I absolutely love to applique by hand, and I am excited to share with you my fool-proof way to be successful!
My favorite method for hand applique is the Freezer Paper Method.
My method is not the “norm”. The freezer paper method I see most often involves tracing a reversed image, ironing it to the wrong side of the fabric and gluing the raw edges to the back.
I, frankly, don’t want to have to think about which images may or may not need reversal, and I don’t want to have to deal with glue. So, I came up with this method. It’s fool-proof, and I have taught many others how to easily applique this way.
Once you’ve chosen the image you wish to applique, simply trace it, as is, onto the dull side of freezer paper. No thinking, no reversing. Just trace it exactly like you want to see it on your quilt.
I chose a leaf pattern for demonstration purposes for two reasons. It has curves and points. Both easily mastered using this method.
Cut it out on the traced line, and using a medium hot iron, carefully press it onto the right side of your fabric. Don’t leave the iron on it too long. You just want to slightly melt the wax to hold it in place.
Cut out the pattern leaving about 1/4″ of fabric around the outside edge. Clip curves to just a couple of threads away from the edge of the pattern and trim the excess fabric from the points.
Finger press the edges all the way around toward the back.
Now here comes the fun part.
Peel the freezer paper pattern off of the right side of the fabric. Don’t turn it or shift it. Simply move it from the top to the back of the fabric.
Next, turn the whole thing over so that the wrong side of the fabric is facing up, and the freezer paper pattern is waxed side up nestled inside.
With your iron on medium heat, press in the clipped edges and points. They’ve already been finger-pressed in, so the iron should easily fold them over the waxed edges of the pattern.
You are now ready to applique.
Place the prepared piece in position on the background fabric. The wax is exposed on the back so you can press it with the iron, if you like, to temporarily hold it in place until you pin it. I use tiny applique pins or beading pins. They are very short and very fine. Pinning waxed paper will buckle it somewhat. But, using tiny pins will minimize that.
Here, I have an applique pin next to a quilter’s pin, and a standard dressmaker’s pin, just to show you how tiny and fine they are.
I’m using red thread, just so you can see it better. I usually use a thread that is just a shade darker than the applique piece. I find that using a thread that’s a bit darker hides the stitches best. A lighter thread will reflect the light and highlight any mistakes. Also, I noticed that when I used a thread matching the background fabric, my appliqued piece looked “hairy”. Not the desired effect I wanted.
For applique, I use an Applique/Sharps needle and I use a tiny Quilter’s Knot on a single thread. The applique/sharps needle is just my personal preference. Use a needle that is comfortable, easy to thread, and slips through the fabric easily.
I’ve placed it next to a quilter’s pin and a standard dressmaker’s pin for comparison.
Begin by bringing your needle up from the back, barely catching the edge of your applique piece. Notice that I did not start at a point. I never start at a point. You’ll soon see why.
Pull the needle and thread all the way through and insert the needle just off of the edge where you brought up the thread.
Bring up the needle about 1/8 to 3/16″ away from the first stitch, again just catching the edge of the applique.
Sometimes the point may not be completely stuck to the waxed paper, or it may have come loose when handled. No worries. Simply use the point of your needle to tuck it back in place. You may need to hold it securely with your thumbnail until you get a stitch or two in it.
Continue stitching around the piece until you have about a 1″ opening left unstitched.
With your fingernail, loosen the open edge of the applique piece from the freezer paper.
Grasp the freezer paper pattern and gently remove it through the opening. You may need to wiggle it slightly to loosen the edges.
This is why I never start at a point. I want the points secured before I do any wiggling to remove the pattern. A smooth or rounded side is very easy to tuck back under to continue stitching.
The pattern can be used many times before the wax is gone.
Use the needle to tuck the edges back under and continue stitching until it is completely secured.
When you have made the last stitch, turn the piece over to the back. Take a stitch inside the seam allowance and make a knot.
Slip the needle between the back ground and the applique.
Pull it through. Your thread tail is now hidden under the applique. Clip your thread.
I made this photo really big because I want you to see that even though I used red thread, you can barely see my stitches.
My leaf pattern is still in good shape to use again. It is a bit wrinkled, but, will straighten out when I press it to the next fabric.
Here is a heart prepared in the same manner as the leaf. Using this method, all of the tricky parts of the heart are held securely until I’m ready to stitch them in place.
I hope this has helped you to see how easy freezer paper applique can be.
Give it a try.
I’d love to see photos of your applique projects.
If you need further help, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will answer as soon as I can.