What is needle turn appliqué? It is a form of hand appliqué in which the needle is used as a tool to turn the seam allowance under the appliqué before attaching it to the background using tiny stitches. Acclaimed author, fabric designer and teacher Robyn Pandolph Saxty created her own special glue-basting technique that we are sharing with you here. Needleturn appliqué is a folk art that enriches projects, but as such, doesn’t demand perfection. However, the more one practices, the better the results. Keep it up, and soon needleturn appliqué will be your favorite on-the-go pastime.
Get started with supplies
- Scissors for cutting fabric
- Scissors for cutting paper
- Freezer paper
- Sewing marker (fine point wash out or fade out)
- Permanent market (fine point)
- Needles (size 10; straw; sharps or milliners or your size and preference)
- Basting glue
- Silk pins
- And, of course, a thimble if that’s your preference!
1. Trace your design using pencil or fine point permanent marker onto paper side (dull) of freezer paper. Number the pieces, if the block has many motifs.
2. Cut out freezer paper template on traced line using paper scissors. It is helpful to store all the pieces for one block in a plastic bag, especially if you’re taking the project with you while on-the-go.
3. Place freezer paper template waxed (shiny) side down to the right side of desired fabric. At this time be sure to position the fabric design, if desired. Leave about 1/2″ between pieces. Press using a dry iron, cotton setting.
4. Draw around freezer paper template using an ultra fine tip permanent marker. Be sure to protect your table surface.
5. Cut out appliqué piece using fabric scissors. Leave a narrow width of fabric extending 1/8″ to 1/4″ beyond the traced line.
6. Lay out the appliqué pieces working from the back of the design forward. Glue using small dots of your basting glue. Glue should be far enough away from the drawn line for the seam allowance to fold in. Remove freezer paper templates after you glue baste.
7. Thread a needle with thread to match the appliqué piece. Holding the fabric between thumb and forefinger and using your needle as a tool, fold under the seam allowance. Appliqué slip stitch to the background fabric, making sure to turn under the entire black line.
Here’s a Tip: To make an appliqué slip stitch, begin by working on the front of your block. Using your needle as a tool, fold under the seam allowance. Bring needle up from the background catching a few threads of the appliqué piece at the fold. Go back into the background where the needle was brought out. Try to keep stitches 1/8″ or smaller. Repeat.
8. Working on an inside curve, and using sharp scissors, clip just through the black line. The tighter the curve the more you will need to clip. If you do not clip through the black line it will be difficult to turn the line all the way under.
9. Working on an outside curve, trim the seam allowance closer to the black line to reduce bulk. You do not need to clip an outside curve. Use you thumb to ease in fullness. Make sure stitches are close together.
10a. Working on an inside corner, and using sharp scissors, clip just through the black line. If you do not clip through the black line it will be difficult to turn the line all the way under. Continue to appliqué slip stitch to the inside corner. Take an extra stitch on this side of the corner.
10b. To help with this corner, place a dot of basting glue on a piece of paper. Place the tip of the needle in the glue. This little bit of glue will help with tucking in stray threads. Tuck in the other side and continue appliqué slip stitching.
11. Working on an outside corner or outside point, slip stitch to within 1/8″ to 1/4″ of the corner. Take your last stitch in the background only.
12. Trim the point, underneath the side just stitched, the opposite side, and the tip.
13. Turn the point under to where the last stitch was taken. Grab the point with the needle and finish the stitch. Take one more whole stitch on the point. Needleturn the other side and continue stitching.
14. If you find that you have a ball on the end of the fabric point, then next time trim a little more in advance. This takes practice. Remember this is folk art and does not need to be perfect.
Appliqué takes many forms besides needleturn, and there is much to explore. If you’re looking for inspiration and instruction, head over to our website to learn more.
What tips do you have for beginning quilters and needle artists? What lessons did you learn the hard way? Share them in the comments below!