Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sew Tweet Tutorial - Part 1

Hello everyone!

I was hoping to have this up by the end of January, but here it is the first week of February. Time is getting away from me. For those of you who have purchased this pattern "Sew Tweet" here is your "mini class" on my method of applique. You will need freezer paper, a mechanical pencil (I like .05 size because it is the smallest lead and is easier to cover with embroidery floss) needles, thread, as well as your fabric and iron.
-My method uses freezer paper. For those of you unfamiliar with it, you can find it in the grocery store in the paper goods section, usually next to the aluminum foil and sandwich bags. A whole roll should last you for the rest of your life. But I must warn you, once you start using this paper, you may find many uses for it in your quilting. Freezer paper has a dull side and a shiny side. You will need to trace your pattern on the dull side because the shiny side is the side that sticks to the fabric when ironed.

Trace your pattern onto the freezer paper the exact size; just as it is drawn on the pattern page. Trace the tomato with the tomato top onto the freezer paper as one piece. (If you hate tracing, there is a product out there to help you. Look for printable freezer paper sheets.)
-Make registration marks onto your paper pattern for placement help later. These marks do not have to be in any particular place, they just need to help you place the pieces back together after you have cut them apart. Extend your lines into the top piece in order to give you a reference to line up later. I have also drawn a dashed line where the bird lies on top of the tomato so that I
can extend my applique enough for my bird to cover; a generous 1/4 inch.

-Trace and cut out the border piece as one complete piece, and both strawberries as shown (left.)

-Make registration marks on the button piece of the border to aid in placement when appliqueing later.

-You should have cut out your square for block one. Center the fabric square on top of the paper pattern and pin to the pattern to avoid any movement of the fabric. This first placement of the fabric is very important because you will be working off of these lines to place all of the following applique pieces.

-You should be able to see the pattern lines through the white fabric. If not, iron your fabric, and place a white sheet of paper under your paper pattern. If you are still having trouble, you may need to use a light box, or tape your project to a window to complete this step.
-With your pencil, trace the embroidery lines of the border. Trace the embroidery lines of the strawberry stems, the pins that stick out of the pincushion, the horizontal lines, and the thread & needle lines. You will use these lines as a reference when placing the appliques.

Your block should look something like this when all of the lines have been traced on.

-Use the pattern lines to place your freezer paper tomato pattern, and lightly touch it with the iron to keep it in place. Unpin your white fabric from the paper pattern and set the pattern aside.

-Loosen the left side of the paper tomato pattern from the white fabric, and use your scissors to cut away the side of the tomato as shown left.

-Iron the cut out tomato pattern to the RIGHT side of the fabric.

-Cut out the fabric around the paper pattern a generous 1/4 inch.

-Slide your finger just under the edge of the paper pattern still stuck to your white fabric so that you can place the seam allowance under it to line up the cut out piece.

-Once the applique is lined up to match the registration marks on the paper, use the iron to adhere the freezer paper to the seam allowance of the applique. This helps hold it into place while you pin it down.

-Use applique pins to pin the applique into place. When I am appliqueing this piece down, I leave the bigger paper pattern adhered to the white fabric, however if it is too bulky or awkward for you, you may remove it, but keep it handy.

Now let's talk about needles. I use Thimblelady Needles. I love these needles. I mostly use the large size because when sewing with a needle-turning applique method, you are using your needle as a tool. The longer the needle, the more room you have to work with when turning under the fabric. Size medium is about 1/4 inch shorter, but the needle is not as big around as the large size. These little needles are tough, I don't like a needle that bends, and this is the needle that has the least amount of bending, which means that they last longer for me, and are harder to break.

-Begin by turning back the paper of the tomato leaf on the top. I leave this attached when preparing and appliqueing this piece mostly because it is so little, and I don't want to loose it. I don't cut it off until it is time to applique it. In applique you have to think in background, foreground terms. What is in the background has to go on first, because the last thing you applique will look the closest. This method builds up one layer at a time.

-Using the tip of my needle, I grab the seam allowance of the applique and turn it under the paper to match the edge. If you have ironed on your freezer paper really good with a hot iron, the fabric will easily turn under at the freezer paper edge. If your fabric separates easily from the paper, iron it down again using a hot iron until that little paper is adhered really well.

Use your index finger underneath, and your thumb on top to pinch the seam allowance and hold it in place while you thread your needle up from the bottom through the very edge of the fold of the applique fabric. Your thread should always match your applique fabric despite the background color so that if you see a stitch line, it will be less noticeable.

-An applique stitch is essentially a blind stitch. Keep your thread straight out; at a 90 degree angle to your applique. Grab the background fabric just under the fold where the thread comes out of the edge and come up through the edge of the fold of the applique about 1/8 inch from the first stitch. Give your thread a little tug each time to pull the thread under the fold and hide the stitch. Going down with the needle ahead or behind where your thread comes out will make your thread show and will appear as a slanted line on your appliqued edge.

Continue stitching in this manner, only worrying about the next stitch; keeping your focus right on your stitch, don't worry about what the rest of the seam allowance is doing.

-I only turn under the edges of my applique that will show. On pieces that are layered, I use a basting stitch to keep the fabric in place so that it will not move when I am appliqueing the piece that goes on top of it.

