Appliqué Like a Pro! Part 1/4 – Rectangles & Appliqué Basics


Applique Like a Pro! Part 1/4 – Rectangles and Applique Basics

Hi, I’m Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company and I’m here with Jan Patek. Jan has been with Moda for over 25 years and is a phenomenal, stupendous, amazing appliquér. We’re going to show you how to applique. Everybody’s been asking how to do the hand needle turn applique and so we’re going to do a tutorial for you on that.

We’re going to be making this project, right here. When you finish with this project you will know everything about applique, from inner and outer to curves to those crazy star points and houses. So this is going to be really, really fun.

There are certain things that you are going to need for this project. And like my husband always says, you’ve got to have the right tool for the job, and Jan says the same thing. She likes these milliners needles. They are a longer applique needle and it enables you to kind of turn under the edge of that fabric. I wasn’t sure I was going to be a fan because I use the little, short quilting needles but then I used one of these longer milliners—what are they size 9’s? Yes.—and it really made it easier, and so, you know, you can teach the old dog.

Size 8’s will do too, but the reason it’s so important to have a longer needle is when you quilt you are just using the very tip, the end. When you applique you are holding the needle in your hand and you don’t want your hands to cramp up you need be comfortable and you need to be able to maneuver the needle. So this is really a prime tool that you almost have to have. You can do it with the short ones if you want to but don’t gripe at me if your hands cramp.

Okay, you are going to need a tracing instrument, ya know, a pencil or a pen. I keep one of those packs of colored pencils so my led will show up on different fabrics. You’re going to need scissors and they need to be good scissors with the good little tip. And you need very small sewing scissors because you’re going to be getting into teeny, tiny spaces—especially with the stars and the inside and outside points.

Jan likes these silk needles because they slide in like butter. Silk pins…Oh, yes, sorry they are silk pins. You need an assortment of threads, you know, to match your fabric colors. Um, also you are going to need a glue stick, this is one of the things that Jan uses that is um…I was so amazed at how much it helps to do this. And this…the only thing you need to know about your glue stick is that you need to make sure it is for fabric and that you can get your needle in and out of it and it doesn’t dry hard. We like the lapel stick.

You also need a bias—what is this called? That’s a clover bias maker. It doesn’t have to be clover, it’s what I use, but you need a bias maker in various sizes to make stems and vines. And you actually don’t really need that you can do it on your own, but this makes them clean and perfect, really good.

There are tools in the quilting world and then there are gadgets. If you’re using them all the time and they make it easier then they are tools. These are all tools. And then the last thing is a thimble. I’ve used lots of different kinds of thimbles over the years and the problem with the all metal ones is that when it gets cold and your hands get cold, they fall off. The problem I’ve found with the leather ones is that they have a little steel tip in there and you’re going to be using the end of that needle and if that steel tip slips or moves, you can send that needle up on the inside of your fingernail—ooch—which I’ve learned the hard way, so I don’t like those. I really like this clover one because the rubber keeps it on then you have the metal tip which helps you push the needle through if you hit a hard spot.

You’re also going to need some freezer paper and you’re going to need one of these, a sandpaper board. Now, you can buy them like this—these are great. You can also glue a piece of sandpaper on a piece of board and it works the same. It keeps your fabric from sliding around when you are tracing. It’s really helpful. If you are going to make your own get the extra fine—it’s usually black—at the hardware store or Walmart or wherever. You can glue it to the back of clipboard, you can glue it to a piece of cardboard. Yeah, anything will work. The reason I like these is because they are 12 inch and that gives you more space. It also has…then when you turn it over you have a space to work on if you’re sitting in a chair or if you are traveling someplace, you don’t have to just work on your lap.

Now on the freezer paper, we have it on these 8.5’ x 11’ sheets but you can also buy it on the big rolls. They have them, like, at the big box stores where you can, you know, they used to use them for wrapping meat and stuff like that so you can still get that on the rolls or you can get it in an 8.5’ x 11’ sheet.

