Popular Applique Shapes

Learning how to handle applique shapes is not difficult but it is a deliberate, carefully thought out applique quilting technique.


This valentine design from the Fons & Porter's "Love of Quilting" magazine in 2006 uses popular applique designs like hearts and flowers to produce this form of art quilting.

The minute I saw the art quilting kit I ordered two. The second, just in case I messed up on the first one.

Applique Shapes 

art quilting


I gotta tell you, since my first go-round, I have turned applique shapes into beautiful fabric cards many times.

This is an easy applique procedure that uses small applique shapes.

When you enjoy working with small fabric applique shapes it is a good way to occupy your hands when watching television or traveling to the next quilt show.

The involvement of fabric is what intrigued me so much about this valentine.

I liked the technique and the design was exactly what was needed for the special one in my life!

applique supplies

The fabric kit contains everything you need with the exception of the instructions which you get from the magazine. There is a matching envelope with full instructions too. If you order the kit make sure the instructions are included.

If you don't get the magazine, demand it...worth every penny!

For the traditional way to make beautiful handmade cards, gifts and scrapbook pages that use paper and card stock here are more ideas at Card Making Magic that applies award-winning techniques using high-quality products.

Quilting Templates or Freezer Paper

how to applique

Instead of using a fusible product to prepare our applique shapes we will use cardboard quilting templates, plastic templates or freezer paper templates.

The stitching will be very fast but the preparation of the quilting templates can be very time consuming.

Each element of the design needs to be separated from its counterpart. Using your original pattern image as a guide and a light box, trace each unit in the design by separating the pieces. We give you an in depth understanding of how to applique.

Do not trace the entire design as one unit thinking that you can cut each unit apart accurately. It is important that you do not sacrifice accuracy for speed.

If you think that you can go ahead and trace the pattern as one unit and then cut apart the pieces, you will soon realize that it is difficult to cut perfect edges on both sides of a single line; better to take a few extra minutes and avoid any frustration.

Be sure you are tracing each unit of the original design onto the dull side of a piece of freezer paper (not the shinny side).

Applique Quilt Pattern

quilting template

Working from a card board quilting template...

you are now ready to apply one of two possible applique procedures with the pattern of disjointed units.

  • Create a rigid hard template by pressing your pattern of disjointed units applique shapes onto a piece of tagboard, manila file folder, cardboard, index card or plastic template material. The freezer paper will stick to the tagboard;
  • Next, very carefully, and I can't stress the word carefully strong enough, accurately cut out the hard tagboard units exactly on the line. Guess what, if you boo-boo you must make a new quilting template for that unit;
  • A hard tagboard template is useful when multiples of the same pattern piece are needed;
  • Tracing around a hard template is more accurate. The edges on the hard template remain somewhat crisp after repeated drawings;
  • Hard templates are useful when pressing the fabric edges over the template edges forming a nice stitching edge (more on this later);
  • Also, this first method makes semi-permanent templates from tagboard for your pattern files. Eventually they will show wear and will be non-usable. If you are a 'saver' mark them well or you will soon have a great deal of confusion;
  • Once the tagboard applique shapes are made and cut out, they can be used to trace the shapes onto freezer paper to be used in your project;
  • Mark front on the freezer paper as a reminder for units that need to be traced both face up and reverse image;
  • Next identify and mark any edges with a string of X's that act as extensions and will not be turned under, such as the ends of a stem or the inside curves of petals that another piece sits on top of.
  • This string of X's will remind you of those units that will be an under-lay in which the edges will not be turned under.
  • Whether a design is symmetrical or asymmetrical, it will affect the way the pattern units are laid on your fabric; either face up or face down for a mirrored image.

Working From a Freezer Paper Template...

I'm a freezer paper junkie as it can cut down on preparation time. Tracing each and every piece for your project can be very time consuming plus it requires a steady hand and coordination.

So, I do it one time and then I let the copy machine do the repeat work for me. Here is the second possible way to handle the freezer paper copy of the disjoined pattern units you just drew.

