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Needle turn applique, practice makes improvement
First up, practice, practice and practice. Practice makes improvement, start with a smaller project, like a cushion. Do some test projects. Want to see some of my earliest needle turn? Here you go LOOK, I don't need to pin it into submission anymore (lol). I really wanted to learn more and improve my needle turn applique, I loved the way applique looked, so I kept at it. At the bottom of this post are videos created to support my Bloom pattern series, but the tips are applicable to needle turn applique in general.
We're all beginners at some point and taking the time to learn and improve is so satisfying when you start to see improved results. I could do a 5 minute talk and point out all of the 'issues' with my needle turn on my applique, but what would be the point?
With pieces of applique that have legs or finer details, when you're initially cutting out the piece, don't cut into these details, leave more fabric around them to 'protect' the edges and only snip around them closer once you're about to stitch. This will help prevent fraying and distortion of these pieces and also minimise frustration.
Oh, and it might be obvious but it's called needle turn applique for a reason. Use the TIP (the sharp, pointy, owie part) of the needle to help turn under the seam allowance to stitch down. You'll notice the difference once you do that. Another beginners tip is to finger press the seam so you have a 'pre crease' of sorts to assist with turning under the seam allowance.
The 'right' tools do make a difference
When I say 'right' I mean right for you! Try out different needles and thread. Needles and thread do make a HUGE difference when it comes to needle turn applique. My personal favourite needles for needle turn are Bohin Long Applique Needles and these days I also use a needle threader. The eye on applique needles is super small and 80wt thread is also very fine. My 50+ year old eyes need some assistance! 80wt aurifil is also a great thread for applique and one I use often, I have also recently been trialling Wonderfil Effina 60wt and liking the results so far with this thread.
The rule of thumb is to match the thread colour to the applique fabric, not the background, however, I often will use a light silver thread for most of my applique, there are some instances where I will colour match if there's too much contrast and I can see stitches, but 90% off the time this works for me.
These Karen Kay Buckley 4" small perfect applique scissors are just that, perfect for snipping seams and getting into finer details. These scissors have a micro serrated blade that keeps fabric from slipping so cutting is more accurate and helps to prevent frayed edges.
I use Roxanne Applique Glue and this particular bottle as the tip is fabulous and prevents you from using a lot of glue. You really only need very small amounts of glue. We're not gluing down the piece that needs appliquing we're just lightly attaching it. Keep glue away from the edges and seam allowances so it doesn't interfere with your stitching. Roxanne's is very strong, so if you use too much and then want to reposition a piece once it's dry it might be a struggle to separate the fabrics.
That's pretty much all you'll need. Thread, needle and glue. I do occasionally pin pieces down, it really depends on the design and what will suit the applique I'm working on. I really hope you try needle turn applique, it's a wonderful and mindful and creative technique.
A note about links
You may have noticed that some of the links in this newsletter are affiliated, which means that I earn a small commission if you make a purchase through them. I want to assure you that these links do not cost you anything extra and in some cases, they may even offer you a better price.
There are no 'must have' tools when it comes to hand piecing your patchwork and quilts, well aside from, you know, a needle and thread... however over time you'll find there are tools that you use again and again, that help you hand piece. I've listed my current tool box kit below, it can change over time, but these are pretty much my go-to tools.