So let’s talk about this project… We’re calling this project Cedar Creek and Jan designed this project exclusively for us, which is really fun. And it will have everything that you ever wanted to know on it. The series is going to be in four parts and on this first series we are going to cover the house, the windows, the doors, all of those precise lines and sharp points and corners that you want to cover, and it will go progressively. Ya know, so really by the time you get done with this you really are going to know how to do everything.

Now when Jan puts her patterns together, she puts them with a colored picture on the front so you can refer back to them. And on the back there is also a list of fabric requirements, so like, she’ll say, “The tan floral is the background for the house” or something like that, ya know, so that you’ll know. The fabrics in these little kits could change, ya know, we all know that if you don’t get the fabric that moment, the fabric could be gone. The fabric could change but it will be like fabric, and like, you know, you’ll pretty much be able to tell where it goes.

So, Jan, what do we need to get started on this first little house project? Okay, the first thing we are going to need to do is cut the background for the fabric, and we have a diagram in here. Now it says right on here that the measurements on here are the finished size that means after you’ve sewn it together. So make sure you add a ½ inch to each measurement on here. But the background for the house needs to be cut, it says, it’s 14’x 12’ so we’re going to cut the background 14.5’ x 12. And I think you have a cut piece…We already have a cut piece of that. Alright let’s bring it over here.

So here’s our background. And this diagram is really pretty cool because it shows you exactly, you know, where the different blocks are going to go and the size they need to be. Just remember to add a half inch when you cut it or quarter of an inch all the way around, correct? Right, half inch total.

Alright, so then on our house… we need the house pattern. Now there’s two ways that you can do this. You can take regular freezer paper you buy on a roll at the grocery store, or Walmart, or wherever, and trace around the pattern on the house. If you do this I would highly suggest…where’s the ruler?… that you use a ruler to trace it because you want your lines to be straight and precise. So, you can use a light box, you can use a window, you can use anything that you can do, you can think of, to make sure that you can trace that through.

The other thing you can do is scan this into your computer and use the freezer paper here to print it, uh, print it off. And that way you know your lines are precise. They are exactly like they are here. I have found out this doesn’t work very well in a copy machine because the heat of the copy machine melts the coating on the back.

Well, lets get a piece out of here. I’m going to go ahead and…oh, it looks like it’s…is it slit open yet? Uh, no, it shouldn’t be. Alright, I’m going to go ahead and…I think that freezer paper in 8.5’ size sheets is like a little miracle gift for us. It is! But see, I still want to know…It had to have been a farm woman—now, excuse me city ladies—who figured out that you could iron freezer paper onto fabric and have it stick. Yeah, who figured that out, for real?…I mean who was packing meat and decided to do that? That’s all I…other way around. And what makes it freezer paper, you’ll see. It’s got this shiny side right here, and that’s the side that you’re going to put your fabric on and it actually sticks to it without leaving any type of residue.

So, your mat side is the side you want to trace. You can do this on a light box or a window, ya know. But usually you can see the lines through it, and I can. You’re going to take your ruler, particularly on this house, and you’re going to lay it on and you’re going to trace this pattern exactly. So, we’re going to put this on here and trace it and I’m just going to do one of these real quick because Jan has some of these already done for us, she’s so amazingly prepared.

So, I’m using my ruler but if I had a small flower or something like that I would just trace it through just
like we did. –Or a leaf or a bird—Yep, just like we did in school.

So now you’ve got this precise square house and you’re going to cut that out just like that. So, here we have one that’s cut out…Okay, now…the reason we added…where’s our diagram again?—its right here—The reason we added one-fourth inch all the way around here is because this is going to be sewn together. This is your stitching line for your house, so this has to be cut out exactly the way it is on the pattern because your stitching line, when you’re sewing onto applique—applique means “to apply to”— when you’re sewing onto the background, your stitching line has to be exactly the same.

