Needleturning a heart block and how to quilt

Needleturning a Heart Block

When it comes to learning how to quilt. Needleturning is at the top of our list.

To try your hand at needleturn appliqué, gather your supplies and your pattern (a heart drawn on a six inch square of paper). First thing, you need to cut your background fabric. Press the fabric and cut a square at least six and a half inches. It is best to cut a little extra, so make it seven inches. Press the fabric square in half and in half to create a pressed cross down the center. It will be used later as “registration marks” to help you center the paper pattern. Set aside.

Draw the heart on your template material and cut it out. Place the template on the right side of the fabric you will use to appliqué. Very lightly mark around it with the quilting washable pen on the right side of the fabric. Try to match the grain of the background fabric and the grain of the fabric being appliquéd, so in this case, the grain would run from the point of the heart to the center of the two lobes. Cut the fabric a scant quarter inch away from the drawn line. Set aside.

Use the lightbox to trace the pattern onto the background fabric. Tape the pattern to the glass, then place the background fabric, right side up on top of the pattern, centering it using the registration marks you pressed on the fabric. Tape it in place. Trace the heart shape on the background fabric very lightly.

Get the cut fabric heart and push a pin through both the v at the bottom of the heart and the v at the top. Place the fabric heart on top of the background fabric, pushing the pins at the same two spots drawn on the background to align the heart and the drawn heart on the background. Once the heart is aligned, use more pins to hold the heart, but pin from the background, so that the thread won’t tangle when you start sewing. Once pinned safely, remove the first two pins.

Thread your needle with the matching thread. Knot the end. Starting at one of the straight sides of the heart, push the needle up from the background right on the drawn line on the background. Use the tip of the needle to turn under the scant quarter inch seam allowance on the heart and take a tiny stitch through the folded edge (blind stitch). Sew from right to left. Push the needle down to the background an eight inch away from the first stitch, and continue in that manner, pushing the needle up through the folded edge and down on the drawn line, tugging the thread a little, so it disappears into the fabric. This sewing stitch is called “blindstitch”. As you approach the lower V, make the stitches even closer, until reaching the point. Make a stitch on that very point and tug the thread snugly. Once again, use the point of the needle to sweep the seam allowance under until the needle reaches the sewn seam. Use your fingers to smooth the fabric, take an extra stitch right at the V point again and start sewing again using the blindstitch and turning the seam allowance with the needle’s point until you reach the curved part of the heart. This part requires a little extra work.

Using your sharp scissors cut little snips on the seam allowance of the heart almost, but not to the drawn line on the heart every quarter inch or so. These snips will help the curve stay smooth as you turn the seam allowance under. Ease any fullness with the needle and use the thumb of your left hand to hold the eased fabric heart as you stitch. Go slowly, clipping, sweeping and sewing until you have almost reached the upper V, about ½ inch away. At this point you will have to make a straight clip on the heart’s seam allowance perpendicular to the point, almost to, but not through the drawn line. Make your stitches closer and deeper (taking a longer bite on the heart’s fabric) as you near the inward point. When you’ve reached the very tip of the inward V, take an even deeper stitch and tug snugly again. Do a couple extra stitches on the very tip, to avoid fraying.

Do the exact same steps on the other side of the heart. When you have reached the point where you started stitching, push the needle to the wrong side of the background fabric and turn your work, since you will be stitching on the background to secure the thread. To secure the thread before cutting it, make two or three backstitches or buttonhole stitches on the back, under the seam allowance so they won’t show, catching only the background and the heart’s seam allowance. Tie a knot over the last stitch and clip the thread very close to the fabric, so that the thread won’t shadow through the background fabric.

Some quilters trim away the background fabric under the appliquéd piece, some leave it as it is. If you plan on quilting inside the appliqué piece when the quilt top is finished, cut away the background within ¼ inch from the seam line (the extra fabric layer makes quilting more difficult). Press the block flat side down on the ironing board and trim away the excess fabric so that the finished appliquéd block will measure six and a half inches and the heart will be precisely centered on the square.

For more information on making a quilting block click here!


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