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How to make needle turn applique easier

How to make needle turn applique easier

by Nancy Devine

Yesterday on QUILTsocial, we created green batik string pieced fabric for some fanciful fall foliage to grace our Autumn Harmony wall quilt.
Today, we’re going to create leaves that are prepared for needle turn applique and bias strips for tree branches.

string piece fabric for the leaves

Let’s get this color party started with the leaves for the Autumn Harmony wall quilt.

Let’s get started on the leaves. Download leaves template here.

template plastic and templates for the quilt elements

Download the templates and trace them onto quilting template plastic.

clipped corner leaf piece around paper template

Create a crisp edge for the needle turn applique by painting the fabric edges with starch before pressing around a freezer paper template.

Trace the templates onto quilting template plastic and cut out.

The plastic will allow you see the green striped fabric underneath. I decided to cut out the leaves a bit of an angle to create some visual interest. I added a ¼” seam allowance, and then traced around the template. Cut out the shapes on the fabric.

Preparing for needle turn applique seems like a daunting process, and it’s time-consuming, but I prefer to have a firmly pressed edge before I begin, rather than trying to turn under the raw edge as I applique the pieces to the main quilt.

This is particularly important in this project since the leaves are made up of two layers of fabric. To do this, I create a very strong freezer paper foundation.

Iron four layers of freezer paper together. Ironing the shiny side down onto fabric is a way to create a reusable template. Ironing the paper together creates a tough but flexible iron table surface that doesn’t pull apart.

Clip the edges of the leaf shape. Spray a generous amount of spray starch into a small container. (I use an egg cup.) Use a small paintbrush to soak the edges of the leaf shape with starch, then turn the edges onto the freezer paper template. Press the edges into the shape.
I found working with the top points of the leaves first helped the other edges to form more easily around the rest of the shape.

Repeat for all the leaves.

mini iron presses the gathered circles

Gather and press the berry appliques, using spray starch to create crisp curves for applique.

For the berries, trace the circle templates on the plastic and then create it also onto the bonded freezer paper. Trace each circle shape onto fabric. Knot a double length of thread and sew a running stitch close to the edge of the fabric circle. Pull the thread tight around the freezer paper circle. Paint some starch around the inside edge of the circle and press. When the circle has cooled, clip the knot and remove the gathering thread and then the paper template. Give the circle a final press. Repeat for all the berries.
This step will take a bit of time, but take your time and you’ll be rewarded with appliqué-ready shapes. Download berries template here.

bias tape maker and batik branch fabric

Fabric tape cut on the bias is fed through a bias tape maker to create branches that will gentle curve.

For the bias binding branches — say that five times fast — you’re going to cut out three 1¾” strips of brown batik cut along the bias. To do this, fold down one corner of the brown batik diagonally to the opposite edge. Cut the strip to the width on the diagonal.
Feed the resulting strip through the wide edge of the bias tape maker, pushing it through to the starting point with the point of the tailor’s awl. Pull the fabric through the bias tape maker, pressing with the iron. Go slowly and steadily to create a single fold bias strip.
When the strips have cooled, wind them in around some flat card, securing with a Clever Clip, for safekeeping.
Come on back tomorrow for more on how to create harmony in this colorful season called Autumn.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2:  How to coordinate color-soaked batiks to make fanciful fall foliage

Go to part 4: How Unique fabric glue stick can help your applique work



Pamela S Tinkle November 9, 2016 - 10:08 pm

I have been quilting for about 3 years and have yet to attempt the curves and circles but is on my to do list. Thanks to your blog you make it look easy.

Mariana October 30, 2016 - 6:26 am

I love your blog posts! Great tips!

Connie October 16, 2016 - 1:04 am


Nicole Sender October 15, 2016 - 1:19 pm

Thanks for the tutorial! I need to learn how to applique and sew curves. This post was so helpful.

Marilyn October 15, 2016 - 11:57 am

thanks for this info. I have an applique quilt I wanted to do but wasn’t sure how to do the pieced shapes like the leaf in yours. This has given me the courage to start it.

Linda Schmidt October 15, 2016 - 9:49 am

Thanks for the great tip. Never thought of using multiple layers of freezer paper.

Lori M. October 15, 2016 - 1:16 am

Great idea for applique.


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