So, after we have our pattern drawn and cut out exactly the way we want it, we have to iron it onto the fabric. And the fabric will be a much bigger piece than this, we know that already. But, we iron it onto the fabric and the wonderful thing about freezer paper applique is that these freezer paper patterns will stick again and again. Now you’re…you ironed this on the front side? You iron this on the front, yes. And like I said, freezer paper applique instructions will be with each pattern. You iron these onto the front.

Now, this is going to be pieced together before we applique it down so we are going to cut it out with a rotary cutter and a ruler. Since we need to know exactly, we’re going to sew this together. Since we need to know exactly, it’s like piecing. We’re going to use our ruler and cut around the edge exactly one-fourth inch. We always have to have our seam allowance. In this, we want the pattern piece to be exactly right and then cut the fabric a fourth inch around. Okay, so when you lay this on your fabric, your pieces, make sure you have a little bit of room because you are going to have to trim around that so that you can sew it together.

So this is… we’ve cut out all the pieces, you can see them here together. This is the house, and the side, and the roof and their all going to have to be machine….now, you can hand sew them together..but we can machine sew them together and that will be easier for us.

So we’re going to sew the side of the house to the house front, right here, at a quarter of an inch, right? Right. Okay, so I’ll go do that. And I usually leave the paper on. You’re a brave woman to leave the paper on. Well, it will tear off. Sometimes I sew it to the seam, but not usually, its right there. And it shows you, because you can feel from the paper where to start and stop.

Alright, so we’ve got that side down so lets see how we did, see if we got any paper. We got it alright! We got it good. Now to sew the roof on…do you want to peel these off now? If you want to, go ahead. Oh alright and are we going to iron this seam down? You may. Yay! Oh, look I got it a little bit. Yep, you did but see, it tears right off. Oh yeah, it comes right off. That’s really cool. Alright, let me….and does it matter what size…what side we are putting this seam toward? Not really, especially when they are both dark, yeah.

Now we are going to put the roof on, and, you know you really are a much better piecer than I am. Yay! Well, you are, you are. What I have learned is what you would think is that you would sew from the inside out, but it really works better if you sew from the outside in. And the good thing about having the paper there is you can kind of tell where to stop. Because of the paper. Well, and you can put your needle down, yes, and then we’ll turn the whole thing in the sewing machine and then just bring this piece—excuse me—up right here.

What I like to do is—I’m not as good a piecer as she is—is make sure that my paper is right there at the corner. Now I know where to start and stop and then I will sew in and then take it out. Okay perfect. I’m not as good as she is, she can do it without it. I can piece. You can piece!

Then I’m going to stop right there at that seam and pull this out and take look at it because I’m going to… I want to make sure that this is right before I go on. So I’m going to pull that pin out of there…and I got a little bit of the paper roof in there but lets see, this should just come out. Look at that! Alright, now see I have this other little seam right here so I’m going to fold this over…And I would start from the outside and come in again. Somebody taught me that years ago in making bowtie quilts. Oh yeah?

Which is one of the first…that’s it’s a lot easier to get it precise if you go from the outside coming in and I don’t know why, but it works and if it works don’t fix it.

There we go. Alright now lets go put an iron on this roof and make sure it lays nice and flat. Yeah, I would. And lets see…I’m just going to go ahead and iron this seam so that it lays nice and flat. Alright, and so our house is together, and lets…here’s this background…and the house is together…That’s backwards. It goes like this. Oh it goes sideways. Yes. Okay, and we are going to need to put the tree over here so we need to be sure and look at the picture and leave room for your fourth inch seam allowance but you still need…that’s where you are going to place it. Now I want to tell you, everybody worries about points and curves but to me, the hardest thing in the world is sewing a straight line, you know, without a sewing machine. So, yeah, once again my houses can be wonky but if you want it precise…one of the things I’ve learned to do to get it precise is baste one fourth inch under because you can pretty well eyeball it a fourth inch. So I have done that with all of this house that we’ve sewed together except…you just use a big…Now do you iron the edge under? You can iron the edge under if you want to.

