Updated: Apr 11, 2020
I have completed many Needle Turn Applique and English Paper Piecing Quilts.
I don't have a lot of spare time so I like to find the easiest and quickest way of making any project, so these are some of the tips & techniques I have used. These can be applied to make many English Paper Piecing and Needle-Turn Applique projects. I hope you find them helpful!
The techniques, tips and pictures come from the making of my Antique Sampler Quilt using a pattern designed by Sue Daley
In this quilt there are 64 small blocks and 9 large blocks. The blocks are English Paper Pieced or Needle Turned appliqued.
English Paper Piecing
I have bulk cut my fabric shapes where possible, cutting around the paper shapes with scissors with a stack of fabrics. If I needed 6 pieces I would cut six at once. I just eyeballed a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
If however I wanted to fussy cut the fabric I would do this one piece at a time. You don't need to be perfectly accurate with these pieces because they are folded over the paper shapes
I also used the acrylic templates that came with my pattern to cut out fabric. You can layer the fabric and cut many at a time or again fussy cut with the templates.
Preparing the Paper Shapes
I used a Sewline Fabric Glue Pen to glue my fabric to the paper shapes making sure I firmly folded the fabric over.
Stitching The Shapes Together
When I stitched my shapes together I tried various needles and thread.
The thread that gave me the best results was the Bottom Line thread.
This is a semi-translucent thread that disappears and blends into your fabric. It is strong and doesn't fray or break as you drag the thread
against the paper shapes. I used a neutral colour for all my shapes regardless of fabric colour. Cream, grey or taupe work really well. You can purchase this thread on a 1420yd spool or in small bobbins - called Superbobs.
The needles I like to use are the Clover Black Gold No.9 Quilters Betweens or Sharps. I know others use Milliners needles but I find them too long for the overcast stitch. You can also use regular Golden Eye No. 9 Quilters Betweens.
The clover needles have a black coating that makes them glide more smoothly through the fabric.
I use the Bohin Applique No 12 short needles for the applique as they are smooth and the smaller size only takes very small bites from your fabric.
Once my paper shapes were complete I sprayed them with a spray starch called Mary Ellen's Best Press.
This is a terrific starch spray that does not leave any white residue on your fabric and it has a pleasant smell. This also gave my shapes some body.
When I removed the papers my turned under edges remained in place and my pieces retained their shape.
Appliqueing Finished Shapes
My pattern required me to then applique the shapes onto a background fabric.
I used Roxanne Basting Glue to secure my piece rather than pins. Its a water soluble glue and you only need to use little drops around the piece. It dries fairly quickly or if you are like me and you don't want to wait then you can iron the piece to dry the glue faster. Stitching is easier without pins to catch on your thread.
I then stitched this onto the background using your applique or blind hem stitch. The Bottom Line thread is perfect for this along with the No.12 needles.
Needle Turn Applique
I was never a big fan of needle turn applique because I was never happy with the end results.
I started using a product called Polyfuse. This is a iron on wash away interfacing product. I trace my applique shapes onto the non shiny side of the Polyfuse and then cut out carefully on the line.
The shape is then ironed to the wrong side of the fabric. You can see through the Polyfuse so you can be fussy about where you place it to incorporate a particular feature of your fabric.
I cut around my shape a little less than 1/4 inch and clip any inward curves.
Using my glue pen and I glue around the shape on the fabric and Polyfuse. I fold over the edges of the fabric and the glue will hold it in place.
The best part of using this product is that you leave it in the quilt. Once washed most will wash away and the rest becomes soft, leaving a little bit of body on your piece.
Once the shapes are completed I glued them to the background fabric using the Roxanne's Basting Glue to secure them to my piece and appliqued them in the same manner as my paper pieced shapes.
Creating the Circles
Once my pieces were appliques I created my circles and appliqued them to my Dark background squares.
This is different to how Sue does it in her pattern. I cut my circles 6 inches.
Make a running stitch around the circle.
I inserted a 5inch circle made from Mylar template plastic. This plastic can be ironed. I pulled the thread up tight, sprayed with Best Press and ironed the circle
The template plastic is then removed. The circle can now be glued to the background square and
All my blocks have been completed and the quilt top has to be put together.
The final step is to put on the scallops and border!