How Do I Hand Applique?

M. Kayo

Successfully creating hand applique in quilting requires mastering smoothly turned edges, the ability to make sharp points, and tiny stitches. Applique is a good way to use up all the fabric scraps and pieces that cannot be used for anything else. Choosing a simple design for a first attempt will likely produce a better result, especially if you are doing hand applique for the first time. Children's coloring books are full of simple, easy to duplicate designs. The rights tools and materials, including the proper fabric, good scissors, tracing paper, and nylon thread will allow you to hand applique your design with the best results.

Appliques are a good way to use up various fabric scraps left from other projects.
Appliques are a good way to use up various fabric scraps left from other projects.

A local quilting shop may be the best place to get an introduction to hand applique techniques. Many quilting, fabric, or sewing shops carry a number of ready-made kits. These hand applique kits are also available for different skill levels from beginner to experienced seamstress. Quilting shops will likely have some employees on hand to help with any questions about hand applique techniques, tools, and materials.

Fabric scraps may be cut into shapes using a blade and cutting mat.
Fabric scraps may be cut into shapes using a blade and cutting mat.

Using the right tools and materials will make hand applique much easier. Start off by selecting the right type of fabric. Check with the local quilting shop, and get suggestions for the best type of material to be used. Look for woven materials that do not require special handling, like dry cleaning or hand washing. When first starting out, a pure cotton fabric will provide the versatility needed for just about any type of applique project.

Sharp, good quality scissors are probably the most important piece of equipment when doing hand applique. Nothing is more frustrating when cutting intricate designs in fabric than fumbling with a dull pair of scissors. High quality sewing scissors, also known as shears, are available at any sewing or fabric shop. Spend a little more to get a good pair of 6-inch shears with a paddle-type blade and offset handle. These work best for hand applique work and allow for a longer period of use.

Tracing paper is used to draw the actual image or pattern to be applied to the quilting square block or other base material. It works well with the applique process because of it's transparency. A design, image, or pattern can be traced onto the tracing paper, then positioned over the area of material where the applique will be positioned. Many complex designs can be completed faster if worked out on tracing paper beforehand.

Use see-through nylon thread to hide the stitching. This special type of thread is almost invisible to the naked eye, allowing the viewer to focus more on the applique work rather than the stitching. Invisible thread is especially helpful for those just starting out and wanting to draw attention away from what may appear to be awkward or sloppy stitching.

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