Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Downton Abbey binge-watching pays off...


Two more finished sets of three 6-inch hand applique blocks are done!  Can you tell that my Downton Abbey DVD arrived?!?  The first block is a Rose of Sharon spin-off...

...and the second, Lazy Susans.

From time to time, I get emails with questions about using glue for both turning my applique edges under and for "glue-basting" the little pieces to the background.  People are worried that the glue is harmful over time or really stiff-feeling.  Let me explain...

For gluing fabric edges under, I use Elmers 'Disappearing Purple' Glue Sticks, usually in the smaller size (0.21 oz).

The small size works great for many reasons:

  • The small stick is better on small pieces because it is less clumsy.
  • They are cheap!  If you leave the lid off and it dries out, they are less than a buck to replace.  I go through a stick pretty quick, but if one does get a little old and a little too hard to apply without pulling my fabric piece off the freezer paper, I just toss it and open another.  Did I say they were cheap??
  • The disappearing purple makes it easy to see where you have applied the glue (so that you don't use too much!).
  • They can be found almost anywhere...the grocery store, dollar store...anyone that sells school supplies.
  • If you do leave a little glue on your fabric, the glue is "archival quality" and won't hurt your fabric over time.
  • It is very easy to dissolve and wash out...of your project and off the surface on which you glue your pieces (I use rarely-used, specialty quilt rulers or Plexiglas pieces and just remove the dried glue with warm water).
(Steve recently brought me home the larger, 0.77 oz glue sticks, by accident and I am using is possible!)

I like to glue-baste my applique design pieces using tiny dots of washable glue.  This way, I don't have to deal with pins, which can fall out and I snag my thread on while stitching.  Initially, I always used Roxanne's Glue-Baste.

I like the Roxanne's because it dries just enough to secure very quickly and holds fast until soaked out.

But lately, I have been experimenting with Elmer's Washable School Glue.

  • It is cheaper.
  • It's easy to find...same places as the glue sticks.
  • It is thinner, easier to force out of a needle applicator bottle.
  • It dissolves faster and easier in water when I soak my blocks.

One drawback of the Elmer's...I have to be really patient to allow the pieces to stick together longer before moving or sewing than when using the Roxanne's, probably because it is thinner and has a higher water content.  If I am not patient, my pieces can come loose as I am stitching.

I found some plastic applicator bottles with a needle tip on Amazon...I still like that "dot-dot-not-a-lot" idea when I am applying glue.  I just transfer the Elmer's School glue into the empty applicator bottle.  That way I can better control the amount of glue so that I am not trying to stitch through too much dried glue!

So, I still use both the Roxanne's and the Elmer's to glue baste. When I am working on a bigger block with lots of pieces, or stitching some of my glued up motifs before placing them on my background, I like the security of the Roxanne's.

I like to use these little stabbers to clear the needle tip when it is blocked with glue.  They are sold by P3 Designs in bags of three.

I remove all the glue BEFORE trimming the blocks to size, as shown in the pictures posted below.  I start with my background squares cut a little larger than I 0.5 - 1.0 inch on each side, depending on the size of the finished block.

I soak them in water until the water remains clear and not cloudy when I gently squeeze the scrunched-up blocks (generally, just starting with warm water, squeezing to get them thoroughly wet, and leaving them overnight does the trick).  Then I replace the water in my bowl/sink until it remains clear.

Next, I gently squeeze most of the water out and roll them in a clean towel.

I place the first block a couple of inches from the bottom edge of the towel... 

...fold the towel over the block and roll, then add the next block...

and so on...

Ta da!

Now I gently squeeze the roll.

Next, I leave the blocks to air dry until they are just damp.

Now I put a clean hand towel over my pressing surface and put the block, right-side-down on the towel.

I press with my dry iron until the wrinkles are gone and the block is mostly dry.  (Because I pre-soak/dry and pre-shrink my fabric before using it, I do not worry about colors running or my work drawing up during this process.  I would like to think that all the block soaking would remove excess dye if you don't pre-wash your fabrics.)

I do this so that the applique design on the right side of the fabric has a nice, raised, dimensional look.  I know I was successful when I see the design pressed into the towel...(you can see it if you look closely!).  If you press on the right side, sometimes the design can get a shiny, unpleasant look.

Now I am ready to trim it down to the 6.5 inch square I need for my setting.

You can sort of see the raised dimensional aspect of the applique in the following close-ups...

