An easy method for turned edge applique - only basic sewing setup needed

    I always find a handmade cotton fabric appliques very adorable. To make them, however, is rather challenging and very time consuming. Most frequently people do raw edge machine applique  that is the easiest and the quickest technique. Still, I personally do not like loose threads hanging from such an appliques and I doubt their durability when used on heavily worn and washed items such as clothing or bedding.
    Turned edge applique overcomes these problems. There are several methods for effective edge turning for the applique Yet, all of them require specific sewing aids such as special adhesive webspray starch, fabric gluelightweight fusible interfacing, and sealing or mini iron. These supplies can get expensive or simply not always available in your local store, depending on your location.  


    Here I present a variation of a turned edge machine applique technique that works very well for me. This technique is simple, quick, professional and, most importantly, can be used having only very basic home sewing setup. I like it’s finished look and I am sure it will last without loosing its charm for many washes.


    To make an ultimate test for the technique, I will use my butterfly applique pattern from “Butterflies in the meadow” quilt as an example. It contains sophisticated shapes with concave and convex curves as well as sharp inner and outer points. To push this technique to the limit, I will use the smallest butterfly pattern, where butterfly silhouette is 8x10 cm (3.1"x4") and lower wing shapes are only 2.1x4.3 cm (0.8"x1.7").



    You will need: 

    • Printed or hand drawn applique design on a sheet of paper
    • Your favorite fabric
    • Matching thread
    • Home sewing machine
    • Regular iron
    • Fabric and paper scissors (use different scissors if you do not want to ruin your fabric scissors)
    • Sharp pencil or washable pen
    • Pins


    Step 1. Transfer the design

    Print the design and cut out the right sized pattern

    In this digital age it is often easy just to print an electronic pattern or scan and print a book page. Otherwise, transfer the pattern to the parchment paper. The shapes I use in this tutorial are very curvy and tiny, as you can read from the ruler in cm.


    Fold the fabric with the back side up and put the cut out patterns on 

    Leave space for 6 mm (1/4") seam allowance. When using fabric with a regular print be careful how you position the shapes. For the fabric print to be in the same direction on symmetric shapes, position pattern pieces symmetrically. 


    Trace the pattern onto the fabric  

    I use a simple pencil or washable pen for fabric at this step. 


    Step 2. Make the shape 


    Sew the shape 

    There are two ways to make an opening in the applique piece for turning it right side out. Most frequently, people use a seam ripper or scissors and make a slit in the light weight interfacing on the back side of the applique. Here I use fabric that is heavier than interfacing for both the front and the back side of the applique. Therefore, I prefer to leave an opening on the side of the applique piece to avoid any potential visible wrinkling of the back fabric after applique is attached and washed several times. And here is how to do that. 

    Find the most straight line in the shape (marked with pins). Start sewing at the end of such a line, at least a few stitches away from any sharp corners. (Unfortunately, this technique can not be used on circles, as they do not have any straight lines. So there I go with the slit in the back method). 

    Stitch around the traced pattern using a straight line stitch. Stop sewing at the other side of the straight line, leaving an opening to turn the shape right side out. Backstitch at both ends of the opening to prevent seam ripping while turning the shape right side out. Additionally, I also backstitch around very sharp inner point to reinforce the seam and prevent any fabric tearing when pushing the seam out. 

    Cut out the shape

    Cut out the sewed shape with the fabric scissors. Leave 0.4 - 0.6cm (1/4” - 1/8“) seam allowance. For smaller pieces, smaller seam allowance works better. 


    - Trim the excess fabric from the pointy outer corners.

    - At concave curves, cut into the seam allowance perpendicularly to the seam. Stop a thread or two away from the seam. For nice curvature, make multiple cuts 5 mm (0.4”) apart.

    - At very sharp inner corners, also called points, cut the fabric all the way to the seam. Make sure you do not leave a single thread, as this will result in a bulge of fabric after turning the shape inside out. Be super careful not to cut into the seam!


    Step 3. Turn the shape right side out

    Turn the shape right side out

    Carefully fold over the seam allowance at the opening and steam press it to reinforce the fold.


    Turn the shape right side out through the opening. With tiny shapes, such as wing shapes in this design (second image), it gets tricky to grab the shape with the fingers. Using tweezers can help a lot.



    Straighten the seam

    Using closed scissors, crochet hook, plastic cocktail stick or any other similar tool, press the seam from the inside of the shape and straighten it out. Carefully go through all the curves multiple times to get a nice shape. To fully turn out sharp outer corners, push with the pointy tool from the inside as much, as you can without poking a hole. Then pull the folded fabric with the needle from the outside. Finally, tuck in the seam allowance at the opening and iron to flatten the shape.



    Step 3. Attach the applique

    Pin the shapes to the background

    Pin larger shapes in place. For such tiny shapes, I simply hold them in place with my fingers. Make sure the background fabric and the applique are both flat and without any wrinkles.


    Stitch the applique to the background fabric

    In this example I attached wing shapes to the background butterfly silhouette using matching white thread and simple straight line stitch on my sewing machine. You can also use any decorative stitch and either matching or contrasting thread, depending on your liking. For invisible applique, hand stitch it or use blind stitch with invisible thread. While sewing, stop frequently to eliminate any fabric wrinkles.


    The result - professional applique without fraying edges in no time!

    Oh dear, the applique looks so adorable! No raw loose threads, all the seams are neat and nice, and it takes only a little longer, than a raw edge applique.


    Please, let me know, how do you like the technique and what is your experience in the comment section below!





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