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Make and use Appliqué templates

Your quilted appliqué project is only as good as your template. Begin by tracing the design. Lay template plastic over each element of the design and trace carefully with a fine-point, permanent marker. Make the templates the exact size of the finished pieces with no seam allowances. The seam allowances are added when you cut out the pieces. If you have straight lines, use a ruler for best results.

Mark Each Template

To help keep your project organized, mark each appliqué template with its letter designation from the pattern, grain line (if indicated), the block name, and appliqué sequence order. Put an X on edges that do not need to be turned under, such as stems that will go under a flower. Transfer the Xs to the fabric shapes when you trace around the templates. Any information you can indicate on the template helps as you make the quilting project.

Cut Templates

Use small, sharp scissors to carefully cut out your templates. When you have finished, lay them over the original printed pattern to be sure they are accurate. If they aren’t, retrace and cut a new template. They need to be exact in order to fit properly on your quilt.

Use Appliqué Templates

Templates are traced around onto the wrong or right side of the fabric, depending on the method you’ll be using. You need to choose a marking tool that will show up on your fabric. A pencil works well on light-color fabric; a white, silver, or yellow dressmaker’s pencil is a good choice on dark fabric. If you’re using a pencil, keep the point sharp to ensure accuracy. A mechanical pencil works well to make a sharp, thin line. Do not use a ballpoint or ink pen. It may bleed when washed. Test all marking tools on a fabric scrap before using.

Trace Templates

Place templates on to your fabric, leaving at least 1/2” between them. (Whether you place them face up or face down on the fabric’s right or wrong side depends on the appliqué method you choose.) Trace around each template with your marking tool. The drawn lines are the sewing lines. The specific appliqué technique you use will dictate how much, if any, seam allowance you leave when cutting out the shape. Read your quilt pattern carefully for complete instructions.

Tip: To create a mirror image of a template with fabric, flip the template over before tracing it onto the fabric.

Tip: To prevent stretching the fabric as you draw around the template, place 220-grit sandpaper under the fabric.

Cut out the appliqué shapes, including seam allowances if necessary, according to the appliqué method you’re using.

Stitch Sequence

Prepare all of your appliqué pieces at one time. This will save you time later as you begin to stitch them in place. You’ll be able to plan any overlaps and reduce bulk. Edges of appliqué pieces that are covered by other pieces do not need to be turned under.

If your quilt pattern instructions don’t indicate a numerical stitching sequence, start with the pieces closest to the foundation fabric. Appliqués are layered to give dimension with the ones closest to the foundation fabric (and farthest away from you) placed first.

Appliqué the pieces to the foundation, working from the bottom layer to the top.

Prepare Appliqué Pieces – Basting Method

Next, you’ll need to prepare the appliqués for stitching. The following method uses a reusable template, marking tool, and thread to prepare appliqué pieces for hand or machine appliqué.

Place your templates on the right side of the fabric, allowing at least 1/2” between them. Trace the templates.

Cut and Clip Appliqué Shapes

Cut out the appliqué shapes, adding a 3/16” seam allowance to all edges. Clip inside curves and points to within a thread of the marked lines, making clips closer together in the curved areas.

Try to make your clips on the bias grain of the seam allowance, which means your clips will often be diagonal, rather than perpendicular lines. This directional clipping prevents fabric from raveling while you’re working with the edges.

Note: Some hand quilters who use the needle-turn appliqué method choose to stop their appliqué preparation method with this step.

Baste Seam Allowances

Working from the right side of the appliqué piece and beginning at an inner point, use a contrasting color thread to baste the seam allowance, turning under and following the marked lines. To make it easier to remove the thread later, begin and end your basting thread on the right side of the appliqué piece.

Create Sharp Points

For a sharp outer point, fold the fabric straight over the point.

Turn Under Seam Allowance

Next, turn under an adjacent seam allowance, overlapping the folded point. Baste in place.

Finish It Up

As you reach the outer point, fold over the remaining adjacent seam allowance and continue basting around the shape. You’ll do this for each of your appliqué pieces before you go on to place them on to the foundation fabric of the block.


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