Monday, December 30, 2013

Teardrops of Love Part 3: Stitching Basics - Long Edges and Easy Turns

I'm excited to share Part 3 of "Teardrops of Love - a needle turn applique tutorial".  Part 3 focuses on Stitching Basics - Long Edges and Easy Turns. 

Specifically we will cover:
  • thread color
  • threading and knotting your needle
  • hiding your knot 
  • needle turn stitch 
  • curves
  • making a turn at an outer point 
  • finishing off your stitching
If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of Teardrops of Love you can review them here:

Part 1: Tools
Part 2: Marking, Cutting and Basting Shapes

You can also download the Teardrops of Love PDF Summary and Shapes Template (to be updated with Part 3 soon) from my right sidebar.   

I LOVE feedback -- so please, if you have other tips and tricks and would like to share them with the readers please comment below for all to see.

Lets get started:

Our shapes are traced, marked, cut and basted onto the background fabric -- now for thread selection.  If you missed learning about my favorite threads - click here for a review in the Thread section.  I always choose from an Aurifil or Mettler thread -- they work for me -- I love them both.

Audition thread color:

... that you have in your stash -- if nothing matches exactly lean toward using a slightly darker shade (rather than a lighter one) - I think it blends better.  For this teardrop I chose to go with the Aurifil Mako 50Wt #2460.  It worked perfectly.

Cut threads: 

... Cut about 18 inches of thread from the spool.  Thread your "Ultra Fine" threader through the eye of the needle and then place one end of your thread through the guide to the left of the needle.  Hold the threader securely where the metal meets the paper and gently slide the thread through the eye of the needle by pulling the needle in the opposite direction of the threader paper guide.

Why 18 inches ?  You want to start small so you're not getting frustrated with your thread getting in the way or getting knotted as you stitch.  As you gain confidence you can use larger pieces of thread.  Be safe now, get comfortable, learn and gain confidence.   You CAN do it !!

A Quilters Knot:  

I was taught to make a quilters knot to avoid twisting a knot into my thread.  You want to avoid twists in your thread if you can (they make unwanted knots while you are stitching).  Follow these simple directions to make a quilters knot:

1.  Hold the threaded needle in your right hand (if you are right handed).
2.  Lay the long end of your thread over the top of the needle
3.  Secure this end against the needle with your thumb
4.  Loop the loose thread (to the left) under then over the needle 3 times

5.  Pinch the loops against the needle with your thumb and index finger and use your left hand to pull the needle, sliding the loops down the needle, over the eye, and all the way down the length of the thread making a knot at the end of your thread.

A Quilters Knot:

Try it a few times and learn a Quilters Knot - avoid using the twist method of making a knot. 

Time to Stitch - Yippee !

To get started choose a spot on your applique piece not immediately next to an inside or outside corner/point.  I chose to start about an inch away from the point of the teardrop.  This gives me some room to get in the swing of stitching before I need to stitch the actual point.

Note:  If you are working on a leaf or a piece where the alignment is critical, start near the critical alignment area so you can manipulate where the pieces come together.  This will make sense as you progress in your applique.

Once you've chosen your starting point, gather your fabric in your left hand.   Here is an image of how I hold my applique piece in my left hand.

... If you are left handed I apologize - please do the opposite of what I mention -- so sorry.

Your left hand does a TON of work for needle turn applique.  It holds and positions the fabric, it creases the fabric, it gives stability and it acts as a guide for your right hand to actually stitch -- don't underestimate the importance of this hand.  It is working above and below your applique piece at all times.

Bury your knot:

No need to have unsightly knots on the back side of your background fabric, bury your knot in the crease of your applique piece by coming up from the wrong side of the applique fabric.

See the knot on the back side of your applique piece.

Turn, Crease, Stitch, Repeat:

Now, use your needle to begin to turn the seam allowance under.  Press your needle into the fabric on the seam allowance and sweep the seam allowance under. 

 Continue to use your needle (and fingers if necessary) to work the seam allowance under to the inside marked line.  Once it's under, use your left thumb to crease the fabric so it will "stay" for stitching.

**  Don't crease too much - you want to maintain that 3 dimensional appearance for your applique - I LOVE the 3D effect!


Take your stitch by aligning the tip of your needle where the thread came up (from securing your knot), dropping behind the applique crease bury your needle to the back of the background fabric.

Travel an 1/8th of an inch behind the background fabric and when you come back to the top of the fabric grab "just a pinch" of the applique crease to secure it to the background.

