Hand appliqué tips and tricks

June 27, 2012

Even though we may be in love with the speed at which a machine allows us to quilt, many of us also relish the chance for a little “handwork” now and then. Trips in the car, waiting at the doctor’s office or even waiting on the kids are great opportunities to pull a little baggie from your purse and add a few stitches to an appliqué block.

Here are some tips that can make your hand appliqué easier to do while giving you great results:

  • Try using small 3/4-inch sequin pins to hold your appliqué patches in place on your background fabric. Your thread won’t tangle and snag on the pins as easily. Put the pins in from the wrong side to prevent any pin tips or heads from nabbing your thread.
  • To accomplish very small stitches, use very thin needles. Size 12 hand appliqué needles or size 10 Milliners needles are good. Thin needles glide through the edge of a fold smoothly, picking up only one or two threads of the appliqué patch at a time.
  • For basting appliqué patches in place, try a larger needle instead, such as a size 8 embroidery needle. The eye is quite large and easy to thread.
  • Quilt teacher and author Jeana Kimball recommends “needling the thread” rather than threading the needle. Usually you hold the needle in your left hand (assuming you are right-handed), you hold the thread with your right, and you try to aim the thread at the needle’s eye. If this doesn’t work well, try switching hands. Put the thread in your left hand, holding it between your thumb and your forefinger so that only about 1/4-inch is sticking up between your fingers. That makes it fairly stable. Holding the needle in your right hand, put the eye of the needle over the thread. Of course, lefties must do everything opposite, starting with the thread in your right hand.
  • One side of a needle has a larger opening than the other side. If you’re having difficulty threading a needle, try turning the needle around and threading it from the other side.