Now one of the things I’ll tell you about needle turn appliqué…years ago when I first got married, I’m kind of a Type A person in case you cant’ tell, I would have a lot of trouble sitting down at night and watching TV with my husband. And my husband would keep saying, “Would you please sit down?” Well, so I have developed, when I found quilting, a method of needle turn appliqué where I don’t have to get up. So, yeah, you can get up and go iron that down—you’ve been at the machine anyway, so before you go sit down at night, so you can—but I can baste it sitting in my chair. IF you want to iron it go right ahead and do it. Baste up over here so everyone can see. I’m going to iron mine. Some people are taller and have longer arms than others who are shorter and have shorter arms. But yeah, just a big, running stitch…

So, basically when you are basting it is just a really big, running stitch—you’re going in and out along the bottom of the fabric. And why we do that is because when you go to appliqué this on, your stitching right along the edge and if you baste it, it eliminates the need to keep folding along the fabric. And making sure that what you fold under is a fourth inch because you can’t see it, so whereas you baste it down first you can be sure it is around a fourth inch. Now it does look around a fourth inch and you can iron it but then you gotta make sure that’s turned under. I really prefer basting. Well, but I would iron mine under and still baste it. Oh, okay, yeah. Because like you said, that straight line is one of the hardest things to get sewing. And so now I’ve ironed mine under and so I don’t have to wonder, ya know, and then I can just do my needle and do this long, running stitch across here. Then, because now comes the appliqué part when you’re going to appliqué along this edge and it’s already turned under so we don’t have to worry about making sure that it’s even and turned under.

And next…what are we going to do next? Okay, in most freezer paper appliqué you iron the pattern to the front and then either cut around it or draw around it. The exception to that is circles and windows and doors. For windows and doors you take your freezer paper pattern, you trace it, you cut it out, just like you did the other. You’ve got everything cut out—notice I used an old piece of paper. Now what we are going to do…because we want this to be precise…and let me tell you, I have tried as many different ways of doing windows without…coming…before I came on this…and they always ended up wonky.

Now I don’t mind wonky windows, but I’ve got ladies that sew for me that do, so I came up with this. And what we are going to do is we are going to iron this on the back side. Now we are going to take a glue stick and we are going to go down the side—This is such a great tip! What she’s doing is she is glue sticking on all the edges that stick out from the paper. Remember you put your pattern on, you’re going to cut so that it’s going to be a little—its going to be a quarter of an inch all the way around the pattern. Now she is glue sticking the edge of the fabric and it will stick that down to the paper because she has ironed that on the back side. And, um, you do the corners right here. It makes perfect corners! And now you have a perfectly straight, neat and tidy, window. And if anyone has ever tried to appliqué a window on without doing that, this is going to be like TA DA! It’s like an amazing little tip. You also
do your door..where’s my door…it’s over here. I’m going to look at the pattern…She’s done it with the door, she’s done it with the windows and she’s done it with the chimney. So you’re just going to use your glue stick and…Ah! This one goes right here. Here’s a window, yeah. I was trying to figure out where it went.

Now the exception to gluing all four sides down is the chimney because what you want to do…the chimney needs to go under the roof when you sew it on. So you leave that side open—you don’t glue it down so it will stick under there. If you do glue it down, see, you’ve got to make sure that its very precise on there and when it goes into the quilting machine and gets pulled you’re going to end up with a little white line there so you don’t do that. You leave it open here. Anything that goes under like the tree trunk, the chimney, anything that goes under something else, you leave the bottom part open when you glue it, so you can put that there. SO now when you sew that it’ll go under when it pulls and you will not end up with a white line there. So, now…do you pin these all on there then? You can either pin them on or you can glue them on and I’ve gotten very lazy in my old age. I tend to just…now this is a little stiff so you have to make sure that you don’t get too much. And you also…also, she leaves the paper in right in her quilts. Most of her quilts are really an artistic expression so its, uh…they’re not going to be run through the wash 50 million times but you know…its like Jan says…its like, you know…If you are doing a utility quilt and its going to be washed a lot you are going to want to take the paper out. If you’re not…and if you hand quilt it…yeah, you’ll want to take that paper out. But if you’re not, now…to make sure that they get lines up correctly on the house, this is another reason why I use the glue and cause I can go ahead and do them all now. And she’s lined up this ruler on the seam of the roof and the windows she’s making sure will sit just one inch below that so she’s….okay, now…and you just move your ruler. You don’t want the house at the top of the door but you do want it, I mean your window, at the top of the door. You could have it at the top though…do we want it there or not? You know, its yours. Do it however you…I think, lets do that. So now we move that down so that the top of the door and this are aligned and then we move this line over here so it is exactly under that. And you glue those down. That shouldn’t cause any…

