In this method, turn seams with nothing but a needle and thread.

May 14, 2020
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applique by hand
Credit: Janne Peters

Hand-turn appliqué is not the only hand-worked method, but it is quick, easy, and well suited to most pieces. You will use a sewing needle to turn under the seam allowance, and the slipstitch (sometimes called the blind stitch) to secure the motif to the background fabric (the finished pillow as shown here). Choose a thread color that matches the appliqué piece. Don't worry if the edges of your appliqué aren't even; slight variations are part of the charm of this technique.

Cut out a motif.

Place wrong side of template on the right side of the appliqué fabric, and trace with a disappearing-ink fabric pen. If the template does not include a seam allowance, add a 1/4-inch (6mm) allowance all around the motif; cut out. (For a template with seam allowance included, mark the allowance on the appliqué piece with the fabric pen.) For felt and other non-woven appliqué pieces that don't fray, cut pieces to the exact size of the outline (do not add seam allowance), and slipstitch in place.

Mark your placement.

Position appliqué piece or template on fabric; trace with a disappearing-ink fabric pen.

Baste or pin the pieces.

Baste large motifs in place 1/2 inch (13mm) from raw edge (as shown, above right); this will leave room to turn under edge. Pin smaller appliqué pieces in place.

Stitch in place.

Thread appliqué needle and knot thread; with the tip of the needle, turn under the seam allowance at the starting point of the motif. Slipstitch to the background fabric: Bring the needle up through the background fabric in line with the motif's folded edge; catch a few of the threads on the motif's edge and pull until stitch is taut. Insert the needle into the background fabric beside the stitch in the appliqué fold. Repeat stitches 1/8 inch (3mm) apart. Use the point of the needle to turn under the edge, following the marked seam-allowance line. Continue to stitch around the motif. Secure the thread on the underside of your work with a knot or backstitch. Remove basting thread or pins to finish.

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