In this post I am offering a few suggestions for doing fusible web machine applique on a dark background fabric. My favorite method is to use an applique pressing sheet. This is a Teflon sheet which can hold up to high heat, and does not allow the fusible web to stick to it. I use this method when making applique motifs which have parts that overlap.
Method 1: The pressing sheet is placed on top of the full sized applique placement guide, on a pressing board or surface. The two are then pinned to the pressing board so they do not shift. The applique pieces are positioned on the pressing sheet (over the placement guide) in the correct order called for in the pattern. This usually means that the background pieces are placed first and then the motif is build from back to front. Once all the pieces are properly positioned the pieces are FUSED TO THE PRESSING MAT.
When the pieces have cooled, the mat is removed from the applique (don't pull the applique from the mat, pull the mat from the applique) and the completed motif should stay together, as all overlapping parts are fused together. Then the whole motif is carefully placed on the background fabric, centered as necessary, and fused in place. The guide and mat can be used over and over this way to do multiple motifs.
Method 2: If you have a light background fabric you can pin the placement guide to the BACK of the actual background fabric and position the applique pieces by looking through the fabric to the placement guide. If you have a tightly woven or printed fabric, it may not be easy to see the placement guide through the fabric. You can use a black marker to redraw the lines in the placement guide so they are more visible.
Method 3: You could use a light box under the placement guide and fabric to make the placement lines easier to see. However, chances are you cannot iron on your light box, so you will have to lift and move it to a pressing surface AFTER placing all the applique on the background but BEFORE you fuse it in place. Yup, it could shift or pieces could fly away in the transfer process. YIKES! To prevent this use Steam A Seam 2 Lite fusible web. It has a sticky surface that will stick to your background fabric. It won't shift or fly away when you move the blocks to the ironing board. Then you can permanently fuse it without losing all your pieces.
Method 4: If you have a pattern where the parts do not overlap, such as the Deco Garden quilt blocks, and you are using a dark background fabric, the best solution is an Overlay. In this case you cannot see through the fabric to use the placement guide, even with a light box. You can't use an applique pressing sheet because the pieces do not overlap. To make an overlay, use a piece of tracing paper, or even wax paper or parchment paper. Tape pieces together to make an overlay as large as needed for the pattern.
Tape the overlay sheet to the placement guide at the top only, allowing the tape to act like a hinge, allowing the overlay to lift and lower. Be sure you have at least 1/2" of space on all sides of the placement guide and overlay sheet beyond the edge of the block. Using a Sharpee or other permanent marker, trace the placement guide onto the overlay sheet. Be sure to include the block outline on the overlay. Draw a light horizontal and vertical line down the center of the overlay sheet marking the middle of the block.
Place the dark background fabric BETWEEN the placement guide and the overlay sheet, on a pressing surface. Center the background block fabric precisely beneath the overlay sheet, using the center lines you drew on the overlay to line up with the center of the block fabric. Pin fabric and placement guide to the ironing surface. Remove the paper from the applique piece and locate its position on the overlay. Using a pair of long bent nose tweezers, place the applique pieces beneath the overlay, using the overlay to line them up. Lift and lower the overlay to get all the pieces in position. The tweezers are a must to adjust the pieces beneath the overlay. When in place, fuse the applique with the iron. If you use tracing paper or parchment paper, you can press right through the paper. If you use wax paper or deli paper, lift the overlay before fusing.
I hope these 4 methods of positioning applique will help you create a successful project. If you have any additional tips, please leave a comment below.Next week I will be on the road speaking at a Guild in Rose Hill, KS and then on to the Common Threads quilt show in Wichita, where I will be vending. Hope to see you there!