August 17, 2011

Maddie asked, “I need help on a good method to keep the appliqué flat when working on large pieces. Currently, I have to keep my piece flat on a tabletop, yet I see other people working in hand. If I work in hand, the final project is not flat.”

Maddie, this is one of my favorite pieces of appliqué information to share. It isn’t something that’s typically covered in appliqué instructions, but I’ve always included it in my books because it’s an important piece of the puzzle in getting pleasing results.

First of all, let’s start with vision and lighting. Bear with me… it all ties in.

For good appliqué results, you have to make sure that your vision is good. Is your glasses prescription up to date? Do you have the proper glasses for close-up work?

Take me for example. My whole life I was so proud of my better-than-20-20 vision. But at a certain point, when we got a new computer system at my day job that ONLY printed out in 10 point type, I had to admit that I needed help. I entered the era of reading glasses.

Groovy granny glasses.

Groovy granny glasses.

Now I could read the computer printouts. But the glasses were such a pain! Put ’em on, take ’em off. Put ’em on, take ’em off. Where the bleep are they?? Argh.

I mentioned this to my eye doc and he told me I was a good candidate for monovision contacts, so I went to see the optometrist and got me some. Hallelujah!

Now I could stick the contacts in in the morning and get through the whole day without putting on a pair of glasses! That really improved my quality of life! However, monovison contacts means you have a strong lens in your near eye and a weak lens in your distance eye, and your brain blends the two together. They’re great for general seeing but not so great for very precise, detailed, close-up work. So when I really need to see, I put on reading glasses on top of the contacts! That’s right, I go from two eyes to four eyes to six eyes LOL! Oh well, you do what it takes.

You may have a different vision scenario. You need to be able to see the eye of the needle and the grain of the fabric. What I’m saying is, do whatever it takes to get your vision corrected for stitching, and not just at two inches from your face.

Let’s move on to lighting. Good lighting goes hand-in-hand with good vision. You need to be able to direct a strong light right on your work. It’ll make a big difference!


The reason I bring up vision and lighting is that you need to be able to sew in your lap, not up next to your face. I see it all the time… people bringing their project up close to their eyes, stitching up in midair with the background falling away. This encourages buckling of the appliqué.

Put your feet up on a footstool, sew in your lap, and provide support for the background fabric. The June Tailor Quilter’s Cut ‘n Press is an excellent appliqué aid. The cushioned side comfortably supports your underneath hand and the project as you stitch. I’d show you a picture of mine but it’s ancient and “well-loved” in its appearance.

Mary Warner-Stone feels the same way as I do about the Cut ‘n Press, except I use the smaller square one and she uses a longer one. Check out her guest post, Support Your Work.

Maddie, I hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie


5 Responses to “Support for your appliqué”

  1. Tracy on August 17th, 2011 6:24 pm

    Thanks for posting these helpful hints. I had to find them out the hard way, by trial and error. My close-up eyesight is okay as long as I can hold what I am looking at at arms length, LOL. I can’t sew like that however. Magnifiers and a good light are a must, I am going to try the Cut n’ Press tonight (mine is well loved too).

  2. Karen Beigh on August 18th, 2011 5:32 am

    I do mono-vision and see well with the eye for close up. Your information is interesting and helpful.

  3. Vivian on August 18th, 2011 9:48 am

    Thanks for these tips. I am relatvely new to hand applique and found the “good lighting” issue to be a biggie for me. I am considering adding this neck light ( to my applique tool box to give me more flexibility as to where I can do my hand work. I noticed KQ also now carries lighted magnifier glasses too.

    I also plan to try “the cut and press” tip. I have the Omnigrid version of these and never realized that the “drag” on a hanging piece while stitching might affect how it lays when finishing. Thanks again for the tips!!

  4. Eileen Keane on August 18th, 2011 6:46 pm

    Thank you for these tips, Kay. And thank you for including Mary’s article. I have the larger cut and press so I’ll try it.

  5. More on stability : All About Applique on August 27th, 2011 8:13 am

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