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Top 10 tips for neat needle turn applique

Today, for Work in Progress Wednesday, I’m sharing the progress of my autumn inspired coasters that I’m making for my mug rug giveaway (have you entered yet – the giveaway doesn’t close until Monday 13th, so don’t forget to head on over!), which gives me the perfect opportunity to share my top tips for neat needle turn appliqué with you!

Applique bird mug rug (coaster). © Stephanie Boon, 2014. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Here’s the first one finished in lovely autumn colours

I think needle-turn appliqué is one of the simplest decorative patchwork techniques there is; you don’t need anything more fancy than a needle and thread and some pieces of fabric to make up your design. That’s all! And if you’re appliqué-ing patches (rather than a whole cloth quilt) it’s totally portable too.

Bird applique mug rugs, © Stephanie Boon, 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

In progress – the bird on the right has been appliquéd in place ready to quilt

One of the best things about making these mug rugs has been fussy cutting the shapes from Kaffe Fassett floral fabrics to suggest feathers and the birds’ breasts or neck rings. I don’t think you’d ever guess that the fabrics were covered in dahlias designs to begin with!  But before I start waxing lyrical about colours and shapes let’s take a look at my 10 tips for neat needle-turn appliqué instead!

My Top 10 Tips!

  1. If you’re repeating the same design on a number of patches (like I am on these mug rugs), it makes sense to cut out your template from a thin piece of card, and in the spirit of make do and mend, I recommend an old cereal box!
  2. Cut your seams fairly generously and trim them as you go, this will help stop any fraying.
  3. Basting your fabric pieces into place with big stitches away from the edges makes it much easier to stitch your pieces down than when they’re held in place with pins – they just get caught up in the thread the whole time. Which is no fun at all. Seriously, it’s rubbish!

    Applique bird in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2014 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

    Basting the bird!

  4. Choose your sewing thread to match your appliqué pieces, not the fabric you’re sewing them to – that way any stitches on the surface won’t show up.
  5. Don’t start your stitching on a point or at a sharp intersection, always start along an edge. If you start on a point you’ll find it’s much easier to squash it out of shape and lose the crispness you’re after.
  6. When stitching around a point put your stitches either side of it, rather than right through the tip of it, as again I find this often looses the crispness.
  7. It’s not necessary to clip into smooth curves, you’ll just end up with frayed fabric or a seam more prone to fray with use.
  8. Sometimes though, it is necessary to clip into a tight curve (like in the bird’s tail feathers below) and I’ve found that the best way of dealing with this is to stitch it down with slightly more visible stitches to stop any potential fraying.  Just bring your needle up through the fabric a couple of threads from the edge and  make one or two oversew stitches, rather than the blind stitch you’d usually use, as you can see in the picture below.

    Needle turn appliqué. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

    Making stitches over a clipped seam

  9. Use your needle not just to turn under your seam allowance, but to tease your appliqué  into shape as well. This is especially effective around curves.
  10. And finally, how do you get the invisible stitch? When you’re stitching your appliqué down the crucial thing is to bring the needle up through the edge of the seam (rather than on top of it).  I find it really helpful to have the thumbnail of my free hand right on the edge of the seam to guide the needle up against – it works every time!
Applique bird mug rugs. © Stephanie Boon, 2014 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

1 finished, 3 to go!

What do you think, have you got any tips to add?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway to win the mug rugs (or a copy of the pdf pattern) you can see me making here! It would make my day if you come and join in!

Linking up with Work in Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and Let’s Bee Social with Sew Fresh Quilts – head on over to see what’s been going on!

Finally, an apology for the colours in these photos, they’re not quite as good as they should be – we’ve had thunder and lightening for a couple of days now and to say the skies have been grey is a bit of an understatement!  Still, I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year. I went for a dog walk with my friend this morning in some local woods and the sound of the rain on the canopy was so soothing, the smells were wonderful and the colour, well, just sublime!  I’m really looking forward to Halloween and bonfire night!

Pop by Friday to see the finished coasters, until then… Enjoy the change in season wherever you are!

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