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10 Tips for Needle-Turn Appliqué

These tips will help you improve your needle-turn appliqué experience and results.

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1. If you are new to appliqué, look for designs that are bold or larger in scale. Turning the seam allowances to the back becomes a challenge when the pieces are tiny. Remember, you can modify any pattern to fit your skills. For example, if turning sharp points on leaves is too challenging, simply round the ends.

2. It is easiest to work hand appliqué when using appliqués of finely woven cotton. After much practice, experiment with loosely woven homespuns and specialty fabrics.

3. Use a straw or milliners needle for best results. The extra length of these needles aids in tucking fabric under before taking stitches.

4. Work with thread no longer than 18" and in a color that matches the appliqué piece. Use fine cotton sewing thread for appliquéing. 

5. A dry iron on a cotton setting normally is used to adhere freezer paper to appliqué fabrics. But be sure to test this process on a scrap first.

6. Hand-basting shapes to the foundation can save time. If pieces are pinned in place, you can lose time untangling threads caught on the pins. And glue makes it difficult to reposition pieces if things shift a bit.

7. Work in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, whichever is more comfortable for you. With the point of your needle, sweep the seam allowance under about 1" ahead of your stitching, and secure the fabric with your thumb. Use the drawn line as your guide for how much fabric to turn under.

8. Curved edges turn out far smoother if the shapes are cut on the bias grain. For instance, cut leaves with the leaf center placed on the bias.

9. Clip inside curves and points to within a thread of the marked lines, making clips closer together in tightly curved areas. Small, sharp embroidery scissors are great for clipping inner curves. Don’t clip curves until you have stitched to within about 1" of the area. Try to make your clips on the bias grain of the seam allowance, which means your clips often will be on the diagonal rather than perpendicular to the marked lines. Directional clipping prevents fabric from raveling while you're working with the edges.

10. At inside points, make your stitches closer together to prevent fabric from raveling where you have clipped into the seam allowance. Secure a deep inside point with a single stitch.