  • Freezer paper is a modern marvel especially when coupled with a copy machine;
  • Turn your copy machine on as it may take a couple of minutes to warm up;
  • Place the copy of the various disjoined units face down on the scanner glass;
  • Cut a piece of freezer paper the same size as a 8 1/2 by 11-inch piece of copy paper;
  • Use a paper cutter, if you have one, for an exact even cut. A dull rotary cutter and ruler will work too;
  • Place the cut freezer paper with the coated side down, on top of a plain piece of 8 1/2 by 11-inch copy paper;
  • I sometimes press the plain paper and the freezer paper together using a medium setting on the iron for 2-3 seconds to slightly stick the two pieces together for an even feed through the copier;
  • Using the manual feed slot, slowly insert the two papers into the copy machine with freezer paper on top. You will feel a slight grab as the feed rollers pick up both sheets of paper simultaneously for a slow even feed;
  • If the machine does not print automatically, push the 'print' button;
  • The image should be printed on the freezer paper (not the copy paper);
  • Gently pull the two papers apart. The heat from the copier will cause them to stick together but that does not affect the freezer paper's ability to stick to fabric;
  • This technique is especially good when you need a separate freezer paper template for multiple units of the same image such as leaves.

After you have made your choice for using either no.1 or no.2; 

  • One, a hard ridged template or
  • Two, a freezer paper template

you are ready to prepare the fabric applique shapes for your project.

Procedure #1 
(Glued Edges over Freezer Paper)

We are ready to cut the applique shapes of our pattern out using either our hard tagboard templates or our freezer paper templates. Or some of both; your Choice.

This is the first of five applique procedures for turning the seam allowance over the edge of the template. Any one of the five quilting ideas listed here is easy and your individual preference will be the deciding factor.

  • If you are using a tag board template, carefully trace around each unit needed onto the dull side of freezer paper;
  • If you are using freezer paper templates you can eliminate the tracing step. Simply make the necessary number of copies needed using the copy machine technique;
  • Cut all pattern pieces out making a smooth and even cut. Remember, if your template is rough your finished project will be rough;
  • Gather up your selected pieces of fabric to be used for each of the applique shapes of your design;
  • Using a moderate hot iron (cotton setting) press your applique shapes onto the fabric making sure that the freezer paper sticks firmly;
  • Using small sharp scissors cut around the applique shapes adding a weak 1/4-inch seam allowance on all sides of the shape. It is important to keep the seam allowance as close to 3/16-inch as possible. This makes the applique procedure of turning under the seam allowance smooth and eliminates unnecessary tucks and points as well as clipping and fraying on the edges;
  • Using a fabric basting glue stick, apply a coating of glue to the seam allowance and the width of the seam allowance on the freezer paper;
  • Clip inside curves as well as heart cleavage curves just shy of the paper template. Leave one or two threads unclipped;
  • With a 3/16-inch seam allowance outside (convex) curves do not need clipped;
  • Either use a glue stick to glue the seam allowance or you can also finger press and then use tip of iron to press;

  • Whether gluing or pressing the seam allowance into position, to avoid unnecessary raveling be patient and do not pull or tug as this is a delicate and slow process. If pressing, finger press first and work with small increments. Watch the fingers as the iron can get hot. This may be a good time to use a Clover Mini Iron instead of the normal size iron. A travel iron will work too;
  • Start with a relatively straight edge, if possible, and gently roll the seam allowance over the freezer paper edge or the tag board edge;
  • When working with curves, pinch and twist at the same time using the tips of your thumb;
  • The pinch and twist applique procedure is similar to fluting a pie crust edge;
  • Remember the edges marked with X's do not get turned under;
  • Looking at the right side of the pieces, examine the edges to be sure they are smooth and perfect;
  • After stitching the applique shapes to the background you will remove the paper;
  • When using this method you will cut away the background fabric from behind the applique in order to remove the paper;
  • To do this turn the project over and cut the background fabric 1/4-inch inside the stitching for all the stitched pieces;
  • For any paper that has been left behind dampen the glued seam allowance with water using a spray bottle and carefully remove the left behind freezer paper.

