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How to Do Needle Turn Applique – video

How to Do Needle Turn Applique - video tutorial

So, this is the “old-fashioned” way to applique. It’s definitely a lot more work than appliqueing with fusible adhesive, but you don’t get that annoying stiffness, and you don’t have any visible stitching. This is the technique used for all those traditional Baltimore Album quilts. It’s also the technique I used for my very first quilt.

Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World with her first quilt

See all those letters? I hand-appliqued every one of them to the quilt top using this stitch.

Crazy, right? That was over ten years ago and now I find myself wondering where the heck I found the time for that.

But it’s also a reminder that it doesn’t take as long as you think it will. If you watch an hour of TV a night and do some handwork while you watch, it’s amazing how fast it will add up.

By the way – this quilt is over 8 feet tall. Hand appliqued and hand quilted. I don’t recommend doing a quilt this big for your first project. I just didn’t know any better. πŸ™‚

Anyway – in the video I mention a couple of things I wanted to provide links to. This is essentially the same stitch I use to stitch up softies, so you can take a look at the ladder stitch video to get another view of the technique.

One of the weird things about this applique technique is that you draw your shapes on the top of your fabric, so you need to use a marking pen that you can remove from the fabric when you’re done. Take a look at the video on how to transfer embroidery markings to see a couple of options. I like the water soluble pens that dissolve when you spritz them with water – but you must test them on every fabric you will use.

I’m not kidding here. Test them to make sure the ink disappears when wet – and then let them dry to make sure it doesn’t come back when they dry. I’ve only had that problem with synthetics, but I test every fabric every time.

Here are links to all the posts showing how to applique with fusible adhesive – my favorite method. It’s fast and easy and (with the right materials) it holds up beautifully to rough use and repeated washing.

Here are links to special posts about eyes.

Here are links to some extra fun things you can do with your applique.

Other Applique Methods

Finished with this topic?

Return to the Let’s Make a Quilt main Table of Contents.

Move on to the lessons about outline stitching.

Happy stitching!


  1. Great tutorial! That quilt is amazing!

  2. Thanks! It was a lot of fun to make and it still hangs in my house.

  3. Kristy Kay SAYS...

    Wow! So pretty! You are so good! I’m still running around trying to figure some of this out. πŸ™‚ I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction to find out the best way to attach small premade faric bows and flowers to fabric. (Say if I was going to put one on a dress or shirt.)I don’t know if I am wording it wrong or what, but I can’t find anything that fits this. Thanks for any help. Take care. Sorry to bother you.

  4. Kristy – I’ve never seen a tutorial for that, but I’ll add it to my list. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts. This is definitely handwork – so get out your needle and thread. Regular sewing thread will do, but if something is likely to be tugged on (i.e. worn by a child) I sometimes use hand quilting thread. It’s a little stronger. When you sew it on, just sew through the back layer of fabric. That way nobody will see the stitches and you don’t have to be too fussy with them. Just take a few small stitches in random spots around the back until it feels secure.
    One other thought – these add-ons don’t usually do well in the washing machine. You might want to use a snap or even velcro to attach it, so you can remove it on laundry day. How you do this will depend on how the thing is constructed, but it’s a thought.
    Good luck!

  5. Kristy Kay SAYS...

    Thank you so much! You are so sweet. I will let you know how it goes! I made my first version of a dog headband yesterday. I’m going to play around with it some more and see what I can come up with. I wish I could show you pics of the stuff I have made so far. (Is there an email address that I haven’t found?) They have a lot of mistakes, but most you don’t notice. I have only really made dog clothes. (No kids.) Thanks again for all you do for us. I feel so lucky to have someone that is as talented as you help me and give me resources that I can understand. Anything I can do for you, let me know. πŸ™‚

  6. Kristy Kay – My email is You can send me any photos you want to show off! You can also email me by clicking on the little envelope icon in the sidebar – right next to the Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc, icons.

  7. Kristy Kay SAYS...

    Thank you! I am a little ditzy with the internet! I will send you some of my creations soon! They have tons of mistakes, but for some reason I am really proud of them. LOL

  8. Excellent hand applique video! I took a class about 8 years ago and we started with hand applique, but with freezer paper behind it. I had so much trouble! It’s still an unfinished block because I gave up on all the points of a star. I’m going to try this. As I understand your video, you just alternate stitching a bit on the background, then stitch the piece you are attaching, then back to background, right?

  9. Wendi – This is heavenly. πŸ™‚ My kids read the words and all started singing the TMBG song. As always, thank you for your brilliant tutorials. You are teaching me to sew and embroider. Working on your bird sampler at the moment. Luv! πŸ™‚ Aileen Bell

    • Thanks Aileen! We’re big fans of TMBG here – as you’ve guessed. πŸ™‚

  10. Been doing it wrong for years as I’ve never been shown what to do. This is very clear. I’m going to watch again with a piece beside me so I can sew along with you.

  11. Camielle SAYS...

    Wendy, this isn’t a sewing question but … how do you clean the inside of your Rowenta iron? Mine has white lime around the holes where the steam comes out and I am wondering if you can put white vinegar thru them? Please help. Camielle

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I KNOW I’ve put white vinegar through an iron before with good (though stinky) results. I can’t remember if it was my Rowenta or the iron I had before that. But it really was so stinky a process that I started using filtered water in my iron after that and have almost no build-up now.

  12. Thanks, Wendi. You taught me how to do needle-turned appliquΓ© and I’m half way through the body of a single bed quilt. I love the work. I use plain old pencil to draw on my squares and to draw the fold lines on my shapes. I figure if I’m not after knife-edge accuracy, what’s a bit of graphite?

    Thanks so much for the great video,

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I’m glad it was helpful! πŸ™‚

  13. Pingback: Everything You Need to Know About How to Applique | Shiny Happy World

  14. Kathy SAYS...

    Hi Wendy,

    Would this hand applique technique be suitable for the paper doll quilt? Or is there another stitch that would be more suitable?

    I spend a lot of time on public transport, and want a completely portable project?


    • Yes – this technique would work great for the paper dolls quilt! And it’s totally portable – one of my favorite things about needle turn. πŸ™‚

  15. Jeni Russell SAYS...

    Great demonstration! Can’t wait to use it!

  16. If I make a crib quilt using the fusible appliquΓ© method, will it hold up to repeated washings without the edges beginning to fray?

  17. Marion Bartley SAYS...

    I use sew in interfacing, sew to wrong side of fabric on sewing machine.then clip back of interfacing. Small opening do not cut away all of interfacing. Turn rightside out, pokeout seam line. Be careful not to tear interfacing. Press and sticth down onto quilt top . Sticthing close to edge of applique.

  18. Lucinda Kynes SAYS...

    Thankyou for that i love to hand sew &that will make things easier for me when i come to this sort of thing. I have used the interfacing but then sometimes the material frayed &ruined the whole look.