LaRueSews-Quilts-Did You Needle Turn Today?

I just finished a dress for a friend this week.  I seem to have a hard time getting to my quilting projects.  Saying “yes” to too many things besides quilting keeps me from doing what I love most.  Right now I have at least five quilts in progress.  That is not to mention all the other ones that I have nearly all the materials EXCEPT the time to do them.  I don’t know why it is, but a few years ago I seemed to get so many more done.  It seems like years since I have completed something just for the fun of it.

I talked about one phase of applique earlier, so I thought that this would be a good time to talk a little more about it. I have a Book called Applique Mad Easy, by Rodale Books.  It is a book I have owned for a long time.  In fact I believe it is the first book on applique that I ever bought.  It has instruction on many types of applique, and is a great book for beginners.  I found it available at this web address:

Many techniques of applique can be accomplished with the help of Freezer paper.  I do suggest, however, that you stay away from the freezer paper that is marketed especially for quilters.  It is much too expensive.  I fell for that marketing scheme at one time and found that the only advantage is that it is made in sheets fit a computer printer.  It is MUCH less expensive to cut Reynolds Freezer paper to printer size with your rotary cutter and ruler.  Purchase Reynolds Freezer Paper at your grocery or hardware store in a roll.  In one of my early Blogs, I talked about freezer paper.  You can read that post at this link:

You can use freezer paper to trace applique patterns for hand applique.  Trace your pattern on the paper side of the freezer paper.  Carefully cut out your pattern shapes and iron them shiny side down, on the right side of the fabric you plan to use for your applique.  Trace around the paper pattern with your favorite pencil that will show on the fabric.  With sharp scissors, cut the fabric leaving about an 1/8 to1/4 inch outside the paper pattern.  You can use this technique to stitch single layer applique pieces, or you can build up your pieces to add additional shapes to your applique design.  Remove the paper and applique the shapes to the base fabric.  This link will give you some sites to learn more about freezer paper applique:

Another technique that I use much of the time when I am doing needle turn applique is drawing the applique shapes on template plastic.  This works especially well if you have many pieces of the same shape.  Just lay the plastic template on the fabric and draw around the plastic.  Then cut out your fabric shapes and applique them.

Many techniques are used to stitch the applique to the background.  Some people use the freezer paper as a base and then finger press or lightly press with a cool iron, the seam allowance to the wrong side of the fabric before stitching to the background.  I find it easier to just turn the fabric under with my needle at I stitch around the applique.

It is helpful to get the help of a good needle-turn teacher to show the finer points of needle turn applique.  Though I have been writing this Blog for more than a year and a half, I find that my “words” are inadequate to describe needle-turn applique.  I had done needle-turn applique myself after reading about it in a book, but I found the taking a class improved my abilities a hundred fold.

There are many tools that assist in needle-turn applique projects, I suggest that you give some of them a try.  Circle templates are a great help, since stitching circles is one of the most challenging shapes to master.  If you are attempting needle-turn applique, you might practice with heart shapes of many different sizes.  When you look at a heart shape, you see that nearly all of the lines included in other shapes are in a heart shape.  Curves, inside and outside points and straight lines are all in the heart shape.

A GOOD pair of small, sharp scissors is a must.  Applique pins with glass heads are a big help.  They are short, only about 3/4 inches long and don’t catch the thread as much as you stitch.  A common round wooden toothpick is a friend of applique stitches.  You can use it to push tiny little edges into place.  Wet the end of the toothpick a bit and it helps even more.

The best thread I have found for applique is Mettler, Size 60, Cotton Embroidery thread.  It comes on a spool with green lettering on the edge of the spool.  I like it better than silk thread for applique because it holds the pieces down on the background fabric while silk thread tends to let the pieces pop up, just a bit. 

I like a very fine needle for applique.  I just recently learned that Straw Needles are good because they are long and fine needle.  I use John James, size 10 or 11.  They have a very small eye so you may need to start off with a slightly larger size until you get use to them.

