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Glue-Baste Appliqué with Water Soluble Appliqué Paper Tutorial

Easy Ways to Applique: Glue Baste Applique with Water Soluble Applique Paper Tutorial

Best Beginner Method for Turned Edge Appliqué

Welcome! Today we are going to chat about what I consider to be the easiest and best turned edge appliqué method for beginners. If you missed the overview installment of this series, you can find the first part here. Before we talk details about glue-baste appliqué and water soluble paper, I want to share a story with you about my first attempts at appliqué. 

Turned Edge Appliqué Attempt One

When I first started quilting I quickly loved the idea of appliqué. I wanted to play with shapes that you just couldn't piece traditionally. My first nephew was about to be born, and I found an adorable owl baby quilt pattern that included appliqué, and since I'm always up for a challenge I figured there would be an attempt. My quilter brain can't wrap itself around raw edge appliqué, so I scoured the web for tutorials on different turned-edge appliqué methods. Freezer paper seemed to be popular, and I had some of it in my kitchen, so I decided that seemed like the way to go. (For folks in other countries, Reynolds freezer paper is a cheap parchment like paper with a wax side that you can iron onto fabric. I use it as stabilizer in a pinch, but apparently a lot of folks like it for the actual appliqué part). 

I hated that freezer paper appliqué project from beginning to end and silently cursed all of the people who loved it and had steered me very, very wrong. Apparently they had secrets I was not privy to. The freezer paper was too thin to turn my edges over, the starch kept curling the paper up and off of the fabric I had ironed it onto, and it was just an unpleasant mess all around. I persevered and completed the quilt, but vowed I'd never make this attempt again. Below is the final quilt, which while it turned out super cute, was not a fun experience. (I'm trying to track down the designer's name and pattern name, will edit this post once I find that info!)

Owl Applique Quilt

More Appliqué Attempts

I wasn't giving up on appliqué, but I did give up on freezer paper appliqué until a kind instagram friend told me about Cut-Rite heavy duty freezer paper. That stuff is a game changer and we'll talk about it in the next series installment. After the freezer paper debacle I tried using interfacing for my appliqué shapes, similar to what Lori Holt likes nowadays. This method works great for some people, but I always was very knit picky about making sure the interfacing didn't show anywhere and just didn't enjoy the process. It was then I read about water soluble paper and glue as an option and I decided to give that method a go. 

What is Glue-Baste Appliqué with Water Soluble Appliqué Paper?

Water soluble appliqué paper is a semi-transparent sheet of paper that will dissolve into tiny fibers after you throw your quilt in the washing machine. You can use washable glue sticks and a nail cuticle pusher to turn the edges of your fabric over the shape you cut out. You don't have to deal with irons, and it is easy to smush your fabric into place with the cuticle pusher.  

Does the Water Soluble Appliqué Paper Actually Wash Out?

Yes and no. I didn't trust it the first time I used it so I made a practice block first. After I prepared the appliqué shape with washable glue and paper I stitched it onto my background with invisible thread and a blanket stitch. Then I got a big bowl of water and some detergent to hand wash the block, figuring it would just fall apart if I threw it in the washing machine. 

Long story short, gently agitating the paper in a bowl of water was NOT enough to dissolve the fibers. I wanted to share this with you to save you from making my same mistake and writing this method off as useless. The paper got smushy but remained behind the shape. The next time I attempted the method I finished a quick baby quilt with some floral appliqué elements using the same method as before. After it was quilted I tossed the finished quilt into the wash cycle and let er rip. I put it in the dryer and when it was done I inspected my work to see if the paper was still evident. Lo and behold it was like it never existed at all. 

My point? If you're going to use water soluble paper and washable glue, you want to properly agitate the quilt inside of a washing machine to make the fibers dissolve. If you are making a wall hanging you don't plan to wash, you can leave the paper in forever if you want to. It will be slightly stiffer than the rest of the quilt, but it won't harm your quilt to leave it in. 

Can You Quilt Over the Appliqué Paper ?

Excellent question! My older machine didn't have any issues quilting over the paper. My new BERNINA doesn't either. It wouldn't hurt to make a practice shape, sandwich a block with batting and a backing, and test it out with your machine. We all know that machines are different, so it might be worth taking the time to test it first. 