And I generally just pin mine but I’m up and about. I’m uh…Well and see this is once again why I like this board because I can do these in my chair with my husband sitting right there. I just put everything right here, and glue them all down. She’s happy, he’s happy! Jeff is watching TV and I’m sewing and every once in a while I’ll say “What did they say?” because I’m not really..I’m listening, but I’m not really looking, I’m watching…”what’d they say?” “I don’t know..” “you’re supposed to be watching the TV, not me! I’m supposed to be sewing.” So this is how it looks all together and now you are ready to actually sew, and she’s got some thread. I think that I would do one more step and to make sure that our chimney comes in, I would take that and baste it in. Once again, just do a big stitch to make sure your chimney stays straight, because otherwise, believe me, they’ll go crooked. Okay, now I use pins. Now I
would pin the whole thing to the background. Alright.

And this is my little my little needle turn appliqué thing that sits beside my chair. And I have found out that my granddaughter has a Japanese chin, which is a little dog that thinks it’s a cat. Oh, I’m glad you explained that because I thought that….Its a dog! It’s a darling dog but it thinks it’s a cat and staying off furniture just isn’t in the thing. And it has taken…I have to put all my thread that I’m using, if its not attached in here, in here, or it will get up and get the thread off my table and chew it! Oh my goodness. Well that’s not good. Yeah, it almost died a couple times. Ha-ha there will be no ___ today. You can mess with lots of stuff but not my quilting. Don’t mess with your sewing. Yeah, that’s hilarious.

Now, I will say before I iron, I mean before I sew the big house on, I would sew the windows on. Sew the windows and doors on before you sew the house to the background. But it will be easier to show you the stitch that we use if we sew that house on. Okay. Though I suppose I could unpin it, what do you think? Uh, lets just sew the edge of the house. Yeah. Okay.

The stitch is the same. You use the same stitch for all your appliqué, no matter what it is and its, um, I call it a ladder stitch. You probably need a black thread. Yep, I’ve got a black thread. Well now we have to thread it of course. I should have done that beforehand, but….

Now I use a needle threader because I don’t want to take 20 minutes to thread my needle, but she’s pretty good at this. Yeah, well usually I don’t have trouble. Yeah she’s pretty good at this. I’ve been doing it for years too. The other thing about these needles is that they are large eyed needles…they say. That’s good. Yeah, large is relative. Yeah, right, definitely. Okay, go in there…there we go…Look there, she did that. That’s why I don’t use a needle threader is because I normally don’t have any trouble but its also why I listen to TV because I really need new bifocals. I can’t do that, I can’t do both.

Okay, you come up. Here let me move this board… Yeah get that out of there so you can see that. You come up from underneath and that buries your knot. Okay? The basic appliqué stitch I use—I don’t know the name of all the stitches, but anyway—is…I don’t know their names, but I’ve given them names and I call it the ladder stitch. Oh, okay. This is Jenny’s Ladder stitch. You come up through the back- -now your needle goes in at an angle, and by “at and angle” I mean this way, it doesn’t go in straight down. Okay? If it goes in straight down your stitch will show. If it’s at an angle like this, it won’t show. And you come up right through the fold? Yes, you come up right on the fold. Okay, and now I’ve got the door. Let me just move this door so that they can see… I think the top’s stuck. Yeah, that’s a good idea though. Now is there any reason that you started like two stitches in? The reason I started there is because the door is there and you’re going to want to sew it down with red. So this is black and I’m going all the way black and then I’ll come around here but that’s the only reason I started there. Oh, okay. That makes sense.

