June 22, 2008

As promised, today I’m learning a method of hand appliqué preparation that’s new to me. Holly Mabutas of Eat Cake Graphics gave me her pattern insert with instructions for what she calls “glue stick turned edge appliqué” and I’m trying it out! What intrigues me about this method is that the margin of the fabric is glued back on itself. I’ve tried the other kind of glue-stick appliqué, where the margin is turned and glued over freezer paper, then after stitching you soak the block, slit the back, and get the freezer paper out. That method never ‘stuck’ with me, no pun intended. Now I’m going to try it this way, where the freezer paper is on the front of the fabric.

The first thing I did was to go out and get a brand-new glue stick. I happened to know that the ones I had were a mite dried out — moral of the story, don’t buy them too far in advance, or try keeping them in the fridge as a friend of mine told me.

As it happens, we’re having a heat wave in Santa Cruz. There are just a few days a year when we roast… yesterday it was 102º and I was sweating just sitting upstairs in my studio. So today I gathered up everything that I needed and put up my handy-dandy little table from Costco downstairs in the living room to work in cooler conditions.

bunny1.jpgFreezer-paper templates traced and cut out.

I used the bunny block from my Spin in the Garden pattern.

I had to run upstairs to iron the templates onto the right sides of the fabrics. I used a piece of cardboard underneath, which helps create a better bond.

The next step is to trim the motifs, leaving a scant ¼” turn-under margin. Here are the pieces, trimmed and clipped. There’s a dashed line on areas that are going to be overlapped by another piece.


bunny4.jpgGluing the margin back onto itself on the wrong side. Holly says to use an awl… I didn’t have one so I used a stylus with a tiny, sharp tip. The moist sponge is for cleaning off the glue stick when it gets thready. I’m working on top of an plastic sheet protector.

bunny5.jpgHere are all the pieces glued and with templates removed.

I wasn’t a whiz at the previously unused fine motor skills required to turn the margin with the implement, but I’m thinking I can smooth things out as I stitch. And, as Holly says, “Don’t be too hard on yourself if things aren’t perfect the first time or even the second. With a little patience and practice you’ll do just fine. :)”

bunny6.jpgAgain using the sheet protector, I’m positioning the pieces to join them together into units. No background fabric involved at this point! Holly advises using little dots of Roxanne’s basting glue for this step. I didn’t have any so I hauled out some really ancient stuff called Border Patrol. Turns out this was a misstep on my part, and I’ll tell you why later. Anyway, I used it on the edges of the tail and ears that were going under the body piece, and glued the bunny together.

bunny7.jpgHere’s a whole bunny, separate unto itself, edges turned and ready to hop onto different background fabrics until it finds its favorite one.

bunny8.jpgHere I’ve positioned all of the elements on the background fabric and have used the liquid glue to secure them in place. Still hoping I can work out those pokies.

bunny9.jpgAll stitched… and it worked! I was able to manipulate out the little bumps. For the more serious ones, I dipped a cotton swab in water and soaked the edge of the motif. The glue released immediately and I was then able to smooth out the curve with my needle.

bunny10.jpgOkay so here’s why the liquid basting glue I used was not a good choice. Turns out, unlike Roxanne’s, it’s a permanent glue, and I used it in some injudicious places. See the little spot on the bunny’s paw? It’s confusing, but when you look at glue labels, you want it to say “water soluble” or “washes out.” “Washable” means it doesn’t wash out!

Anyway, aside from that little “learning experience,” I’d say this is the best method of turned-edge glue stick appliqué I’ve tried. For one thing, you don’t need a reversed pattern… what you see is what you get. Plus, you don’t have any freezer paper to remove once you’ve finished stitching. Holly appliqués these by hand, and so did I. If the templates were on the inside you’d have a crinkly, crunchy time of it, but here, where they’re gone already, it was a pleasant stitching experience. And a big thundercloud came along and cooled things down considerably.

Thanks a million, Holly, for sharing your preferred method with me, and allowing me to show it other appliqué fans. If you like an edge that’s already turned before you start stitching, this might become your favorite too! Get one of Holly’s adorable patterns and try it out for yourself.

See A Spin in the Garden over at Quilt Puppy.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs


18 Responses to “Glue stick turned edge hand appliqué”

  1. Sally Bramald on June 22nd, 2008 9:13 am

    I find the little wooden stirring sticks from Starbucks and other coffee shops work well for turning the fabric back. When it gets too sticky, I use the other end and when that’s sticky , I bin it. It helps if you know the staff in the coffee shop!

  2. admin on June 22nd, 2008 9:20 am

    Hey thanks Sally! I have a whole package of plain wood craft sticks, and I’ll try that next time! If they’re too big, I do just happen to be on a friendly basis with the folks at Coffee Cat :).