As far as longarms go, talk to your longarm professional. I have had numerous quilts quilted by various longarm pros in the past that have applique paper in them and they have all turned out beautifully. They didn't run into issues, but it is always smart to let your longarmmer know where you used the paper so they can trouble-shoot and have that knowledge if they do have issues. 

Why is Glue-Baste Appliqué with Water Soluble Appliqué Paper the Best Method for Beginners?

That is purely my opinion but let me share a few reasons why I thinks this method is the best one to start with. First, I think it is the easiest way to get good results. The paper is thick enough to nudge the fabric over, unlike the thin freezer paper option I told you about above. Glue is sticky and adheres faster than using starch and an iron. I highly recommend a Dritz Petite Press Mini Iron for people who want to use starch to appliqué, so you avoid that cost with the glue-baste method. You get to avoid starch and irons altogether. This method is a great way to wrap your head around turning edges over an appliqué shape, before moving onto what I consider to be slightly harder methods (but not hard if you have the right tools). 


Glue Baste applique with water soluble applique paper supply list


Let's chat essential supplies before we dive-in to the tutorial. I have an applique essentials idea list on Amazon for those interested. I always encourage folks to purchase these items from their local quilt shop if their budget allows, but want to provide links so you can see the exact items I'm recommending.

The links I post are affiliate links. It doesn't cost you any extra money to click on the link and make the purchase, but I do get a few cents for every referral. If you like my content and tips, or can't find items at your LQS, using my links is always very appreciated. I will never list a product I don't personally use and love. My goal is to get people sewing. 

Quick List

  • Water Soluble Appliqué Paper
  • Washable Glue Stick or Pen
  • Nail Cuticle Pusher
  • Invisible Thread
  • Microtex 70/10 Needle
  • Teflon Presser Sheet
  • Iron-on, Tear-away Stabilizer or Reynold's Wrap Freezer Paper (Reynold's is infuriating for applique shapes, but works great as a background stabilizer when you are sewing your shapes onto your fabric)
  • Fabric Scissors and Paper Scissors

Water Soluble Appliqué Paper

I use Hugs N Kisses Water Soluble Appliqué Paper, but there are a variety of products out there. Make sure one side is fusible and check that the paper is thick enough to turn your edges over. I do NOT recommend printing on the paper with an inkjet printer. The ink will bleed into your fabric when you starch it unless you make sure you cut away ALL of the ink. Not worth the headache, trust me. Print your shape onto regular paper, staple it to your appliqué paper, cut it out and remove the staples. 

If you don't want to shell out $20 for an entire pack of paper before you've tried it, you might consider one of my appliqué sample packs available here to test it first. No on wants to waste money collecting supplies they'll never use!

Washable Glue Stick

For years I used generic washable elmer's school glue and it worked just fine. At some point I decided to get fancy and now I use Sewline glue pens because I prefer the smaller glue tip, but both work and can do the job. 


Nail Cuticle Pusher with Flat Edge

You want something flat and somewhat pointed to turn your edges over once you've glued them. I've tried out fancy notions in the past but they never do as nice of a job as a generic nail cuticle pusher. The wooden ones might gunk up after a while, but you can get a boatload of them for $6 and they will last you a lifetime. Make sure there is a flat head on one side, as shown below. 

Nail Cuticle Pusher Flat Head Image


Invisible Thread

You don't have to use invisible thread when you appliqué, but it is really nice to not have to change the thread out to coordinate colors. I've tried numerous brands and the only one I use is YLI Wonder Invisible Thread. It comes in a white clear color that I use on almost everything, and a darker greyish black looking clear color that is meant to be used on darker fabrics so there isn't as much of a sheen when you see the thread on dark fabrics. My old machine hated everything else I tried, and I'm just in the habit now so I use it in my new BERNINA 590. We all know some machines like certain threads, so if you have an invisible thread you want to try, go for it! I just wanted to let y'all know what my preferred brand is in case you're looking for a winner right off the bat. Not only do I appliqué with this thread, I machine quilt with it too and it holds up beautifully!


