I have been working on a little fall table runner with four identical appliqued blocks in the center. It had these very small oak leaves that had deep valleys that were quite a challenge to do. You can see my issues here and some of the suggestions I received for said issues here.
I finally managed to conquer those leaves, but in the process found that it was very difficult to get each block to look the same. I had traced the design on not-so-transparent tracing paper, laid it over the background fabric, placed the applique pieces, then hand basted them down. I thought I did pretty good on the first one, but once I compared it to the original (after all 16 pieces were sewn down), it was noticeably off.
One of the responses I got when I cried out for applique help was from Irene who shared that Piece O' Cake designs had a great method for accurately placing applique pieces. This was an "ah-ha" moment in my applique world. I tried it, and this method made all the difference in the world.
You need a piece of medium weight clear upholstery vinyl. I found this at Hancock Fabric & Crafts. It is used to make covers for furniture, table cloths or even shower curtain liners. A 60-inch piece was $3.99 a yard. I bought a whole yard and will have vinyl for life! Cut a piece the size of your block and trace the design on the vinyl with a permanent marker*.
Then place the vinyl overlay (with design drawn on it) right side up over your background fabric. I used a water-soluble marker to make an X on the fabric and the same in permanent marker on the overlay so that it would land in the same position each time I used it.
Now slide your ready-to-sew-down applique pieces under the vinyl into their position.
Now, instead of hand basting or pinning the pieces down, I used basting glue. This stuff was a lifesaver! I found it at Joann's with the quilting notions.
The key is to use a gluestick that is water-based** and acid free. I used a toothpick to pickup a tiny amount of glue then slightly lifted one edge of the applique piece and placed the glue just under the edge, far enough back to not be in the stitching line. I did this in several areas around the piece. I let it dry for about 30 minutes then hand appliqued these pieces down. Not having to baste each piece down was a huge time saver, not to mention, I think handling the pieces while basting was part of my placement problem as the pieces tended to move around on me.
The end result was blocks that all matched! I'll show you the finished top in the next post -- Yay, it's done!
Thank you, Irene, for directing me to such a handy tip and Piece O' Cake for such a brilliant idea. I will be using this from now on.
* When my project was completed, I tried using Goo Gone to remove the permanent marker from the vinyl. I did not have much success with this, so this piece of vinyl will not be able to be reused for another project. It took off the black marker, but left a purple stain permanently in the vinyl.
** To completely remove all traces of the glue, you should soak the fabric in water for 30 minutes then use a mild detergent to hand wash. Rinse thoroughly.