover Hera Marker - for an extra "edge" before or after marking
We will talk more about the use of these tools in Part 2: Marking, Cutting and Basting Shapes
Basting & Cutting Tools:You've probably heard me say this before -- I try to avoid glue and glue based products on my cotton and wool applique pieces. So I'll avoid talking about them here and focus on what I do use:
- YLI Basting and Bobbin Thread - my favorite - it's inexpensive, works through fabric easily and will break and tear away if necessary
- Clover Applique Pins -- they are short and sweet -- great to tack your applique for basting or use for basting in a pinch
- Elan 4 inch Embroidery Scissors - they have serrated edges on them so your fabric won't slip while being trimmed -- I LOVE them !
- Quilters Freezer Paper in 8.5 x 11 inch sheets works great for smaller designs and will feed through a printer if your pattern provides an electronic image. If you have a large applique design you may use Reynolds Freezer paper or larger sheets of Quilters Freezer Paper.
2. Template Plastic -- if your applique has shapes that repeat often (like leaves or berries or flower petals that are re-used throughout your design), you may want to consider using template plastic. I use Dritz and have sheets that are heat resistant and some that are not.
Sewing Tools:Ahhh -- we're getting to the meat and potatoes now...
- Thread: either Mettler 60 Wt fine embroidery thread or Aurifil Mako Cotton 50 or 60 wt thread to match your applique colors. Both are fantastic! I've tried others and let me say this: you'll be happy to go back to one of these if you try others ;)
- Needles: I've used a few different needles but I always seem to come back to John James Sharps Size 11. Remember with these needles the lower the number the smaller the needle. Use the smallest size needle that you can handle comfortably. I've used smaller ones in the past but I sometimes get cramps in my hands while sewing -- the JJ size 11 Sharps work best for me.
- Needle Threader -- "Ultra Fine Threader" - - I know there are "automatic" ones in the market place, but these little devils work great, they are easy to transport and use! Seems my eyes have more trouble each year getting those small threads into the small eyes of the needles. The Ultra Fine Threader works like a charm.
Optional Tools:These tools can be a little pricey when you're first getting started -- so ease into purchasing them when you can spare the $$. I would recommend that you do plan to get them as they will make your applique experience more enjoyable.
- Dritz Quilter's 3-Way Sandboard: this board helps hold your fabric in place while it's being marked. Without the sandboard it's more likely that your fabric will get a little wonky while your marking it (it may stretch and loose its shape).
2. June Tailor Quilter's Cut 'n Press 1: This small board has an ironing surface on one side and a cutting surface on the other. It is perfect to rest your applique on while you are stitching.
Thanks so much for sticking with me as I ramble on about my favorite tools! I will talk about the use of these tools in subsequent parts of this tutorial. In the meantime, if you have any questions please leave me a comment or send me a message.
Stay tuned next week for Teardrops of Love Part 2: Marking, Cutting, and Basting Shapes.
Have a wonderful week all -- I leave you with one of my most favorite front yard Cardinal photos:
PS. As soon as I figure out how to do it I will attach a PDF version of the Tutorial Sections on my sidebar. Thanks for your patience.