Thursday, July 31, 2014

Applique - The Freezer Paper Method

There are many different methods of applique and they're all good for different reasons.  Today, I'm happy to share with you a quick tutorial on my favorite method of applique ~ The Freezer Paper Method!  This is the method I use 95% of the time and I like it for several different reasons.

Two of the main reasons I prefer this method over other methods 
is because:

1. The template is removed once the applique shape is prepared.
This is nice because there is no paper or other material left inside that needs to somehow be removed or is just left there 
to cause stiffness and bulk.

2. The shape is perfectly prepared before glue basting it in place.
This is nice because (A) you don't have to fiddle with and hope that you're needle turning skills will do the job and keep your shape looking as it should and (B) you can then position the shapes exactly where you want them and don't have to worry about your pieces shifting.

One downside to The Freezer Paper Method, is that it does require some prep work (but I don't really mind - my OCD tendencies like that part!)  Once you get your shapes prepared you are then able to take them with you in the car or or to a soccer game (or wherever!) and you're free to stitch away along the perfectly crisp edges you've already prepared.

So are you ready to try it out?

To get started you will need:

- Freezer Paper (which you can get at most grocery stores.  It is located by the wax paper and foil.)
- Spray Starch (I prefer the Faultless brand that you can get at most grocery stores.  I prefer the Regular Starch with the red lid but my store was out of it last time I checked.)
- a paint brush
- a small bowl or the starch lid
- a pencil
- scissors for paper and fabric
- basting glue (I prefer Appli-Glue by Jillily Studios)
- a pattern
- fabric for the applique shape and the background
- thread that matches the applique piece (I usually use 100% cotton, the Guitermann brand.  Some people prefer silk thread (it's nice too because it practically melts into your fabric but I've heard it's not as durable.)
- an applique needle (I use Milliners Size 11 Large Eye Needles by Richard Hemming & Son).

Step 1: Trace your pattern onto the paper side of freezer paper.

Step 2: Iron the freezer paper on top of two more pieces of freezer paper (paper sides up) to create one sturdy piece of template material.

3. Carefully cut out the shape.

4. Press the shape onto the wrong side of your fabric with paper side up.

5. Cut around the shape leaving a 1/4" - 3/8" seam allowance.

6. Spray a little bit of starch into a small bowl or the starch lid.

7. Use a small paint brush to paint some liquid starch onto the seam allowance.  Just paint a couple inches at a time.

8. Carefully press the seam allowance onto the paper side of the template - wrapping the fabric around the edge of the template (without bumping the template too much where it would bend or distort the shape).  If your shape has a strong curve to it you may want to make some small clips in the seam allowance about 1/2" apart (being careful NOT to clip right up to the template).  My orange leaf (here) has a gentle curve so it was not necessary to clip the seam allowance. Also, if your shape has a crevice (such as at the top of a heart) you will need to clip in there too.

9. Continue to press the seam allowance around the entire template.

10. If you end up with these little dog ears, simply fold the part that is showing back underneath the template and press in place.  Use starch for extra hold.

11. Carefully remove the template and press the applique piece one last time. 

12. Apply small dots of basting glue about 1/4" apart on the seam allowances.

13. Adhere the applique shape onto your background fabric and press with a warm iron to set in place.

14. Thread a thin, sharp needle with coordinating thread.  Make a quilter's knot at the long end.

15. Starting at the backside of your fabric, bring the needle and thread through the background fabric (under your applique shape) and out through the fold of your applique shape.

16. Then take one stitch through the background fabric (starting directly under the point where your needle came out before).  Bring the needle and thread back through the fold of your applique shape about 1/8" away from the first stitch.  Continue taking these stitches around your shape until you get back to your starting point. Tie a knot on the backside of your fabric and you're done!

That's it!  I hope that if you have never tried applique (or don't think you're very good at it) you will try this method.  Practice makes perfect!  And coordinating thread sure helps too!

Happy quilting!
~ Amber


Joyce Carter said...

Thank you, Amber, for your tutorial. I have always done needle-turn applique. I really like your method, especially the way you do the points. I had heard about freezer paper applique but I didn't know how it was done.It really makes your project so neat.I am definitely going to try this on my next project.

Dolly said...

What a very nice and thorough tutorial that was ! I know these things take time to prepare, photograph, and post, so I want to thank you for going to so much trouble. Kudos !

I haven't tried this method in all of my 30+ years of quilting. Is it difficult to remove the paper and still have a nice crisp folded-under edge?

Your Orange Peels look should definitely link this tute to the quiltalong if you haven't already.

ipatchandquilt said...

Thank you so much for explaining how this technique works!

Алена Богатова said...

Thank you, very interesting!!!

Kris said...

Really clear tutorial. I have tried this once and I have also done the reverse applique this way with a shape. It works really great too.

Stephanie said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial, this looks far less intimidating than i thought and I'm going to give it a whirl! Thanks Amber! You ROCK!

Julierose said...

Oh I like freezer paper method, too...I like your idea of sticking 3 pieces together--thanks a lot! hugs, Julierose

Anne said...

Close up picture of the Appliqué stitches is much appreciated. Gives me a good visual for your instructions. Thanks for taking the time to make this marvelous tute.

Quiltedtime said...

It's nice to see what you do with the dog ears. Sometimes, I fret so much over trying to hide the dreadful things.

grammajudyb said...

Great tutorial! Very easy to see every step.

