Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easy Applique Stars (mini) Tutorial

Monday was the monthly Stitch Therapy meeting for March and we had a pretty good turn-out despite the snowy road conditions. I have lots of fun photos of Wish Quilt progress coming up later this week.

The Wish Quilt has quite a few star appliques sprinkled around. In Bronwyn's instructions, she tells you how the make the stars into little pockets to hold tiny "wish" notes or candy treats. By now, you know I was pretty lazy when it came to this project, so it shouldn't surprise you that there was no way I was going to make pockets! My stars are appliqued all the way around and then I embroidered some "wish" words on them instead of personalizing the quilt with family names.

My "wish" words: Love, Joy, Hope, Faith, Grace, and Peace.  

On Monday I did a little demo on how I appliqued the stars using the "starch method". It's a turned edge applique, but not "needle turned", so there is some preparation. If you are new to applique or don't do it that much, this method gives you great results and isn't difficult at all. 

I made a template by tracing my star onto freezer paper. Then I ironed the freezer paper to a second piece of freezer paper and cut out my star. I use C. Jenkins freezer paper--it's a bit heavier than grocery store freezer paper, so you have a strong template to press against--almost like tag board. If your template points are bending inward as you starch and press, you may need to add a third layer of freezer paper. 
Press the freezer paper template to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut out the star shape from the fabric, leaving a scant quarter inch seam allowance. Clip into the "inside" of each star point almost to the template (leave a few threads to prevent raveling).
Now you are ready to paint on some starch. I use Faultless Heavy Starch in the spray can from Walmart.
You could mix your own heavy starch using Sta-Flo in a 50/50 ratio.
FYI: Best Press is not the best choice for this method.
Apply the starch to the seam allowance where it will be folded to the back. Don't worry about tucking in the star points, but pay attention to the direction you press them--see below: 

After pressing the fabric until the starch is dried, you can carefully remove the freezer paper template and attach your applique to your background. I use basting glue (like Jilily or Roxanne's) for attaching my starched appliques to the background. The little applique pins drive me crazy as I am always snagging my thread on them.

I am right handed and I do my applique in a counter clockwise motion. Notice that my extra fabric at the points is pointing to what would be my left as I sew around the star. This way, as I sew up the right side of the star, I have the point secured into place before I try to shove the excess fabric under the applique. The fabric I'm tucking in can't come out the other side of the point since that side is already sewn in place. Taking a couple of tiny stitches right at the tip helps to really hold it in place also, and makes it easy to manipulate that little flap of fabric to where you want it to be. If it's hard to get it moved underneath with your needle, try a toothpick. Sometime I need to use the tip of my embroidery scissor to carefully maneuver the fabric under to point.
If there's a lot of fabric hanging out there, trim it away, being careful not to cut it too close at the tip or you may end up with a raveled mess. The right star point above has been trimmed to about an eighth of an inch . The star point at the top has not been trimmed yet and the point on the left has been sewn down.

By the way, these aren't Wish Quilt stars.
I am embarrassed to confess that I finally got sucked into Barbara Brackman's Dixie Diary block of the month that you can read about here. And since I couldn't decide if I should put a star or a heart on the monthly block, I am doing two eight inch blocks each month so I can do a star AND a heart--yeesh! Yes, I do need help!!

January through March Dixie Diary blocks using Jo Morton's Alexandia fabrics. 


  1. Karen,
    Great tutorial! I think 5 pointed stars are one of the most difficult shapes to applique, and I do them a lot! I've never used this method but may try it next time. (I'm a back-basting needle turn appliquer)

  2. Hi Karen--Super tutorial; I'll try it that way this coming weekend. Your idea for ironing two pieces of FP together makes a lot of sense. and I like the glue stick--a lot. those little pins drive me wacky!! Thank you for posting this...Julierose

  3. Made me smile :0) It's your hobby - it's supposed to be fun!

  4. Love your blocks, and the tutorial is wonderful. I'm in the mood to go make some stars now!

  5. I am back again wih another question on gluing the prepared applique onto its background fabric: how much glue and where do you apply it? I know this sounds very basic, but I tried back basting today and my arthritic fingers got so sore from it and the needleturning that I had to stop--I am going to attempt your method above...Thanks, Julierose

  6. I am so glad you did this tutorial. I am using it for an applique on a dress

  7. Thank you so much for great tuto and tips, love the glue instead of pins. also like no marking pens---- or cutting fabric to remove FP when done.