I never used to enjoy hand sewing at all. I think it can be a young thing, as I was always about getting lots done and fast. Hand sewing just didn’t appeal, as it felt like creating at a snail’s pace.
And it’s probably just that fact, that when I becaume a mum, and got busier and busier, I always had to get a lot done, and fast. Now I’ve come to really appreciate the slow side of stitching, because it forces you to take it slow. It’s much more about the process, and much less about the amount I get done.
One thing that’s never changed however, is that I really like doing my best work, and can’t help having a critical eye. I like being really satisfied with what I do, rather than just getting something done.
Over these last few years, I’ve learned a few things about how to make my needle turn applique look really polished. It’s not perfect, but that’s hand sewing for you. A beautiful blend of imperfections, done with care and skill.
I’m sharing 7 tips with you today, which are my top pointers for making your work look its best.
Tip #1 Thread
Start with the right thread. I had no idea when I began applique, that thread could make such a difference, but it really does.
A fine, strong thread like Superior Bottom Line, or Aurifl 80wt is perfect. It’s strong, doesn’t tangle and snag easily, and best of all, it disappears into the fabric, and invisible stitches are exciting!
Tip #2 Needles
Choose the right needle.
This goes hand in hand with the right thread. I use a fine milliners straw needle no 11. It makes minimal holes in your fabric, helping your thread hide even better.
Tip #3 Narrow seam allowance
Trim your seam allowances to about 3mm.
This amount of seam allowance is much easier to sweep under and manage. It also reduces the overall bulk of the finished shape.
Tip #4 Bias
The bias or stretchy direction of a fabric is your best friend on curves, as it naturally bends for you…
Place curved shapes like leaves and hearts along the direction of the bias, and notice how well it shapes to the curve without puckering. These leaves are all cut on the bias of the fabric, and look how curvy they are!
Tip #5 Sweep with your needle
Use a sweeping under motion with your needle, to catch the seam allowance and draw it underneath. Pinch the fabric between your thumb and index fingers to hold it in place when you’re happy with the shape. This is hard to demonstrate in a photo, so check out my video for a much clearer demonstration.
Bring your needle out of the fabric on the exact edge of the shape, NOT the top, and keep your stitches close together, less than 0.25in (6mm) for best results as well.
Tip #7 Internal corners
These are the trickiest part of needle turn applique to get neat and tidy.
You do need to snip your internal corner to the stitching line, which can expose some fraying that is not attractive.
I find that giving your corner an extra little push with the scissors is an excellent way to tuck in those loose threads, and help you secure that internal corner really neatly.
Remember that any skill takes time to learn and perfect, so be patient, and enjoy the process. You will enjoy seeing yourself improve, and you will be creating beautiful heirlooms of the future!