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Cardboard turn appliqué is a wonderful way to make simple shapes like flowers, leaves, hearts and those ever-frustrating circles come out absolutely perfect!!
Many sources are available for you to choose a shape to appliqué; cookie cutters, coloring books, books about appliqué - even magazines and posters have great shapes you can trace to make your appliqué designs, Lots of sharp points do not work well with cardboard turn, but, any type of curve or circle is a breeze!
To make your template, trace the design you have chosen on to heavy cardboard; framing matt works wonderfully. Oaktag is not really heavy enough to last, but even lightweight cardboard boxes make good template material. Draw the design twice, each far enough away from the other that you can add 1/4" seam allowance to one of the designs. There is a tiny little bronze-colored disc for marking 1/4" seam allowances that would work great here - or use whatever your favorite tool is for adding seam allowances. Cut out both the templates: one with no seam allowance and one with the seam allowance added.
Now lay the template WITH the seam allowance on the wrong side of your fabric. Trace around. I like to use a #2 sharp lead pencil; you could also use any marking tool such as chalk rollers, colored fabric marking pencils, chalk pencils, etc. Just avoid the blue or purple markers that disappear by themselves - these have been known to leave traces of themselves behind. Even the markers that wash out with water are questionable, so be on the safe side and use something else.
Then lay the NON seam allowance template on the design you have traced, centering so seam allowance is equal (or nearly so) on the OUTSIDE line
Using a doubled, knotted thread, baste around circumference of design, placing your stitches in the seam allowance you drew. Leave long threads at the end, Once done basting, lay the heavy cardboard template in the center of the fabric; tie off the ends of the thread securely, and give a final press.
Viola!! You will have a perfect circle - or a nice pointy leaf - or a heart with all its curves and points in the right places. And it's soooo simple!
To appliqué the design to your background fabric, use a fine quality matching thread. Silk thread is wonderful if you can get it; fine machine embroidery thread (60 wt.) works well; even a fine quality long staple cotton will suffice if you are careful with your stitches. Using a single, unknotted thread, bring your needle up from the back through the fold of fabric where the seam allowance is turned under. Hold on to the end of your thread for a few stitches, then secure it under the stitching later - Knots make bumps. If the point of your needle comes right up through the fold, your stitches will not show. Re-insert your needle into the background fabric, right underneath where you brought it out - making the tiniest of little stitches to hold your appliqué design in place.
Now that you can make any size, shape, or style of flower or vegetable that your quilt design heart desires, how about stems? Let's do BIAS STEMS.
1. Mark a 45 degree angle line on your fabric, a single line is fine. Use the 45 degree angle line on your quilting ruler, lining it up with the straight edge of the fabric. Cut across the fabric at this angle, making a bias edge.
2. Cut several strips of bias - how many depends on how long your vine or your stems will be. I generally cut mine 1 1/4" ; you may want fatter or narrower stems so adjust the width according to your preference. This strip will be folded in half. then stitched with a scant seam allowance, so be sure to allow yourself some room.
3. If the strips are long enough to do stems just as they are, then skip to step 4. If you need more length, seam the strips, RST, opposing the angles at the end and offsetting by 1/4". (Wish I had pictures I could show you!! Anyway - one angle will point up toward the left; the other point down toward the right. When you set the two together they will be 1/4" different on the outside raw edges; this is necessary with bias to make a smooth seam. Hope this makes sense!)
4. Press the bias strip in half, wrong sides together, pressing seams flat as you go. Do not use much steam, and be careful not to stretch the bias as you press.
5. Draw the design - vine, stem, whatever - on to your background fabric, using fabric markers as suggested above. Lay the bias strip with its raw edge slightly to the left of your drawn design, leaving about 1/8" of blank fabric in between , depending on how wide your strip is. Pin the vine or stem in place. A nice thing about bias - whatever curves or designs you can picture for your design will work, because bias bends nicely. The thinner the bias, the more of a bend you can get.
6. Stitch the bias in place, using a scant seam allowance. Be sure to catch both raw edges in your stitching.
7. Flip the bias strip over so it covers the design you have drawn and the seam you just made. The folded edge is now to the right of your drawn design, hopefully the bias is just about centered over the design. Pin in place.
8. Now appliqué the stem/vine in place as you did the cardboard turn appliqué above.
The cardboard turn method, as well as the bias stem method, can be used for invisible machine appliqué as well as hand appliqué, depending on your preference.
Now you're all ready to create a fabric flower garden of your own design - have fun, but don't neglect those outside *real* gardens totally, OK?
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