Want to know something funny?  I accidentally glued one of my applique scenes on the WRONG side of the background fabric! (Don't worry Ola and Mary...I will keep that one...)  I did not notice this until I was pressing the blocks prior to trimming.

Right side of the background fabric...

Wrong side of the background fabric...

If you look really close, you can tell the block in the middle of the set of three is different.  Oh well, sometimes people use the wrong side of fabric on purpose!

I will not spoil things for any of you, but I just have to say how much I enjoyed the final episodes of Downton Abbey.  I did a little binge watching last night while stitching.  I am sad that it is all over, but I am excited that there is some talk about making some spin-off movies...

Happy Stitching!

Teresa   :o)


  1. Teresa this is a thought. Can you use a pressing cloth and a dry iron on your wet glued pieces to dry the glue faster so it is secure? I have not tried this use a sample that you don't care about and see how it works. Just a suggestion. Looks like you are getting back to using your hand well. Chris

  2. Lots of helpful information and suggestions in this post. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!

  3. Great tutorial. Motivates me to get applique going. Beautiful small stitching you have and I really like your block designs. Can't wait to see these quilts finished.

  4. Your applique is beautiful. I m glad you are back stitching again. I stayed away from the purple glue because I did not understand about it and did not trust it to disappear.
    Is it stiff to stitch through like the white glue?

  5. I use the glue the same way and get those sticks from P3 too, just my opinion but I think some quilters really over think using glue and marking pens way too much. I too soak the glue out like you do.

  6. As usual, your fabric choices caught my eye. Nice.

  7. OMG your stitches are so invisible! Thanks for all the closeups. Is there a reason you don't use the purple glue stick to baste the applique to the background?

  8. Thank you--this is like a little Masters Class in applique!

  9. Use a purple glue stick and Elmer's glue, too! Your applique, as always, looks gorgeous!! :)

  10. Thank you, thank you for this post. This has been so helpful for a newbie at applique I really learned a lot. Okay to pin on Pinterest so I can keep it?

  11. Great information! Thanks. I live in Waynesboro, 45 minutes north.

  12. Your blocks look great after the washing. It's nice to know that even an expert can make a silly mistake once in a while with putting something on backwards! lol. Ooh, you lucky girl getting to watch DA all the way through. I am faithfully watching each week, but missed week 3 or 4. Will have to wait until the library gets them in next year to see that week, but I am enjoying it immensely.

  13. Wonderful information! I am reluctant using glue, but the soaking part makes me more comfortable. THANKS!

  14. I use the Elmer's glue sticks, too. To glue down pieces as I go, I keep a toothpick handy and scrape a tiny amount of glue onto the tip, then place that on the back of my appliqué piece. I like the Roxanne glue if I'm gluing down an entire project. Will have to look into getting those empty bottles. Elmer's also makes a washable glue pen, but I felt like the glue came out a little too heavy. When I'm rinsing my blocks, I put a Color Catcher sheet in my bowl of water. I usually wash my fabrics (except precuts), but I have had some fabrics run when I've rinsed them. Thanks for all your suggestions. Your blocks are beautiful!

  15. Very informative. Thank you so much for sharing so much with us. I learned a lot. Hugs

  16. Thanks for the info:) Your blocks are stunning!

  17. Thanks for sharing this great information. Your blocks are great.

  18. Your little blocks are so colorful & cute!! This is going to be an outstanding quilt when done. Will we get to see your friends little blocks?? I took a class with Susan Garman & she uses Elmers glue too. It is hard to change some ideas, but this one makes so much sense. Goes a lot faster too!! I hate getting my thread wrapped around a pin. Drives me NUTS!! Glad you got you DVD.

  19. What a very informative post. Thank you. Your blocks are beautiful.

  20. I'm so glad Downton Abbey showed up because these are sensational! Thanks so much for the tutorial. I'm such a klutz with glue, but your applique is so beautiful, I just may give it a try!

  21. So glad to hear that you enjoyed Downton... I am watching it week by week on PBS here.
    Thanks for sharing all this information!

  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  23. Thanks for the good ideas, we tend to ar presently chaning our bedchamber and that i found some nice and new inspirations here Please visit Shop Online


Thanks for stopping by the quilt cave...I love your feedback!

I am sorry, but you need a Google account/Profile to pose a question or leave a comment. That is very easy to get (FOR FREE) at

Of course, you can click on my email and contact me there any time!

I am no longer able to accept comments from Anonymous readers...too much weird spam!