Like so many things in the sewing world, needle-turn appliqué is one of those techniques that seems completely intimidating…until you try it. I’ve been there!
It’s like when you walk into a party and see that hip and interesting person in the middle of the room drinking a cocktail you've never heard of and looking smart. You know if they only got to know you, you'd be great friends...but someone's gotta make that first move.
The pressure! And then, you muster up the guts to finally approach them only to realize they are not intimidating at all, but actually really laid back and kinda quiet and equally into you as you are into them! What a glorious moment!
That’s needle-turn appliqué. I’m willing to bet that even after just reading this blog post, you will feel like needle-turn appliqué is something you can tackle… and I’ll even give you the perfect place to start with a free pattern!
Oh, now you’re interested? Awesome. Let’s start with…
Needle-Turn Appliqué Tutorial
It takes some time and effort, but I have to say, the needle-turn appliqué technique is pretty nifty. I’m not sure who invented it (someone look this up for me!), but it makes it possible to sew fabric onto fabric without seeing any stitches. Like, really. Prepare to be shocked and amazed.
I’m going to link to a YouTube video that I think demonstrates this technique perfectly, but first, let’s get mentally prepared.
Below I may or may not be pretending that my scissors are a giant flesh-eating pterodactyl systematically destroying a metropolis of thread. Did I mention that needle-turn appliqué can take a while?
- Appliqué Pieces: For this technique, trace the shape of each piece onto your fabric with a water soluble pen, chalk or even a classic lead pencil. Just make sure that you can clearly see your shapes. Then, cut each shape out with about an extra ¼” around the edge of your shape. The exact measurement doesn’t matter, but give yourself enough room for an easy fold-over.
- High-Qual Thread: Check out Part I and Part II on thread for more information on exactly what to use. I suggest trying to match your thread color to the appliqué pieces as best as possible.
- Appliqué Needle: This can vary based on what you're comfortable with. If you're brand new to appliqué, give these Gold'n Glide Appliqué Needles a try. I've used these needles and can confirm that they are muy glide-able.
- Adhesive, of some kind: This is where your personality plays a large part. By nature I'm not a perfectionist. One of my favorite sayings is – "Quick and dirty wins the race." Typing that, I realize that sounds weird and doesn't make a ton of sense, but, it makes me feel better when my stitches aren't even. I cut out my appliqué pieces and baste with safety pins (see pic below). That's hands down the fastest way to adhere appliqué pieces. Doing it this way means I have to turn the fabric under as I go. If you would prefer to not do that, another way to adhere pieces is to use a fusible webbing – such as Pellon Wonder- Under.
- Embroidery Hoop: The one in the picture below is 14" in diameter. Also, I can neither confirm nor deny that I am wearing pants in the picture below.
- It’s going to take some time. There’s no way around it. But…
- It’s going to look amazing. It just is. This technique yields really stunning results. And…
- You’re going to get addicted. Once you master the basics (which won’t take you too long, trust me) you’re going to get hooked. It's so wonderfully mobile! I have needle-turn withdrawal every time I finish a project.
Needle-Turn Video Tutorial (How I learned!)
I know I should make a video for this, but it's been a while *uhum* a long while since I've gotten a manicure and I don't want to put you through close-ups of my fingers. haha 😉
The first video is how I appliqué. It feels more natural to me because the stitching is similar to a whip-stitch rather than the back and forth of conventional needle-turn. I use a whip-stitch when hand sewing binding.
This second video is considered "traditional" needle-turn and will produce an almost invisible stitch.
Needle-Turn Appliqué FREE Pattern
Ready to give it a go? You may want to do a few practice runs first, but when it’s time to go all-in on a quilting project, here’s a free pattern for you! FREE Aria Quilt Pattern - Click here!
I can’t wait to watch all of you blossom into experienced needle-turn appliqué-ists! (Appliquists? Appliqué-ers?) Tell me about your favorite tools and projects in the comments!