These are photos of my current needle turn project.  The first photo is the three blocks that are finished.  The next two are unfinished.  The last photo is the center block that is finished.  I LOVE THESE BLOCKS. Big Smile


I hope you will give needle-turn applique a try.  You just might find that is very rewarding and relaxing.

The LaRueSews Block of the month is winding down.  I am including two blocks this time.  One is easy and one is a little harder, the Love Knot and the Sawtooth Star.  This makes a total of thirteen blocks, so far.  This is enough for your quilt, with one alternate block.  You can arrange them in a pattern of three across and four down.  However, next time, I will post patterns for three more alternate blocks.  If you wish, you can make a larger quilt of a total of sixteen blocks, arranged four across and four down.  Please make note that the LaRueSews-Block of the Month will finish up soon.  Get busy and get those blocks made.  You will have the opportunity to post your quilt tops on Ann The Gran Gallery, for a chance to win the first place and runner-up prizes.  Time is fleeting.  Get those stitches stitched!


To download the full size scans click here

Next time I will post photos of the blocks I have made.  At the moment, my sewing room is a disaster zone and the blocks are somewhere in the rubble. Embarrassed Ick!

Stitches to you,

Comments (5) -

quiltsrus08 5/1/2010 7:44:11 AM

I found it easier to sew iron on stabilizer to applique.pieces and when you turn them back to right side out, the iron on part will be out to iron it in place on your quilt square. then you stitch it in place and u r done.

Yes, that is one of the many methods of applique.  It can be very sucessful if it's the method you prefer.  We all have to find what we like do do.  I just happen to like needle turn.  I've tried a lot of other methods as well.  I think I just happened to settle on the meedle turn method for its challenges.

Stitches . .


With all the detail you are doing, it is no wonder you are working on so many projects.

I love your work!


The applique info is interesting.   I don't do applique, seems like a lot of work when the embroidery machine is easier.  Just different 'looks' I suppose.  Years ago I thought cutting up material just to sew it back together was kind of silly... now I find quilting interesting and fun to do.  I appreciate the info on freezer paper use.  Had heard about it but didn't realize what you could do.  

The following email came to my email:


I have followed your blog with Ann the Gran since you began. You do a beautiful job explaining everything. I was at the first Embroidery Convention in Orlando. We will be spending 6 months in Florida this year. I was wondering if you had any web sites about quilting groups in the area. We are in the Clearwater area. I would love to find a quilting retreat and some quilt shows to attend.


Jan Mays"


Thanks you so much for your comments about LaRueSews-Quilts.  I appreciate your sticking with it.

I did a Google search for Clearwater, Florida and found listings for Florida Quilt Guilds at this link:">

Scroll down to find Clearwater.

Pat,  Your comments are ALWAYS most appreciated.  Thanks for keeping up with LaRueSews-Quilts.

Love ya,



I'm glad you came back to read about applique.  Yes, appplique is a lot of work.  But there is a lot more to it than the different look.   Among quilters, applique of any kind is quite highly prized.  Not all quilters have the knack or wish to do applique.  My Quild Guild is out of the ordinary because there are so many who love applique.  In my old guild, there were only a couple who like it very well.  Needle turn applique really is a specialty, IMHO.  Not everyone who likes applique likes to do needle turn.  So much more detail can be achieved, as well as the beauty and definition in needle turn.  The skills of a fine needle turn applique stitcher are among the finest of anyone who does any kind of needlework.  I suggest that you go to a quilt show and have someone point out the differences between the many techniques of applique and quilting.  There is every bit as much skill involved in needleturn applique as there is in really fine hand quilting.

However,  I also admire anyone who can do really fine machine quilting.  It is a lot of hard work IMHO.  AS with all techniques, some like it and some don't.  I've never been good at machine quilting, because I don't like to work with that much fabric under the machine.  It's hard to manipulate.

Stitches to ALL of you,


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