My friend Mary Liz turned me onto Jeana Kimball straw needles for hand applique. They are slender, super sharp, and sturdy (everything I want to be...LOL). I order them from Foxglove Cottage if I cannot find them at my LQS. I like size 10.
Yes, the glue does cause a little needle resistance. I figure it's a trade off...I don't like the constant stuffing under of edges while tryng to take tiny stitches that is involved with the needle turn method, so I put up with a little needle resistance. I like that when I sit down to stitch, I am mostly just stitching. I wear a thimble now, but I have one I love so that is not a hardship. The less glue I use, the easier the sewing. The balance gets better with practice. I'm striving to have as little needle resistance as possible. I had to get past gluing like a pre-schooler (I've seen kids use a whole glue stick on two pieces of paper...zeesh!). I used more glue for this tutorial than I usually do because I wanted the glue to show up for the photo shoot! I'm trying not to depend on seeing the purple color when I prep now. As the glue sticks get older, the purple color is less intense anyway (keep those caps on, even if not "snapped" tight, when not gluing!).
See the little purple handled tool above? If you don't know about these, this will change your appreciation of the needle tip applicator for the Roxanne's. It is a "Lil' Stick" by Fasturn, and you can order a set of 3 of them for $3.50 from P3 Designs. They are great for clearing the tip when it gets clogged! Order a pack and share 2 of them with your friends.
Hopefully your local quilt shop carries Roxanne's glue baste. If not, you can order it from Colonial Needle. It is offered in the big bottles with the needle tip applicator or smaller bottles. I like both, although I think my "dot-dot-not-a-lot" dots are smaller with the needle tip applicator. But the tip on the smaller bottles requires less maintenance.
I like to use YLI silk thread for hand applique. It is very fine...sometimes it feels like I am stitching with human hair, LOL! It may be old fashioned, but I coat my thread with beeswax...it makes it a little better about knotting and protects the thread a bit from the rigors of being repetitively pulled through the fabric layers (thanks Barb of Fun With Barb!). It runs $5.00-5.50 a spool and many LQS carry them. There are other brands of silk...like Clover, but I have not used them.
I used to use cotton thread, which now seems as thick as rope after using the silk. I would dutifully match thread color with every applique piece and it was difficult to make invisible stitches. With silk, I don't have to match colors unless I just want to...usually a range of neutrals will suffice. I do have some colors though...they are like quilter's sugar-free candy!
Silk, being so fine and slippery compared to the fibrous cotton, makes me "knot off" my sewing a little differently when it is time to stop stitching, make a knot and trim the thread. I take an extra stitch or so in place in the backing behind the applique piece before making my knot. After knotting, I take some running stitches in the hidden backing before cutting my thread (sometimes first in one direction and then back in the other). I just want to make sure my stitching doesn't come unraveled over time. It takes no time to take a few extra stitches for peace of mind. I just sort of made this up as I went along - if anyone else has a better suggestion, I'd love to hear it! Here's the back of one of my appliqued baskets.
I generally take extra little stitches on pointy things and in tight turns and corners...just for added security.
After stitching everything down, I am ready to get rid of the glue. The glue stick glue is the easiest to remove, especially once you are comfortable with the technique and are using the minimum amount of glue. The Roxanne's glue baste requires a few minutes of soaking.
...now you don't.
I GENTLY squeeze and release, squeeze and release the pieces while they are in the water to help facilitate glue dispersal. I also change the water a few times to make sure I'm not just taking the concentrated little glue dots and spreading them into a fine glue glaze...LOL.
On bigger globs of glue, sometimes I squeeze and release with my thumbnail right on the glue dot, just to gently target, agitate and facilitate the dissolving of the glue. I usually soak block for a while before helping with my hands! Especially if the Roxanne's has been there a while.
(I usually wait to cut behind the bigger applique pieces until after I have washed the glue out, but this time I trimmed a couple first.)
Once I am satisfied that the glue is mostly gone, I roll the piece up in a clean, dry towel and GENTLY squeeze to remove water. NEVER wring or twist as this would put stress on your applique stitches and cause your block to get out of shape.
Now I spread a towel on my pressing surface, smooth my block with the right side DOWN, and press with a dry iron to dry and re-shape the block.
OK, on with prepping pointy, narrow, skinny, tiny, the weird, and reverse appliqued pieces. I picked an album block for demonstration purposes with rounded pieces intentionally because roundy things are faster and easier, at least to me. I have no problem navigating curves and the tiny pleats necessary to keep things round and smooth.
Then I miter trimmed the bulk with my scissors...
The point of the heart is done the same way, along with clipping the top cleft.
Stars are a little tricky, even the less pointy ones because of the tight curves. I clip twice in each star angle for these folk art stars so I get a smooth inner curve.
I glue from clipped angle to clipped angle and take them one "point" at a time.
For pointy stars, I work from point to clipped angle.
I either carefully trim the bulky excess (away from tip)...
...or I wait and stitch one side of each tip, then (in needle turn fashion), I stuff the bulk under as I stitch down the other side of the point. If I am going to do this, I am careful not to glue the bulk down. I use my thumbnail to pry it loose while my glue is still damp.
It looks a little messy until stitched.
You can see the folded bulk here, hanging down and ready to be stuffed while stitched.
I love skinny stems, especially on small blocks!
I treat square corners either of 2 ways. I either just do side by side, them miter/trim the bulk at the corner...
...or I do the tri-fold thing I do on leave and heart points...
(the tri-folded corner is the bottom right corner below...the upper right corner was done the first way and is waiting to be trimmed)
Some shapes require reverse applique to gain the proper perspective. In this, I create a little peep hole, then, eventually, place another fabric beneath it, in the window.
The outer edges are done the regular way...
...then I clip inside curves and glue to create the little peep hole.
I usually press pieces lightly between gluing and glue-basting/stitching so that my pieces are completely flat. If you are worried about excess glue, put a scrap between the iron and your nice, neat pressing cover!
Nice and crisp...just the way I like them!
How about circles? They are a little messy. I find it easiest to get a completely round circle by gluing all the way around before starting to fold the edge over. If your circle is smaller than the end of your finger, this means there is very little unglued area for your finger to hold the circle.
This circle is smaller, and I think the lighter color will make it easier to actually see what I've done.
Now you can see the tiny pleats. A really small turn under allowance makes this pleating process easier and neater, but don't trim away too much...then you have to deal with fray.
OK...now the weird. I have found these damn bird/chicken feet the hardest thing I've tried...with either hand applique method! It takes a combination of all methods to make it work...and sometimes some "fowl" language. (yuck-yuck-yuck)
I blunt my points a bit to get rid of some bulk and clip the angles at the...ankles (?)...
These feet aren't for the faint of heart...there is no shame in using embroidery, ultra suede, or simply screaming (or hiding bird feet under extra leaves).
To sum up, I love this method! The one thing I have not figured out yet is how to do this on scrappy pieced backgrounds, which I love. Seams sewn with cotton thread tend to pucker when wet, so I think the soaking part would make me scream (and the subsequent trying to make the block beautifully flat and straight). The purple glue stick is supposed to be acid free and archival quality, but I am still a little freaked out my leaving it in, especially on heirloom quality quilts.
When I did my Civil War Bride Quilt, I also ran into the problem of connecting appliqued borders when they are machine pieced around corners...hmmmm. I got around this by appliqueing my borders separately, washing, trimming to size, sewing onto the quilt, then bridging the corner by using the needle turn method to applique the pieces that go over the machine seams.
If anyone has any ideas how to deal with doing this on pieced backgrounds, let me know!! Let me know how this all goes for you!