Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New skill - Needle turn applique

I have a always loved the look of appliqué, and have done some fusible and machine appliqué....

I had never hand appliqué,though, and thought that it might be something portable that would be easy to take with me when we travel!  (ok, I do know that I said I wasn't going to start anything new...guess I lied!.....but this is skill building..that doesn't count , right??)

My LQS - Periwinkle Quilts- has a block of the month.  This month had the appliqué block with butterflies.(this is how it is supposed to look !)
                                                  (From Periwinkle Quilting and Beyond)

I thought this might be a good place to start. The pieces weren't so small that I need tweezers to move them around, and besides ....the butterflies are so cute, and I love butterflies !

I went to the demo at the store (thanks Michelle) and she made it look very easy...of course!  So I bought my block and started work.
There are 2 options:  first is fusing the pieces onto the background and then sewing the edges with the sewing machine, the second is called needle turn, where you hand stitch the pieces in place, using the needle to turn under the edge of the fabric as you go.

I decided to try real hand appliqué this time...So I cut out my pieces, remembering to add a bit of a seam allowance for the turn under. So far, so good!

Then I started with the stitching...

Now, I am sure that practice will make this wasn't as easy as Michelle makes it look. I think I might be missing the "needle turn" gene! My technique might be better described as "finger poke, stab with the needle then hold in place with one foot while you get a stitch in there"   Well, maybe that is exaggerating ....slightly!

Maybe I don't have the right needle? Are there special needles? I forgot to ask when I was looked easy! I don't think my needle has been trained in this technique!

I couldn't help thinking that there must be a way to keep the pieces from moving while I was fusing them?  Oh yeah...that would be the fusible option...but I am trying to do this the hand made way...ok, back to work!

Then I was thinking that it would be SO MUCH FASTER doing this on the sewing machine...Oh yeah...that would be the fusible option...but I am trying to do this the hand made way...ok, back to work!

I am having a lot of difficulty resisting the urge to zip around these now on the sewing machine, to make them more secure! That would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn't it???

As for being portable....I am finding that the best place to work is on my ironing board, so I can adjust the height. Not so portable....maybe I could tuck my ironing board into my golf bag when we travel???

I had great plans for my hand appliqué future projects!
Maybe I should learn to knit?

How about everybody else over at  the Needle and Thread Network..

and Lee's Work in Progress over at Freshly Pieced..


  1. Keep at it. As with everything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. It doesn't seem so long ago that this was the norm in applique and now fusing seems to be the norm. It's a shame. Not everything has to be done quickly.

  2. I have always wanted to give hand turned applique a go. Your results are beautiful!

  3. I love doing hand turned applique but it does take practice. Don't give up:)

  4. Agree with Dolores--it will get easier. Two things that helped me: the short applique straight pins (about half the size of regular straight pins) helped keep my pieces in place and didn't poke me all the time. (see my blog for a photo : Plus use a fine thread--my favorite is silk, and those stitches will just disappear. I like doing both hand and machine, but I must admit that I'm a fan of the handwork. Try propping your project up on a pillow when you are going "portable" as it brings it up closer to your eye. That worked for me (just don't sew it to the pillow!).

    Elizabeth E.

  5. Yes, you probably need a finer needle. I haven't done hand applique in a while but sometimes to get it right you just need to do the same piece a couple of times... I heard a term awhile ago, they are calling it slow quilting! Doesn't mean, slow as in not quite all there, but slow in taking your time, making the activity -- whatever it may be relaxing. Mostly, remember it is slow! There is something special about hand work in todays world with all its rush rush rush!

  6. I think it becomes easier and smoother with practice. Sew good for you for sticking with the goal of learning hand applique. I also feel if you only concentrate on the 1/4 in front of your needle it might turn for you better. best of luck in your learning hand applique.
    in stitches

  7. Hi Flo, it is so nice that you are back! you are so brave to try needleturn after doing fusible. Both are nice to know how to do-- and it just dawned on me that the butterflies are particularly suited to you!! keep on having fun, m

  8. practice, practice, practice. It looks great...I just don`t have the patience anymore....I used to hand applique. But it is suppose to be relaxing as you get used to it.

  9. They are right, practice and finding your own favorite supplies and rythym. :) But it is fun if you can relax. Minimum of 3 tiny applique pins, a thin longish needle and silk thread! I also like those lap boards with the hard top and stuffed bottom.

  10. Yes thinner needles are easier to use and they also don't make large holes in the fabric. Did you try pinning down the shapes as you were sewing them??

  11. It really does get easier and ther are special appliqué needles which may help . I think what you have done so far looks great and by the way I love butterflies too !

  12. Okay, I have tried hand applique years ago and never became terribly good. Now with arthritis (thank goodness I have an excuse) I will never get back to it but I am sure it is just a matter of practice and you will be needle turning with the best of them. Keep on stitching and good luck!

  13. Don't let them fool you....there are people in this world who were born to applique by hand....the rest of us just need to cheer them on and drool....I always wanted to hand applique and the teacher at my LQS also made it look easy...but after 3 hours all I had was a stiff neck, a headache, sore fingers and about 4 leaves sewn down. I still have that ruined piece of beautiful fabric...I keep it so that when I do have a weak moment, I can pull it out and be reminded of how short life is......I hope you are smiling because I am....good luck if you decide to keep trying.

  14. Needle turn is fussy! but it looks good in the end. I like to use freezer paper (ironed to the back of the fabric appliqué piece) for the template. I baste the seam allowance to the back of the freezer paper before I start. That way you're not worrying about holding and turning and stitching all at the same time. Hand stitch most of the way around your patch, remove the basting thread and the freezer paper and finish the stitching. Actually, I think your butterflies turned out great!


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