  3. Rose Marie on June 25th, 2008 5:40 am

    I’ve been using this method for years now and love it. The glue stick should also be ‘acid free’ in case any of the glue doesn’t get washed out the first time around. I usually wash my quilts twice whenever I use glue for the applique. To help keep the pieces glued down, I usually plop the glued down pieces (with the freezer paper on) on a book and then place a heavier book on top and leave them there for a few hours until they are dried. It’s easier to applique the pieces once the glue is dried and your needle doesn’t get gummy.

  4. admin on June 25th, 2008 8:01 am

    Hey Rose Marie, thanks for the extra tips!


  5. Violette on June 25th, 2008 8:31 am

    I tried this method a few years ago but had a lot of problems. I am not good at any method of applique, though.

  6. admin on June 25th, 2008 6:40 pm

    Violette, sorry to hear about your frustration. As I said I too had a wee bit of trouble getting the edges glued over as smoothly as I would have liked on this my first try. I think that anything new takes practice. I hope you’ll keep your hand in at appliqué.


  7. Marcia on June 30th, 2008 4:31 am

    I use the basting glue instead of the glue stick. It has a fine needle top to control the flow of glue and I use an orange stick to place the turned edge, trying not to get too much glue in the area my needle will be going. Putting a glob of glue on a piece of foil and applying it with the orange stick gives me more control in tiny places.

  8. Cathey McClure on July 11th, 2008 4:18 pm

    I use the glue over paper technique. However, I don’t use freezer paper. I use a washaway stabilizer. After I get everything glued to the paper and glued together, I use invisible thread to applique. When I have everything sewn down the way I want it, I simply soak and wash the piece and the paper and glue dissolve and go away. Much easier than freezer paper, although it is slightly more expensive.

  9. admin on July 12th, 2008 7:26 am

    I’ve prevailed upon Cathey to give us a little photo tutorial on how she does this, so keep an eye out for it. Thanks a million Cathey!


  10. Val on November 19th, 2008 6:27 am

    A light touch with an iron will dry the glue immediately. I can assemble pieces in no time using my iron. I use basting glue, because the stick seems to pull on the fabric. I use polyester clear thread in clear and smoke and a very tiny zigzag to stitch the pieces together. Sometimes I even leave the glue in.

  11. Bethany Frerichs on January 30th, 2011 10:12 pm

    I found your site while looking for an easier way to do applique. I never thought of doing it backwards! I just tried it on two pieces and it’s so much faster. I’m still not a pro by any means, but I’ll figure it out. I’ll try it out on one of my blocks to see how it goes.

    I was doing a test to see if my water soluable paper stabilizer for machine embroidery would work, but I was making more of a mess than anything else. It’s just not any faster than using freezer paper and glue. The only advantage is when you do wash the quilt, the stabilizer dissolves.

    Thank you (and Holly) for the amazing tip!

  12. Kay on January 31st, 2011 9:03 am

    Bethany, you’re so welcome! Glad you’ve found your better way!

  13. How To Applique | Colorful Creative Ideas on February 2nd, 2011 7:11 pm

    […] Click here to visit All About Applique for a great photo tutorial […]

  14. Susan Glenn on November 8th, 2011 10:12 am

    I would like to know how you put an applique on a garment that will not wrinkle when washed or dried . I had appiques on the uniform for work and they washed and dried w/o ever turning up at the corners or wrinkling , stayed flat wash after wash .
    I want to put an appique on my Hoodie but don’t want it to wrinkel when it is washed .
    I get NO Help from the employee’s at the 2 stores I went to :(((( so thought maybe you could help me ,Please
    Thank-you Susan Glenn
    Hearinglady@gmail.com :))))))

  15. Lois Tidey on February 21st, 2012 5:24 pm

    I’m one of those “glue” quilters. I like the very nice smooth edges that I’m able to get. I have tried every kind of glue stick and bottle and find that Clover Fabric Glue Stick is the best. It is water soluble and never gets hard. I have had pieces that I prepared many weeks ago and find it still workable. When I teach I recommend it. Not always easy to find in my area and have to resort to online shopping. Give it a try.

  16. Jan Newberry on March 12th, 2012 3:25 am

    I learned this method years ago. Did a wall hanging of 13 trees (tiny branches). I found out that using a round tooth pick worked best in turning under the edges. Also I try and match the thread to the fabric. Learned this method years ago in a class. People are amazed at the tiny applique pieces that I did. Hope this helps.

  17. There’s more than one way to skin an appliqué : All About Applique on September 10th, 2012 9:27 am

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  18. Rhonda on October 18th, 2012 8:08 am

    This looks so much easier than cutting and pulling freezer paper from the back of a quilt.

    I will be trying this soon.

    Wish me luck:)