Microtex Needle

When you are using invisible thread you want a microtex sharp machine needle. You have some options here. A 60/8 Microtex Sharp Needle is going to leave the smallest holes in your fabric, making it ideal if you really don't want to see your stitches. You are going to have to hand-thread the needle even if your machine has an auto-thread feature. These needles can be hard to see and can break, so use caution. If you are just starting out a 70/10 Microtex Sharp Needle will do the job and be easier to see. To be completely honest, I piece with an 80/12 Microtex needle and will admit to be too lazy to swap it out when I go to appliqué. The holes that the needle makes are a bit larger, but it still looks fine to me. Totally your preference! I buy these suckers in bulk so I can change my needle out regularly. There are packs available that contain all three sizes so you can try them out and see what you like!


Teflon Presser Sheet

When you were a little kid did you ever get glue all over your fingers so you could peel it off? No? Just me? Okay, moving on. Glue can make a mess, so you might consider getting some teflon presser sheets to keep things tidy. They keep your workspace clean, and once glue dries it is easy to wipe it off of the teflon sheet so you can reuse it over and over again.  


Iron-on, Tear-away Stabilizer

This is an essential, but commonly missed, tool you want to have in your sewing arsenal. When you are finally ready to sew your appliqué shapes onto your background fabric it is so important that you stabilize your background fabric. If you don't, the fabric will pucker and pinch and it won't be a fun experience. I like Solvy Totally Stable because it has an adhesive side you can iron onto the wrong side of your background fabric, but it is super easy to tear it off after you have sewn all of your shapes onto it. The budget friendly option is Reynold's Freezer Paper. Terrible for appliqué shapes, great as a stabilizer for your background fabric. The wax side will iron onto your background fabric, and it is easy enough to tear away after you've sewn your shapes. Totally Stable is easier to remove than Reynold's freezer paper but they both do the job.  

I want to note, when using a tear-away stabilizer you do NOT have to tear your hair out too if there is some paper under the seams on the back when you're done. I leave those tiny bits in, they soften in the wash, and no one ever sees them once the quilt is quilted. 


Glue-Baste Appliqué with Water Soluble Appliqué Paper Tutorial

Oh my goodness, I can go on and on, can't I? Time to finally get to the fun part! In the first post of the series there is a little project you can download and sew-along with while we cover the different types of appliqué. Today we are going to focus on the butterfly's body. The method remains the same though regardless of what project you choose. So let's get sewing! 

glue baste applique with water soluble paper tutorial first step image

Preparing the Appliqué Shapes for Sewing

Before you ever get to the sewing machine, there are steps you take to prepare your turned edge appliqué shape. I'm going to walk you through the steps for glue-basted appliqué with water soluble applique paper today, and then talk you through next steps for sewing. The final installment of this series will include a photo tutorial and more info about the actual sewing part, so stay tuned!

1. Cut your shape out of the water soluble appliqué paper with paper scissors.

Remember, I don't advise actually printing your shape onto your appliqué paper, even if they say you can. The ink will bleed and you will cry, and no one wants that, especially me. Print your shape on regular copy paper and staple it to the appliqué paper. This shape is pretty small, so just layering the template sheet with the appliqué sheet should be fine as you use your paper scissors to cut it out on the black line. You do NOT have to add a seam allowance yet. 

This shape is symmetrical, so you don't have to worry about the right and wrong side of the appliqué paper. In the future if you are using an asymmetrical shape, make sure you are cutting the paper out so that the shape ends up the way you want it! One side of the appliqué paper is shiny, that is the side that will stick to the wrong side of your fabric shape when you iron it on. 

2. Iron the shape onto your chosen fabric

The shiny side of the water soluble appliqué paper is the adhesive side. Place the shiny side down onto the wrong side of your chosen fabric. Carefully flip it over so the paper is under the fabric and press for 5-10 seconds with an iron on high heat to adhere the paper to the fabric. You can iron directly on top of the paper, but mistakes happen and its easier to get into the habit of only pressing the fabric side versus a mishap where all of a sudden you need to find something to clean your iron. 

water soluble paper shape ironed onto the wrong side of the fabric

3. Cut out your fabric shape, adding a seam allowance as you go

Depending on the shape,  you want to add between 1/8 and 1/4 inch seam allowance around the edge of your paper shape. If you aren't comfortable eyeballing it, I recommend using a fabric safe marking tool to draw it before cutting. If you are comfortable with eyeballing it, go to town and cut your shape out of the fabric. The seam allowance you add will be the part that turns over the edge of the paper shape. This shape is rather small, so something between an eighth of an inch and a quarter inch will work. 

