Monday, September 13, 2010

Template Free (Back Basting) Myths Exposed!

As a child I loved to play the game where you sat in a circle and one child would whisper a secret to the child on their right.  Then that child would whisper the same secret to the next one in line.  This would continue until the last child.  Then the first and last child would repeat their version of the secret.   Of course, each retelling would change the secret just a little bit.  The more children in the circle, the more the secret would transform.  My favorite was the time we started with "Donald Duck quacks me up" and ended up with "Mickey Mouse has warts.

Template Free applique preparation (also known as Back Basting) for needle turn hand applique has not been well documented and has been under represented by the quilt book authors and publishing houses.  As a "word of mouth" technique it has fallen victim to the several misinterpretations as it "went around the circle."  Basically, Back Basting has warts.  I had the wonderful fortune of learning this technique at the master's knee (Jeana Kimball) so I feel compelled to clear up some of the misinformation.

1. Trace the applique pattern on the wrong side of the background fabric.  Trace the pattern accurately and with care.  Use a pencil or any other marking tool that will not show through to the front of the background fabric.  This marking does not need to be removed EVER so there is no need to fret about marking tool brands, types, etc. or is there any need remove markings once the applique is complete.

2. Pin the applique fabric, right side up, to the front of the background fabric.  Hold the piece up to the light to make sure the applique fabric covers the shape completely including a generous 1/2 inch overhang around the entire shape.

3. Thread a FAT needle (I like a size 8 Sharp or Straw) with thick, glazed hand quilting thread and begin basting directly on the pencil line that outlines the applique shape.  The purpose of the basting stitches is twofold.  The basting stitches both score the applique turn line and define the applique shape.  Use a simple running stitch small enough to define the shape accurately.  The fat needle and glazed thread do the best job of scoring the needle turn line.  This is not the time to use up old, fuzzy threads.  They are not strong enough to score the line.
4. From the front, trim the applique fabric a scant 1/4 inch from the basted line. 
That's it!  You are now ready to needle turn applique as usual.

And, now the some of the misconceptions.

Myth #1: Template Free preparation takes longer than other methods like freezer paper on top.
Reality: You trace the applique pattern once, exactly as is, on the wrong side of the background fabric.  Then each applique fabric is pinned and basted on the background fabric.  That's it. You are stitching.  There are no templates to create, there are no window templates to create, there are no individual shapes to trace or cutout, and there is no overlay to create.

Myth #2: You cannot see your turn line so your shapes are inaccurate.
Reality: There is no need to see the turn line.  Template Free works on the principle that the purpose of the basting line is to SCORE the fabric EXACTLY on the turn line.  Then, when the needle sweeps the seam allowance under, it turns exactly on the scored line.
If you are still worried about losing the stitching line, you can finger crease the turn line by pressing the seam allowance against the stitched basting line.
Everyone has their favorite techniques and I can understand being reluctant to change anything that is working just fine.  However, if you have not been successful using other applique techniques then I encourage you to give Template Free a try.  I successfully use the Template Free technique for ALL my applique projects and I sincerely believe it's the answer for quilters that have tried all the other applique techniques without success.  Many of my students have told me they had given up on applique until they discovered Template Free.   Feel free to email me if you have been tempted to use this technique but have questions or if you have tried this technique in the past and ran into challenges.  I always welcome your comments.

Best stitches,
Mercy in Miami