** You are going to repeat this series of actions over and over.
  1. Use the needle to turn the seam allowance under to the inside mark
  2. Crease the turn with your left thumb and left hand fingers
  3. Place the tip of the needle under where your last stitch exited the top of the fabric
  4. Travel behind the background fabric about 1/8th of an inch
  5. Bring the tip of the needle through the background and grab "just a pinch" of the creased applique fabric to secure it.
Over and 
 over and

Things to consider:

  • Don't pull your stitch too taut - it will show a ripple or gathered effect on the applique
  • Turn your seam allowance as you go - don't get too far ahead of yourself -  you can turn further ahead on a straight edge than on a curved edge. 
  • Take smaller stitches when you are on a curve or nearing an inside or outside turn.
  • On a really tight curve you might take one stitch and one turn each time - doing this will allow you to create a very rounded edge with no flat spots.
  • Don't be hard on yourself - it's a learned motion - the comfort level will increase over time and with practice.

After a little more wash, rinse and repeat -- here is an image of the back side of the background fabric

 So we've worked ourselves up to the point of the teardrop - there are a few things to consider:

  • As you approach a turning point, take smaller stitches to secure the area and prepare to stitch the point.

  • Continue to turn, crease and stitch until you've reached the inside mark of the point.
  •  Take a stitch at the point of the turn.
  •  Now take an extra "in place" stitch at the inside mark of the point - this helps stabilize the point for you to turn
  •  Turn your fabric, prepare to turn the point under and stitch down the other side.  If there is excess fabric at the point, trim it off.  In the teardrop point there is no excess to be trimmed.
  •   Use the needle to grab both layers of applique fabric and turn both layers under the teardrop point.  The picture is deceiving - the needle does not go through the background fabric - only through the two layers of applique fabric.
  •  Turning the layers at the point under.  Once turned, use your left thumb and fingers to secure the turn - preparing to stitch it in place.
  •  Once the fabric point is turned and tucked under use thumb to secure it.
  •  Stitch just to the left of the point to secure it.  If necessary use the needle or a toothpick to smooth the fabric under the point.  Continue to wash, rinse and repeat taking smaller stitches near the point to secure the double layer of fabric under the point.
  •   Take smaller stitches near the point to secure the fabric
  •  Continue to turn the fabric, crease and stitch toward the original starting point.  Because this is a long straight edge, feel free to turn and crease ahead, aligning the edge with the original starting point.
  •  Continue to stitch and allow a few stitches to overlap at the original starting point.
  •  Finish top thread by stitching past the original starting point and then pushing the needle to the back of the fabric.
  • This view of the backside of the applique shows you the slight overlap in stitching and where the finishing thread came through from the front.

  •  Once you've double checked the front of the applique to make sure the thread is not loose or caught - stitch three "in place" stitches in the back to secure/knot the applique thread.
  •  This image shows the three small or "in place" stitches and the thread buried between the background and the applique.   Trim the thread where it exits the fabric from being buried.
  • WOW - you're almost there.  Now flip your applique back to the front and admire your beautiful work.  You've learned alot in this session so take it all in and know that you'll get better each time you do it.  
  •  Now lets cut those basting threads here and there on the front of your applique (use care to NOT cut your applique shape !!).   After the basting thread is cut in a few places it should pull right out of the shape exposing your somewhat finished teardrop!!   Yippee!!
  • There it is, your first teardrop is stitched down !  Wasn't that fun (I really think it's fun - I hope you do too!). 

If you've followed me this far -- Congratulations -- your well on your way to beautiful Needle Turned Applique!!   This tutorial can be followed to stitch down the remainder of your teardrops.

Stop by again for Part 4:  Continuing Needle Turn - Points Inside and Out.  Part 4 will cover stitching the hearts on the teardrop.  I'm getting excited to finish this top with you.

Until next time -- I hope you had a blessed Christmas and wishing everyone a Happy New Year!



  1. Karen,
    I love your tutorial and I think it is great that you do all of this. It must be a lot of work to make this tutorial, it is so very clear and directions are very complete, I can't wait until the hearts (I need guidence on that)
    If you don't mind I put a link on my blog so other people can find your fun tutorial and benefit from it.

    1. Hi Wilma -- thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words. It's alot of fun to put together tutorials for the blog - it helps me document my techniques and opens the door for others to share theirs as well. I would be honored for you to put a link up on your blog. Thanks so much for doing that. Maybe I should make a button (gosh I never thought of that). Take care now and Happy New Year!

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Kate -- I make it look easy like you make embroidery look easy ;)

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words. I so admire the work you do.