-Repeat this process on the right side of the pincushion lining up the lines to match the pins, and registration marks on the center piece.

-Remove and prepare the center piece when both sides have been finished keeping the leafy top together as one piece attached to the center applique pattern.

-Lift the edges of the side paper patterns and line up the marks in order to pin it into place.

-Remove the side paper patterns to make it easier to applique the center piece.

The ladies I have taught always like to look at the back of my work to see the stitch length and knots. I have included a picture here to show you what the back of my work looks like at this point.

-Cut off the leafy top of the tomato, and iron to the green fabric. I appliqued these as two pieces. For the piece on the right, I made small clips in the cleavage of the green top, about 2-3 threads away from the paper pattern.

-Carefully touch the edge of the clips with fray check to keep the edges from fraying when turning under the inside points of the applique.
-Be very conservative with this product. When it dries, it is quite stiff and irreversible. Use very little in order to turn under the fabric easily. Too much will be difficult, or next to impossible to sew through when appliqueing.

Another little hint of mine is sequin pins. These pins are very small, and perfect for holding tiny paper pieces into place. You need at least two to keep an applique from shifting while sewing.

-Make sure to make a stitch right in the "v" of the green to keep those little threads from coming out. A little stitch close to the left and right of the center helps to keep all of those little threads under control, and stitched down.
-To get a nice point to the tip of your leaves, make 2-3 small stitches close together as you are sewing up to the tip of your leaf. This stitching creates a little wall that you can use to your advantage when turning under the seam allowance on the other side.

-Use the penciled embroidery lines to place the strawberries. Cut the red part away from the green tops and prepare and applique those first.

-Follow up with the green appliques on top, making those little clips in the cleavage, and using some fray check as directed above.

-Next comes the border. Use the curl embroidery lines you traced with your pencil to place the complete border pattern into place and lightly iron it to the background fabric.

-Lift and cut away the paper bow as shown left.

-Prepare the pieces with your border fabric and pin into place using the same method as described above.

-Cut away and prepare the outer border piece cutting little clips on the inside curves and in the cleavages of the border applique. Use fray check as before to keep these cuts from fraying when appliqueing them to the block.

-Use the penciled embroidery line to match up the border applique piece on the end.

-Proceed in the same way as above, adding pieces as you come to them. Make sure to use your registration marks on the button applique to line up the following pieces.

-Make small clips on the inner curve of the middle border piece to aid in turning the edge of this applique piece.

-Continue sewing on pieces, removing the paper as you go.

-Keeping the button piece attached to a bigger applique helps to match up the marks on the smaller pieces.

-Once you have finished appliqueing your border pieces, it is time to cover that spot where all of the appliques meet with a button applique. I use the "Perfect Circle" templates to make my buttons. For some information on them, visit Karen Kay Buckley.Basically you cut your fabric a generous 1/4 inch larger than your template and run a basting stitch in the seam allowance. Spray or paint on some liquid starch to your fabric, and then pull the threads tight over the circle. Iron until starch is dry, then loosen the threads, remove the template, then pull the threads to gather the seam allowance back into place.

When you have finished preparing your circle, sew it into place to cover the place where all of the unfinished edges meet.
Your block should look something like this at this stage. This block took me around 5 hours to complete to this point - a nice Saturday of stitching with laundry, lunch, and a party thrown in between.
The next couple of tutorials will have information about fussy cutting the birds and some embroidery tips. I hope this gets you going in the right direction. Let me know how you like this tutorial, and if you have any questions by leaving a comment on this post. Thanks & Happy Stitching!!! -Cori


  1. I'll have to get myself some sequin pins, great tutorial Cori! You make it all look so simple.

  2. Can't wait to give your method a try Cori, I love the look of it. I'll hunt out my freezer paper :o).
    Joy :o)

  3. I have to try this method! Your instructions are perfect, I really think I could do this and I have been avoiding applique and only doing fusible because I though I couldn't do any other, but I love the look of needle turned applique so I have to give it a try and soon!

  4. I know it's just me but this looks very difficult. The final results are beautiful however.
    Gmama Jane

  5. Oh wow are patient kind and talented to say the least...I love this method....and freezer paper is my best friend..I love it for paper piecing...
    you d best

  6. Thank you for the lovely tutorial. It is very clearly written and illustrated. I'll have to give your method a try.

  7. I am going to start on applique soon.This is really well written. Thank you so much! I will be referring back to it.

  8. I start my Feb block tomorrow - will be following this tut to the tee! Wish me luck!!

  9. Thank you so much for your method! I can't wait to try this! You make it look so simple.....

  10. I like how you've made the registration marks to reline up as you add pieces. I can say, this never occurred to me in my own applique. I'm glad I visited today, it's been awhile since I've been here. Thanks for the explanations.

  11. What a fabulous pattern! When I started the first block I was thinking I was going to be too much work and I'd just make 3 blocks and frame them. By the time I finished it I was HOOKED! I can't stop working on it. Finished Block 4 so far. This is my first try at meedle turn and I see great improvements already
    I'd love to see pictures of any that have completed the quilt top.