back-basting: single layer

**just a reminder: the following tutorial is property of the blog owner.  it is here for your viewing pleasure as well as to help you learn this really cool technique (it really is cool).  you are permitted to print off 1 copy for your own personal use.  HOWEVER, you are NOT permitted to distribute or publish in any way without my permission.  if there are any questions, feel free to email me at:    i’m more than happy to freely share, as long as we all play nice. ** 

okay…now to the good stuff!

over the years i have used numerous applique methods..and there are so many of them.  i can’t say that i was ever 100% satisfied with any specific method of prepping either.   

after looking over the method itself (called ‘back-basting’), i could see where it would be very useful in making the ‘virtues’ quilt, but i still wasn’t ready to jump in.  my hope was to find someone to actually show me how to do it.  unfortunately most people i asked had never even heard of it.  once again, i was on my own.

after i muddled my way through it, i found (much to my surprise) that i really really liked it.  really.  it has so many advantages over the other methods and it really doesn’t take all that long.  it seems like it would, but it doesn’t.  i see myself using this method a lot.  i like it so much that i decided to try and convert some of you. i’ve spent the past week working on taking pics of various stages of a work in progress just so that i could show you how cool it is and then everyone would think that i’m so smart and brilliant and want to do it to.  i’m also going to make a separate page for this and the link for it will be on my sidebar listed under the “more” heading. 

before we get started, i need to sing the praises of this method:

*you don’t have to mess with overlays, glue (and the fabric stiffness from it) or pins when your working on your applique

*your applique work is flat when completed.

*to me, it makes applique work so much more portable.  i just baste on several pieces at once and then am able to work on it when i have the time.   

*i waste less fabric with this method

* i don’t have to worry about things shifting (since it’s securely basted down) or the glued pieces coming undone.

*i know  that my work is *exactly* where it’s suppose to be since i have the whole pattern traced onto the back of my work.  no surprises when i go to add a flower or a bud and have my stem (that is already all appliqued on) way off.

*you don’t have to worry about finding just the right marking pen/pencil for all of your pieces of fabric.  all you need is one that shows up well and you’re good to go.

*you don’t have to trace out a zillion different pieces (and having all the marking pencils show up/stay on until you applique).  once you trace off your pattern to the back side of your background fabric, you’re done with marking.

are you convinced yet?  wonderful.  let’s get started then.

Step 1 by you.

1.  first you need to trace off your pattern onto a piece of freezer paper or the paper of your choice.    make sure that you make the lines dark enough to be seen through a layer of fabric.  also have your background fabric cut to the size you need (plus a few extra inches) and crease it lightly to find the center.

step 2 by you.

2.  now you are going to lay out your freezer paper pattern out on your table with the pattern facing up.  next you are going to lay your background fabric wrong side up on top of your pattern.  match up the center of your fabric to the center of your pattern and then pin there. smooth out your fabric making sure it’s all nice and flat.  pin the two layers (pattern/fabric) together with a few pins. *note:my project i show here is not a directional one.  placement is obviously different when you are dealing with a directional pattern.  not any harder, just different.

step 3 by you.

3.  take the whole unit (pattern/fabric pinned together) and place it on a light box and trace off the full pattern onto your fabric. remember, you have the wrong side of your fabric facing up.  in my example i’m using a solid fabric, so it’s hard to tell the difference, but save yourself some frustration and make sure that you have the unit pinned together with the wrong side of your fabric facing up . (can you tell that i’ve flubbed up this incredibly easy point before?) make sure to be accurate in your tracing.  no need to rush it.

step 4 by you.

4.  once you have your full pattern traced off onto the wrong side of your fabric, it’s time to decide what will is your bottom layer/first part to applique.  in my project above, it’s the princess feathers.  i then put a few pins on the outer parts of the piece just for reference for in step 5.

step 5 by you.

5. now flip your fabric to the right side facing up.  if you put pins in like i suggested at step 4, you can now see the outline of your applique piece you’re working on.  helpful, huh?

step 6 by you.