Procedure #2 
Ironed Edges Over Freezer Paper

This is the second of five applique procedures for turning the seam allowance over the edge of the template.

This method does not use a glue stick nor will you have to cut out the backing. The first time I had to cut away the backing as in method one I nearly died!

  • With this method the shinny side of the freezer paper will face up, not down;
  • Place the freezer paper side of the template on the wrong side of the fabric;
  • The plastic side will be facing you;
  • Machine baste an X in the center of each template to secure to the fabric. Leave the thread tails long for quick removal. You can also pin the template in place but basting makes it easier to press;
  • Cut around each pattern leaving a 3/16-inch seam allowance;
  • Using the guidelines listed in the first applique procedure, clip the necessary curves and points;
  • You can now press the seam allowance over the edge of the freezer paper using the Clover Mini Iron or even a travel iron;
  • Position the unit on the background fabric and stitch in place. Stop 2-inches before the starting point. Using a pin, reach under the unit and pull the freezer paper out. This is easy as no glue has been used. Once paper has been removed finish stitching to the starting point.

Procedure #3 
Freezer Paper on Top of Fabric

This is the Third of five applique procedures. Since it is harder to get smooth even edges with this technique I limit this method to when I have multiple layers of fabric in the art quilting procedure.

  • Iron freezer paper to the right side of the fabric;
  • Cut out each piece leaving a 3/16-inch seam allowance;
  • Clip using the same techniques as outlined in the first step;
  • Apply glue on the wrong side of the seam allowance;
  • Turn the seam allowance over to the wrong side of the fabric;
  • Use the paper as a guide line. This will be difficult to do without a paper edge to assist in turning the seam allowance under;
  • Leaving the paper on, stitch the unit in place;
  • Remove the paper from the top once stitched in place.

Procedure #4 
TagBoard or Templar Templates

This is the Fourth of five applique procedures. Templates eliminate the need to trace individual pattern pieces onto freezer paper and there will be no paper to remove. But you will have to trace each unit for however many times you will need the unit when using this applique quilting procedure.

  • Using your template, trace each unit directly onto the wrong side of your fabric;
  • Add up to 1/4-inch seam allowance and cut each unit out;
  • Clip any necessary curves and points using the outline as described in method one above;
  • Place a small amount of spray starch in a bowl. Place the unit on a piece of waxed paper wrong side up and paint the stray starch on the seam allowance. The waxed paper will keep your ironing surface clean;
  • Lay the tag board or templar template on the wrong side of the fabric, matching the drawn lines;
  • Using your Clover Mini Iron or any hot dry iron, ease the seam allowance over the template edge and press. The starch, once dry, will form a nice crisp edge and allow you to remove the template with ease;
  • From the right side press again before you stitch to your design.

Procedure #5 
Using Wash-Away or Heat-Away

This is the final applique procedure technique. If you have a larger, fairly simple design without a lot of curves this is an excellent and fast way to turn the edges.

This method eliminates an extra layer of fabric. Sulky makes an excellent water soluble stabilizer that works nice for this technique.

  • Trace your applique shapes onto the stabilizer;
  • Then place the stabilizer unit on the right side of the fabric. Pin in place;
  • Machine stitch on the drawn line. The stitch should be about 12-14 stitches per inch;
  • Cut around the drawn line leaving a 3/16-inch allowance beyond the stitched line;
  • Clip curves and inside points using the suggestions listed in the first method;
  • Make a small slit across the middle of the stabilizer;
  • Turn the stabilizer to the wrong side of the unit (right side out);
  • Finger press the seam to smooth it and make it lie flat;
  • Do not use the hot iron on any heat-away product. You can lightly press the wash-away products;
  • Sew applique shapes to the background fabric and stitch in place;
  • Remove the water soluble products by spraying with water or submerging in cold water and press after it partially dries.



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