Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Reverse Applique How-To with Spray Starch

Even though there are endless possibilities with reverse applique, somehow it seems that it is the forgotten method... perhaps for some it's just not a familiar technique, or maybe for others it's just a little nerve racking to cut that hole in the middle of the fabric. Whatever the reason might be, let me show you how fabulous a technique it really is... and that it gets even better when you use spray starch!

This is the current status of my Folk Flower quilt. The block can be found on Creativebug from Anna Maria Horner, in which she essentially uses the reverse applique technique, but per hand. Since hand sewing doesn't even come into question for me, why not use the same approach... but with starch applique?!?

Start by layering two pieces of freezer paper, both shiny side down. Iron together, leaving the steam function OFF. Using a compass, draw a circle in the center of the template, and trim so that there are the same measurements on all sides. For this template, I left one inch on all sides. I'll show you why it is important to do this in the next step. When cutting out the shape, start cutting directly on the line instead of cutting into the template - we'll be using the cut-out for a later step.

Remember how I said that it is important to have the same measurements on all sides? Well, this is because it can be a big help when you are placing the template on the fabric. You can easily measure how far the template is to be placed on the background fabric, so that you end up having the template spaced the same on every block. Place the shiny side of the template on the wrong side of your fabric, and iron in place.

The next step might be a little bit of the scary part for some, and that's cutting a hole in the middle of your fabric. I'm sure we all had those grade school teachers who scolded to NEVER cut shapes out of the center of the paper, but rather from the edges. Well, this is where you get to brush that little voice off your shoulder, and be brave. I usually use about a 1/4" seam allowance.

... and make sure you keep that fabric cut-out, and in all one piece!

For regular starch applique circles, it's not needed to clip along the curve, but it this case it is necessary. Usually you can feel the spots where you need to clip - if it feels like you are having a little resistance for the fabric to wrap around to the back, you most likely need a little snip in that spot. Since I used bias tape on this block, I made sure to cut on either side so I wouldn't have to cut into the bulk.

For the leaf shape, you actually have to make less cuts - just around the rounded part of the template, and in the sharp point.

Begin by spraying starch in a small ashtray or bowl. Wait for the bubbles to dissolve, and using a stiff brush, begin to brush the starch on the seam allowance. If you are unsure about your supplies, then you can read my Top-Ten Starch Applique Tips or visit my YouTube channel.

Use a mini-iron to iron the seam allowance to the back of the template.The starch will hold it it place.

Once you have ironed the fabric to the back of template, you can remove the freezer paper template.

Remember how I told you that you would be needing the center cut-outs from your templates? Well, this is why: Because you can use them as a cutting template for your fabric that will be inserted on the back side of the block. Simply align the cut-out on your selected fabric, and use about a 1/2" seam allowance. Here I use a larger seam allowance to make sure that I can center the shape as I want it.

Use an applique basting glue, apply a thin line along the seam allowance. 

Position the fabric behind the finished opening, so that the fabric is "peeking" through. Once the placement is as desired, iron in place to set.

If there is excess fabric on the back side, trim as desired so that the extra fabric will not be seen from the front side of the block.

There are two ways that you can stitch the block in place: Most of the time I use an invisible thread from Aurifil, and using a straight stitch, sew as close to the edge as possible.

The second way that can be used to finish the block, is to stitch it in place from behind. Simply fold the fabric to the side, and stitch along the pressed seam line. Your thread will not be seen from the front.

Remember how I said to keep the fabric cut-outs from the beginning? This is where you can really bring "waste not, want not" to life - here I reduced the size of my leaf shape, and used the cut-outs for leaves for another project.

I did the same thing for the circle cut-outs, and I really like how they look with the bias tape stripe. I could imagine that these would make a sweet baby quilt, with a good amount of negative space for design interest.

... oh, the possibilies!


  1. Thank you for posting this great tutorial. You've explained everything so clearly and concisely, I'm looking forward to trying the technique.

  2. You know howm much I love applique. not. So the likeliness of using your tutorial myself is not very high, but I always so appreciate the shapes that you manage that way. The crisp edges... I love the blue leaves at the top and the waste not pieces are great. What a perfect ball inspired baby quilt it will be :) xo

  3. love it very much and I love that I learned starch appliqué! It is so funny to mix methods and thinking of paper collage with fabric collage. I already have used it several times for funny projects. Thanks for sharing! Greetings Christiane

  4. Any chance that you will create a video? Thank you for all the details in the explanation.

  5. Wonderful. Such crisp edges. Thank you.

  6. I wasn't ever into applique but you make it look so easy and doable with the right tools! Like- to machine stitch applique but in a way that it DOESN'T show? That's changing everything for me, Allison! Thanks for this tutorial.


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