6. take your chosen piece of fabric for your first applique piece (mine just happens to be red) and plop it down on top of the background fabric making sure that you have covered the pins and still have a little bit of extra space for your turnover allowance.  once you have it in place, pin it onto your background fabric. *helpful hint:  i’ve found that if you use some magic sizing (or starch, if that is your preference) on this piece of fabric it is helpful in showing your ‘dots’ better.  obviously do it before you pin it onto your background fabric.

step 7 by you.

7.  i like to double check at this point to make sure that i have the applique fabric (red) completely covering my drawn pattern with space for turn-under.  you can hold it up to the light or plop it on your light box again.

step 8 by you.

8. here it is (wrong side of fabric showing), all pinned and ready to go.

step 9 by you.

9. now it’s time to baste.  you want to use a heavy cotton thread that stands out against your chosen fabric.  you also want to use a larger eyed needle.  what i’ve found that works best for me is size 20 thread and a large embroidery needle.  the reason for this is you want to make little ‘dots’ on your fabric while you are basting it onto your background fabric (gotta love multi-tasking!).  if you use a thinner thread and a regular sewing needle, you won’t get those ‘dots’ that will be guiding you when you are working on your applique.  i’ve heard of others having good luck with a large straw needle and some quilting thread.  experiment to see what works best for you.

step 10 by you.

10.  this is not the time to be trying to get 15 stitches to the inch.  you are going to be using a running stitch and stitch right on the drawn pattern line.  the piece i’m working on has large pieces, so i can be pretty generous with my stitches.  if you have smaller pieces, leave a smaller space between the stitches.  i find it helpful to stitch closer (but still using a larger stitch) where there are inside curves.  again, be accurate in this step since this is forming your guide when doing your applique.

step 11 by you.

11. baste the entire applique piece.

step 12 by you.

12.  all basted and not going anywhere.

step 13 by you.

13. now it’s time to applique.  i prefer to cut away the excess fabric as i go (as needed) instead of doing it all at once (saves from it possibly fraying).  pick a place to start and clip one or two of your basting threads.  this is where you’ll see your little ‘dots’ that were formed by your heavy thread and large eyed needle. using the needle turn method, fold under your fabric using those ‘dots’ as your guide (note:  i tried to get a good shot of the ‘dots’ on my piece but my camera just couldn’t quite figure out what to focus on.  i personally think everyone needs to email my husband and let him know that i need a macro lens for my camera now instead of waiting until christmas. it would be so helpful right now.) 

step 14 by you.

14. you will find that the fabric folds under easily thanks to the basting thread that went through it.  only clip one or two basting stitches at a time.  what i do is take a few applique stitches almost right up to my basting stitch (when i can’t fold under any more fabric), and then i clip.  these are your guides…don’t take them out too soon.

that’s all there is to it!  now, really…stop laughing.  i know that it *looks* like this is a time intensive process, but it’s really not any more than any other method.  i just took a lot of pics so as not to confuse anyone. 

if you think this is cool (it is…admit it), wait until you see how nifty it is when you are need to applique some layers, like flowers.  you’ll love it even more then.  i plan on showing you how as soon as i get to that point on this specific project (i’ve done it on my ‘virtues’ quilt but don’t want to be changing examples on you now.  may end up confusing someone.).  it’s very slick, take my word for it.

a few additional tips that i have found helpful:

*i use straw needles for applique.  for years i used regular hand applique needles, but this spring i decided to be adventurous and give the straw needles a try.  they’re *wonderful*.  i get mine here.

*when you’re cutting away the background fabric be very careful not to cut into your background fabric!!  yes, i’ve done it and it’s painful.  since i’ve changed scissors, i’ve had absolutely no trouble (but i’m still very very careful).  the ones i use now are 3 1/2″  gingher serrated scissors and i love them.  you can find them here. (shown about 3/4 of the way down the page.)