Many quilters are familiar with “needle-turn appliqué” or using templates for appliqué, but a recent discussion in the Inklingo Yahoo group about the new Dresden Plate Appliqué Collection made it clear that some quilters are confused by the term “back-basting.”
Back-basting overcomes the disadvantages of traditional needle-turn appliqué, and it is simpler than some imagine, so Monkey and I have prepared this little summary.
Let’s review traditional needle-turn first.
Trace the outline of the patch—a heart, for example—onto the front side of a fabric patch (or print with Inklingo). Cut out the heart, leaving a narrow turn-under allowance. Pin it in position on the background and and turn the edges under with the needle, a little bit at a time, so you can make invisible stitches to attach the heart to the background.
Advantage: The preparation is faster than template methods.
Disadvantages: It is more difficult to accurately position because each heart is bigger than its space since the edge is not yet turned under. It can be hard to see the outline of the heart, especially on dark patches. It can be tricky to use the needle to turn the fabric edge under accurately and make invisible stitches at the same time.
Back-basting is a variation of the needle-turn method, and overcomes the disadvantages. It is my favorite method.
1. Instead of tracing the outline of the heart on the front of the appliqué fabric, trace the entire design (or print with Inklingo) on the back of the background fabric.
2. Postion a rough-cut patch right side up on the front. To ensure that the fabric completely covers the outline of the heart, cut it big and hold the background up to the light, or place pins from the back as a guide.
3. Working from the back, baste the patch to the background (hence the name “back-basting”), following the outline of the heart, using a big needle and thick thread.
4. Working from the front, trim the rough-cut fabric patch, leaving a narrow turn-under allowance.
5. Working from the front, clip and remove the basting stitches one small section at a time— just enough to allow you to needle-turn and stitch the next half inch or so. Use invisible stitches.
How Back-basting Works
Basting with a big needle and thick thread along the line on the back holds everything in perfect position and marks the edge of the patch!
When the thick basting thread is clipped and removed from the front, one small section at a time, the line of temporary holes is a visual guide and temporarily “perforates” the edge, so it is easier to needle-turn accurately and stitch in place.
Appliqué with Inklingo
Inklingo has advantages with all appliqué methods, whether you are printing on freezer paper for templates or printing shapes on the patch fabric or on the background.
There is a complete chapter on appliqué in The Inklingo Handbook, including illustrated instructions for back-basting layered designs, stitching direction, needles, thread, invisible stitches (tack stitch and ladder stitch), inner points, outer points, etc.
If you like needle-turn appliqué, you will LOVE back-basting, especially since it eliminates all positioning issues.
If you have found traditional needle-turn appliqué difficult, it is time for you to try back-basting. Back-basting makes it easier to position the patches and to turn under the edges accurately. You will be amazed by the difference it makes, and I think you will understand why this old technique has become popular again.
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Linda & Monkey