Victoria said...

I agree with all the comments about how well you presented the tutorial.
I would just like to add that I think your scrappy look is coming together so well. There really is an art to that. I like every one of the fabrics that you have included. The combination sends a bright, cheery message.

nanita said...

Muchas gracias por compartir. Saludos.

Tiffany said...

This is perfect, thank you! I think the triple layer freezer
Aper and the extra starch around just the edges are probably what makes all the difference! I think I could maybe try this now!

Amy's Crafty Shenanigans said...

Awesome - just the tutorial I needed!!

Amber Johnson said...

Nope! It's super easy to remove the freezer paper. But I like to give it one more spray and press just to fix anything that may have got disrupted when I pulled it out.

Glad you liked the tutorial. Thanks!


Amber Johnson said...

Glad you liked it! I hope you'll try it next time!

Happy quilting!

Amber Johnson said...

You're welcome! Hope it helped!


Amber Johnson said...

I've never tried reverse appliqué. Seen it done, but never tried it myself.

Amber Johnson said...

Oh glad you stopped by Stephanie! I hope you'll try it - and like it :)

Amber Johnson said...

I think the three layers is really nice. I've done it with two before but kind of prefer 3 to help the edges from turning over.

Amber Johnson said...

Good! I'm glad it helped.

Happy quilting!

Amber Johnson said...

Yes, they can be little buggers :). I think this way makes them easy to tackle though.

Amber Johnson said...

Thanks! Glad you liked it!

Amber Johnson said...

Aw, thanks. I love scrappy quilts!

Amber Johnson said...

Yes, you can do it!! And I really think the extra spray of starch after pulling out the template - really helps.

Amber Johnson said...

You're welcome! Hope it helps!


gracie said...

I am a novice quilter who always likes learning. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I may give it a try.

good4life said...

sweet little tutorial! i don't know why, but applique scares me. your tutorial sure takes all the guess work out of it. i suppose it inspires me to try it out! thanks for sharing :)

Melissa said...

I've been putting off applique because I just couldn't picture it. I'm now kind of excited to try it. Thanks for inspiring me and I'm sure many others to try it!

Lorette Cole said...

Amber, you can make it even easier using Cheri Meineke-Johnson's Cool Tool instead of a big iron! It's fantastic when working with small pieces and imperative for not getting burned fingers. See here:

I love this tool and sell it in my shop! Love your tutorial...

Kathy ... aka Nana said...

Thank you SO much for this tutorial! I want so badly to try my hand at applique ... I took a needle turn class, and I could just not get my edges to turn under properly ... my heart looked like anything BUT a heart! This sounds perfect!! Now I need to go find an applique project to work on! Thanks again!

iris said...

Thanks for the tute
So freezer paper just as a pattern not to stick over your material
better than cardboard ?
I am asking because i don't find it easily here or expensive.

Amber Johnson said...


The freezer paper can be pulled off your fabric and will be removed after you're done preparing the applique piece (and before basting it onto your background fabric). You just use it as a template to press your fabric around. I prefer it over cardboard because it is thinner so you can get crisper edges. I have used cardboard in the past though, so use that if it works better with your budget and is more convenient to find. Also, when I first started appliqueing many years ago, my grandma taught me to first put tin foil down, then my fabric, then my cardboard and then I would press with a hot iron (so that the foil would wrap around my fabric and cardboard template). I think that would help to trap the heat in and make crisp edges around the template.

Good luck!

Laura said...

Hi, Amber, What kind of glue are you using? I like the small dots of glue you're able to use! Thanks in advance.

Amber Johnson said...


I use Appli-glue from Jillily Studios.

Good luck!

linnellbelle said...

Thank you! I've never used freezer paper before today. I'm making a quilt that uses freezer paper appliqué and the instructions in the pattern book are a bit vague. I googled and found your description. It's perfect! I'm so happy you took the time to create this post. You've saved my quilt:) Thanks again!

Amber Johnson said...

Yay! So glad I could help!


kell10 said...

Just started a project for this type of applique and I love it. Very clear tutorial here and I will add yours to my faves so I can find it easily. So much fun to do.


Unknown said...

Amber, the Orange Peel you've made is so cute! This, too is my favorite way to applique. I would add one thing that I use that keeps my fingers from getting scorched by the iron and also helps with the turning while pressing---a stiletto or awl. I love using that and it keeps my fingers out of the way. I got mine at my local shop. You may use one, too, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I really enjoy your projects!

Leann in Garland, TX

blogger said...

Amber, your Orange Peel is so cute! I've wanted to make one for a long time and this post has inspired me. I love this method of applique, too, and I wanted to tell you that I use a stiletto when turning the fabric to keep my fingers out of the way of the iron and also to help get the edge of the fabric down smoothly. It works wonders. Quilt shops have them and you may use one, yourself, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Love your blog!
Leann in Garland, TX

Tracy Clark said...

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! I too love your fabric choices for your quilt. Your tutorial was thoughtful and easy to understand.

Bonnie Anderson said...

Amber, do you wash out the basting glue after you have finished stitching your applique? If so, how do you do that?

Amber Johnson said...

No I don't wash out the glue after I'm finished stitching. It's just in the seam allowances so it doesn't interfere with anything. The kind I use (Appli-glue by Jilllily Studios) is washable glue so if you end up washing your quilt then it will probably dissolve.

Hope that helps!