  3. Excellent tutorial Karen. My biggest mistakes when I started applique was my stitiches were to good that you showed stitich length and ho to "tuck" the stitch under. I think I'm going to have my applique quilt top done for a Friday Finish!!!! YAH!!!! (THen it's on to my wool BOM) :) Happy New Year!!!

    1. Great advice Val -- keeping stitches at 1/8 of an inch or less. It helps secure your applique piece and allows for smooth turns and points. I can't wait to see your applique quilt completed... how exciting! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words.

  4. Just stopping by to see what you have been up to. Amazing and detail tutorial Karen!

    1. Hi Joanie -- I've not been up to nearly as many wonderful things as you!! I did have alot of fun with the tutorial - keeps me sane ; ) Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by. Hugs, Karen

  5. This is a really great tutorial. I love needle-turn applique, and I need to try out that quilter's knot! Thanks so much for sharing it at BOMs Away.

    1. Hi Lyn - thanks so much for your kind words and for hosting the BOM Linky party -- what a lovely way to share inspiring work with everyone. Let me know how you make out on that Quilters Knot -- I LOVE to use it.

  6. Great tutorial Karen, so much detail and very clear instructions! Well done :-) Happy New Year!!

    1. Awe Hi Raewyn -- thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. Sometimes I struggle with what to put in and what to leave out. I have been accused of too much detail in my work environment. I love to do it so when it helps others it makes me happy. Happy New Year to you too!

  7. Bury the knot - what an excellent idea! Another fab tutorial. Thank you!

    1. Awe -- thank you Angie. I love when the background looks tidy and burying that starting knot makes a difference. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs....

  8. A+ Tutorial, and I love the teardrops!

    1. Hi Heidi -- thanks so much for your kind words. I do appreciate you're stopping by.

  9. Thanks so much that is a very clear tutorial,I need to practice this technique as I am getting tired of freezer paper prep every time I want to applique.

    Happy sewing and a blessed 2014 to you and yours

    1. Hi Kim -- thanks for the feedback and for your kind words on the tutorial. I would love to learn how you do your freezer paper prep and hear feedback on my technique as well. Thanks for stopping by and have a Blessed New Year!

  10. What a wonderful tutorial Karen and great photos! Thanks for sharing.
    Freemotion by the River Linky Party Tuesday

  11. Thanks Karen, I need this as I have never done anything like BB before I am going to bookmark your site.

  12. One of the best applique tutorials I've seen! I cannot imagine how long it took for you to put this post together! Nice work!

  13. well done! your close up photos are really good and show a lot of detail.

  14. what a great tutorial, Karen! Your pictures and detailed explanation make it look so easy!

    Thanks a bunch for linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday!

    :) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

  15. This is fabulous. I LOVE needle turn applique and never do it. This is the best tutorial I've seen on the subject. I always have trouble with sharp corners. This was very helpful. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm going to tweet this out. Oh, and I'm a new follower. :)

  16. Nicely detailed tutorial Karen. Regarding the warning to not pull your stitches too taut: about every 2 or 3 inches I lightly pinch the area just stitched between my thumb & finger and just pull from right to left. It releases any too tight areas. I tend to be a tight stitcher and this tip from Ami Simms book helps. Your stitches are beautiful and obviously it's not a problem for you.

    1. Janet thanks for the great tip for me and for the readers. I hope to incorporate this into the summary post for the tutorial and I really appreciate your sharing it with us. Happy stitching and thanks for your kind words. Karen

  17. What a great tutorial, Karen! Your pictures and detailed explanation make it look so easy! Well done! ;)

    1. Thank you Silvana... practice makes perfect so hope you can give it a try -- thanks again for your kind words. Karen

  18. You make probably the absolute best tutorials I've come across on the web. And I read a lot of them. I love how you tell it once, then tell it again with words on your images. I've done a tutorial blog and it's very time consuming so I truly appreciate the effort you went to in this one. That saying, you've increased my crafting world! I've never attempted needle turn but you've inspired me. We have a vacation house about 2 hours away and needle turn is the perfect activity for those long drives. We have cardinals too so your mini-quilt on Sew Mama Sew grabbed me. Now two hours and 3 of your tutorials later, I'm going to give it a try. That mini-quilt is perfect for a winter wall hanging in my home. Thank you again. Well done.

    1. Awe Becky it was so nice to hear from you. I'm really thrilled that you enjoyed the tutorials and are inspired to give it a try. Please let me know if you run into any trouble - start some needle turn practice with the teardrop and heart before moving to the Redbird. I would Love to see the mini quilt you create. We too have a small vacation cottage on a lake -- how is that for coincidence ? I'm excited for you so do keep me posted... Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by. Karen

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