Category Archives: Glue stick/freezer paper template appliqué tutorial

Fantastic sewing tip!


I have been sewing on my wiggly turquoise heart for the past few days and the thumb on my right hand is getting sore from tugging at the needle – and much to my horror my wrist is beginning to feel a few twinges of pain.

The glue stick appliqué method is great – you get very smooth edges – but the downside is that the edge you are sewing through is stiffer than it would be if you were doing needleturn or back basting or any method that doesn’t involve glue or starch. I didn’t mention that in my tutorial did I?

Having said that – I have found the solution! Put a piece of Nexcare First Aid Tape on the thumb of the hand that holds the needle. It is very soft and pliable and molds itself to your thumb – you don’t even feel it. The tape is sort of cushioned and rubbery and it grips the needle tightly making it easy to pull through the fabric.

I have tried  those “finger gloves” and I could never get used to them. This tape is really “invisible” – I just don’t notice it.

I have used the other tape – 3M Transpore – for years on the tip of the pointer finger of my left hand – to avoid poking a bloody hole in the tip of my finger. I MUST feel the needle go through the fabric and touch my finger. I hand piece and take very small stitches and if I can’t feel the needle go through both layers of fabric I may very well just be going through one layer. The Transpore protects the fingertip but isn’t intrusive – it has little pores and feels like thick skin.

I have tried many types of fingertip protectors: thimbles, stick on circles, stick on ovals, and I find that all of them are too thick, too slick, too hard and the needle slips off. I like to feel that tiny “bite” on my skin so I  know I have sewn through both layers of fabric. You know where it is your needle hits – you probably have a callous or a raw spot – put a tiny square on that spot. When it wears through – change it.

Excuse the grubby tape – it’s been around awhile and has picked up a lot of lint.

Glue stick with freezer paper template on top tutorial

The method I am attempting to explain uses a glue stick and a freezer paper template ironed to the RIGHT side of the fabric. This way you never have to remember to reverse your shapes.

Iron your freezer paper template to the RIGHT side of your fabric (no seam allowances on the template.)  Use a VERY hot iron, no steam and a HARD ironing surface. The freezer paper MUST  be adhered well or it will separate from the fabric as you are turning the edges over.

For large or very complex shapes I  iron two sheets of freezer paper together to make a stiffer template. Clip the concave curves and the inside Vs. I leave an 1/8th of an inch seam allowance – a 1/4 inch is way too much fabric to have to deal with. The tucks are so big they are difficult to ease in.

clip concave curves

ironing setup

I made this little ironing pad especially for ironing freezer paper to fabric. It’s a  piece of 24″ x 24″ 1/4″ MDF – I covered it with a layer of batting, then a layer of white flannel – I stapled it all to the back. So I don’t mess up the flannel layer I cover the surface with a folded  piece of muslin – just tuck it under – no staples – I have several pieces and change them when they get all gunked up with freezer paper wax.

I have ironed countless pieces of FP to fabric for printing Inklingo. To avoid paper jams it is very important to have the FP well adhered to the fabric. But wait, I digress… we are not discussing Inklingo.


If you iron a lot of FP to fabric this is a fantastic iron. I have one in use and this is a spare – still in the box. I couldn’t do without this iron – it gets VERY hot and it doesn’t have any holes for steam so the soleplate has all over contact with the FP/fabric.

We can buy them here in Panama in the supermarket household stuff section for less than $30. They probably are not easy to find in the US – it is very old-fashioned. The iron gets so hot “the powers that be” have probably banned it – someone might sue because they got burned – or burned their house down because it does not have an automatic shut off if left unattended. I looked online and all the B&Ds Classic irons have steam. Anyway… enough about irons – back to the FP on top tutorial.

gluing set up

This is my “Gluing Station.” Really just my sewing table with the sewing machine removed for the photo shoot :-)

I put a piece of scrap paper under the fabric when I am applying the glue so it doesn’t mess up my table. After I apply the glue to the seam allowance  I remove the scrap paper and put a darker piece of paper under the fabric. If your tabletop is dark you don’t need the dark paper. The reason for the darker paper underneath will be explained in a moment.

You will need a small bowl of water and a towel to keep your fingers and tools glue free.

pointy tools

There are many pointy things you can use – you need to find one that is comfortable for you. These are some things I found right here in my studio. There are more in the kitchen and in my husband’s workshop I am sure.

My main tool is the Clover stiletto with the white handle. I hold it in my right hand (I am right-handed) and in my left hand I use the white point turner or the pointed end of the wooden sculpture tool. On long straight edges you can use your fingers to turn the seam allowance over – but on curves – concave and convex – and inside Vs a tool in the left hand is better – you have more precise control.

turned edges dot fabric

Once you apply the glue to the seam allowance on the WRONG side – then take your tools of choice and turn the fabric back on itself.

Don’t apply glue to more than you can stick down in a minute or two – or the glue will dry. And remember to put the top back on the glue stick  – or it starts to dry out and gets hard and pulls on the fabric.

The trick you need to master is the technique of massaging the tucks to evenly distribute the extra fabric along the edge – to ease them in.

Put a lot of glue on the fabric – I use the Bic brand because that’s what we have here. It’s quite soft. If the fabric is saturated with glue it becomes sort of clay like – you can massage it into place – gently pushing and tugging the fabric until the edge is smooth. You need to poke it and prod it with a stiletto – the point on my Clover one isn’t super sharp – if your stiletto is needle  sharp file down the point a bit so you don’t poke holes in the fabric. You are using the freezer paper template just to pull against as you turn under the seam allowance.

  The white edge of the freezer paper should not be visible under the fabric. That is the reason for the darker paper underneath – so you can easily see the white freezer paper edge against the dark background. If it is visible continue to prod the fabric a bit more until it is perfectly flush with the freezer paper template edge.

You are using that edge as a guideline for the fabric edge – so it is very important to cut your freezer paper template VERY smoothly. If you have a lump in your template and you mold your fabric to that edge you will have duplicated that lump in the fabric.

When you are satisfied that all the edges are smooth then lightly iron (no steam) the freezer paper side to squash down the little raised tucks. Gently peel the FP off the top to reuse. Voilá – you have a shape ready to appliqué on your background!

The trick is practice, practice, practice – like a doctor putting in stitches without using his fingers – a tool in each hand. Cut out a bunch of FP hearts (circles are good too) in various sizes, iron them on scrap fabric and practice. The heart is a good shape because it has convex curves, and an insie V and a point..

Which brings me to points…

pointy point

First apply a dab of glue to the right side of the fabric point. Fold it back on itself to the wrong side.  Apply glue to the folded up end and the sides. Fold over to meet in the middle – and there you have it.

This is the point of the large heart on my Hearts and Flowers appliqué quilt and it is not a very sharp angle – those are a bit harder. I will save that for a later post.