A little tutorial

I’d like to share how I approach 1/4″ bias stems – or just stems in general.  I’ve used bias tape makers in the past, and they do create a beautifully stem, but the process I come back to again and again is just using my fingers.  All that you need are fabric cut on the bias 3/4″ wide – or three times the finished size of the stem – a water spritzer, and your iron and pressing surface.

IMG_0013IMG_00121. Spritz the fabric strip with water and lay down wrong side up on your pressing surface.  Make sure your iron is dry and that the steam is off so you don’t burn your fingers.  You don’t need spray starch or sizing for this method.  Just water works fine.

2. Fold up the bottom edge about half-way, so that it meets in the middle, and iron.

IMG_0016IMG_0019IMG_00203.  Now fold down the other side to cover the first fold. Like so:

IMG_0021and iron flat.  You may want to spritz the fabric with a little more water before folding the second side down.  Sometimes I do, Sometimes I don’t.  It depends on how much of a fight the fabric puts up.

And when you’re done – Wah-la!!

IMG_0026Perfect 1/4″ bias stems.  So quick and easy.  If there are noticeable bumps and bobbles, I just cut those little areas out and use the rest of the stem.  But I got just as many bumps and bobbles using the bias tape maker.   This method is quick, easy, and allows you to make LOTS of bias tape in only a little bit of time.


I also wanted to share a little bit of how I prepared this block for needle-turn applique.  The first thing I needed was an overlay, which I made from frosted vinyl bought at a fabric chain store.  I got the thicker width and it’s been lovely to work with.

The problem was that by the time I got it home, it had stiffened and wrinkled so that it wasn’t useable.  No worries, though, I cut a 15″ block from the creased yardage

IMG_0029then took a hair dryer to it to relax the plastic.  It worked like a charm.

IMG_0042Just go smooth and steady, covering the entire surface and smooth it flat with your hands and it will relax and become pliable and smooth once again.

IMG_0048Once this is done, I’m ready to trace my pattern onto the plastic with an ultra fine point Sharpie.

IMG_0027I put an “XL” in the upper right hand corner of the overlay and the block itself, so I can always reposition the overlay the correct direction.

Now it’s time to make the templates.  I use full sheet mailing labels to print the templates on and cut them off.  Then stick them to the appropriate fabric and trace with chalk or pencil, and cut out with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance.

IMG_0002Once all the pieces are traced and cut and the stems are made, it’s time to position it on the background block using the overlay.   To be honest, I lay the stems down without the overlay; just laying the block down over the paper pattern.  But if my background were black or brown, and I couldn’t see through to the paper pattern, I’d use the overlay for that part, too.

IMG_0005I only lay down a few pieces at a time, so that I’m not overwhelmed.  Needle-turned applique is still new to me, so I’m going to take it in bite-sized chunks.  But the overlay is wonderful in helping to position everything accurately.

IMG_0008IMG_0007IMG_0005Now all that’s left is to stitch it all down.

I keep the rest of the pieces, which have been pre-cut in a folder lined with batting made by Piece o’Cake designs.  I’ve laid the pieces in the order that they’ll be stitched so that they’re easy to find and place.

IMG_0004I hope this tutorial helps you!

5 thoughts on “A little tutorial

  1. Interesting. I know Piece O’ Cake uses the overlays, but I never have. If you had the widget for subscribe by e-mail, I’d sign up and get all your posts and not forget the next block is coming up. =) Thanks for your lovely designs.


    1. Thank you. I added the widget. Didn’t even know it existed. Thanks for pointing it out. I don’t use overlays very often. I’d prefer a light box. But overlays are very helpful.


  2. I discovered transparency plastic sheets for my printer (cheap, at a thrift store.) I print out the master pattern and tape the pages together: Overlays in a fraction of the time.


    1. That’s brilliant! I was able to use them in the past. We had some from about 1985 or so. They were old, so they stood up to the printer ink. But the ones I recently bought for the printer (at a hefty price tag) smeared like crazy and were too frustrating to use. It never occurred to me to look for them at a thrift store!


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