Image of fabric shape cut out with water soluble paper shape ironed onto it

4. Turn the seam allowance edge of the fabric over the paper shape using a glue stick and cuticle pusher

Grab your teflon sheet to protect your workspace, and set your fabric shape you just cut onto the teflon sheet. Get your glue stick and cuticle pusher at the ready. Time to turn your edges! Start on one of the straighter edges of the butterfly body. Apply the glue stick to the seam allowance. I like to apply the glue about an inch or two at a time, as I find I can turn my edges before the glue dries. 

Once the glue is on the seam allowance, take the flat side of your cuticle pusher and gently nudge the fabric seam allowance over the water soluble paper shape. You can use the flat side once the seam is turned over to flatten out the fabric onto the back of the shape. Keep going until you have to glue more of the seam allowance. 

The round parts of the shape might be tricky at first. You can switch to the pointy end of the cuticle pusher and nudge tiny folds over the round edge, and then use the flat side to flatten out the fold. If you get a noticeable fold or jagged edge that you can see on the front of the shape, simply peel the seam allowance off the paper and try again. When you're done, the back of the shape should look like the image below.

back of applique shape showing the turned glued edges

Check out the front of your shape, look for any areas that might need smoothing or redoing, and finally congratulate yourself for trying water soluble appliqué paper with glue basting!

front of final glue basted applique shape

Next Steps

Stabilize the background fabric and glue-baste your shape to the background

If this were the only shape you intend to sew onto a background fabric, the next step would be to apply a stabilizer to the wrong side of your background fabric to keep it from puckering during the sewing process. The last installment of this series will go into detail about how to sew your applique shapes down, but I want to at least talk you through the process if you're keen to start. 

Once the background fabric is stabilized you can arrange your appliqué shapes on the right side of the fabric. Lay your applique shape right side up on top of the right side of the background fabric and figure out where you want it. Once you're happy with the location, fold half of the shape back towards you and apply some washable glue. I use Roxanne Glue-baste or my glue stick to adhere the shapes to the fabric. You can put the glue on either the turned edge or on the actual paper. I press the shape for a couple seconds with my iron to heat set the glue. Once it is glue-basted, you are ready to sew!

Use a blanket stitch to stitch your appliqué shape to the background fabric

I like to use a very tiny blanket stitch and invisible thread to sew my shapes onto my background fabric. If you don't have a blanket stitch you can either use a tiny zig zag or sew about 1/8 inch away from the edge of the fabric all the way around. 

NOTE: DON'T sew your butterfly body onto the background fabric yet if you are following along with the project. The diagram below is just an example. You'll be placing future shapes under the butterfly body before you sew it down, so PLEASE don't sew it yet. 

The blanket stitch is made up of a long straight edge that will go around your shape. For this part, your needle should hit outside of the applique shape, only on your background fabric. You are essentially stitching in the ditch. The "teeth" portion of the stitch should hop over the edge of your shape, sew into the shape, then hop back to continue forming the straight edge. I drew a little diagram below to help show you what I mean. The stitch in the diagram is exaggerated and much larger than the actual stitch you'll use, but I wanted you to be able to see it. 

blanket stitch example image

After all of your shapes are sewn to your background fabric you can remove the stabilizer that you ironed onto the wrong side of the background fabric

While you won't be removing the appliqué paper from your piece, you do want to remove the stabilizer you ironed onto the wrong side of your background fabric. Gently tear it away and press your piece one more time before you proceed to quilting. Simple as that!

Wrap-up and Next Installment

Thank you for checking out my tutorial about glue-basted appliqué with water soluble appliqué paper! The next method we are going to tackle is heavy-duty freezer paper appliqué! After many years of glue-basting I finally switched over to heavy-duty freezer paper as my go-to method and I'm looking forward to sharing more about it in the next post. Until then, try out this method and let me know how it works for you!

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