Because, appliquéing is like quilting. Once you get started you don’t want to have to keep starting and stopping and starting and stopping and tying knots and doing all that stuff. Okay so you just take that stitch and I…here’s where my thimble comes in otherwise I start getting a sore finger. Lets move that…pull the needles out as you go along…And we’ll try to get some really good close up shots of this so that you guys can see it because this is the trick. It’s at an angle, you do not go straight down. I really have no idea why, but I know when I teach and I have ladies and their stitches are showing I go stand behind them and watch them and somehow their needle is going straight down instead of being at an angle and for some reason that makes your stitch show. So you want…Oh! And we need to say one
more thing. Always use thread the color of the piece you are appliquéing down and not the color of your background. Yes, always use your…your thread color is going to be the piece of the part you are sewing down. You’re appliquéing so if your leaf is green, you want green thread. Whatever you are putting on, your thread is going to be that color. Yeah, not the color of the background. So basically…its so simple…what she is doing is she…right where the thread comes out, she puts the needle in and slides it over and comes up maybe about a quarter of an inch or less…about an eighth of an inch… yea it goes in just behind where it came out and then about an eighth of an inch. Now, you can get your stitches what I almost consider…I used to have a woman who sewed for me named Barbara who was an awesome appliquer, but every once in a while I decide I want to move something and oh my heavens I couldn’t take her appliqué out. Oh because of her tiny tiny stitches…her stitches were so close together. It was kind of like, ‘will you quit that.’ Now mine aren’t that close because I know mine is going to be quilted right over the top of it. Exactly. And that’s it, the quilting is going to hold it on. Hold it down too. So anyway, there’s your basic stitch. And this is once again why you need the longer needle. See your hand’s using this needle, its not just sitting on the end. Perfect.

Also, the thread, you can use any kind you want, I prefer cotton threads. Cotton threads can knot, if so use some kind of knot….beeswax…Beeswax! That’s what I was looking for! That keeps it from knotting up. Ya know, pull it through that first. And I keep my…I keep that handy because I use any thread that I can find. I’m not…I don’t care, I’m just like, Oh this will match! So it works. Yeah, the important thing is the color so if you find it in the color that you want, then do it! Silk threads are really nice, but once again they tend to knot because they are so fine.

Okay so now we have reached the point where we need to switch colors of thread so we have to end the black. Make a double stitch, and then take your needle and go to the back. Now I usually do this twice because I don’t want my appliqué coming loose. You take a stitch and just take your needle through it…and go through the loop. Yes, you just go through the loop. Okay so you’ve got …now you’ve got a loop right there and your just going to slide your thread back through the loop and then pull tight. Yes, pull it tight. And then I take my needle and just bury it. Now you don’t want to go clear through, you want to keep it between the background and your thing but it keeps that thread right where it’s knotted from getting loose. And your not cutting it off right where you put it together so
it can’t come out so easily. Right. Great tip, that’s a great tip. Right, so you’ve done that. Now what you’ll do is start here with the red.

So now what you’ve done in this first course is you’ve learned about the background piece. If it says 14 x 20 you’re going to cut it 14.5 to make sure you have a seam allowance all the way around. You learned how to trace onto freezer paper. You’ve learned windows, you’ve learned piecing your large pieces. You’ve learned to leave the pieces that go attached to the house, you leave that bottom part open, and you’ve learned the basic appliqué stitch to put your appliqué on.

And we’ll see you in session 2!

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  • CathyL

    What is the pattern of the quilt hanging behind you? It is lovely! I haven’t seen that pattern available anywhere.

    • JenM

      That beautiful design is Jan Patek’s “Pumpkins and Geese” pattern.

  • Sue C

    I love the tutorial. I am a little confused, as there is talk about a packet with the pattern and fabric, but I do not see where to order this so I can quilt along – or appliqué along.