My Contact Paper Trick – Summer Stitch Along Post #5

Today as part of the Summer Stitch along, we get to talk about two of my favorite tricks – Layering cotton behind wool applique and using contact paper to get those applique shapes placed perfectly onto your background fabric.


The first trick is super easy, but adds a fun touch.  It’s kind of a reverse applique technique that uses cotton behind the wool.  Many of you asked about it when I did the initial preview of the book.  I used the technique in Mandala and Boho Stars quilts from the book.

This is the Mandala quilt and the large yellow circles in the center of the design and cotton.  In this case, layering the cotton in with the wool helps reduce some of the bulk that accumulates when you layer lots of wool.


This is the Boho Stars quilt.


In this case, I layered the cotton behind the wool shapes because I love the mix of the cotton prints with the wool texture.  Here’s a close-up of a couple of those blocks:


It’s super easy – All you need to do is lay a piece of cotton behind the wool applique shape that has a cut out area.  Locate the dashed lines that indicate the size of this shape on the applique templates.   You can use my freezer paper method that I talked about here, if you want help getting that size transferred onto the cotton.  Then just lay the cotton behind the wool before you stitch it.




The next trick that I want to share has been so helpful for me with the projects in this book.  In the past, when I have done applique I have struggled to get the applique shapes in position on the background fabric.  The only method that I have seen or read about is to trace the design onto a large sheet of template plastic, then stick your hand underneath and try to get the applique shape into place.  On intricate, symmetrical designs I found this method really inaccurate and putsy – reaching your hand under and realigning over and over.  I just thought that there had to be an easier way!


When I was trying to figure out an easier way to do this, it just came to me that I could use clear Contact paper instead – it’s clear and sticky.  First, use a Sharpie to transfer your pattern onto the clear side of the contact paper.  (You don’t need to reverse the shapes).


Next, peel off the paper backing and stick your applique shapes onto the sticky side of the contact paper.


For the next step, I used Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It.  It’s my preferred method for holding the applique shapes onto my background fabric.  You can also use applique pins, but I find my thread is constantly hooking on the pins or I am stabbing myself with them.  This is much easier!


Add the glue to the back side of the applique shapes.  The trick is not to use too much of this stuff – Notice how I am using lots of tiny dots?  And how I am avoiding putting it too close to where I will be stitching?


Now flip the piece over onto the background fabric (or in the sample photo below, the large teal circle that I am appliquing on first, before it is put on the background fabric.)  Center it on the block or circle, etc and press down so the glue makes good contact with the fabric below and let the glue dry.


One thing I want to point out here – Notice how I got my green flower center in the wrong spot?  You have to put down the top shape down first, then layer over that, so keep that in mind when you are using this technique.  (This was an easy fix, as I could easily tuck the points of the shape back underneath the green circle)


When the glue is dry, carefully peel off the contact paper.  Your shapes are perfectly positioned in a quick and easy step.


If you want to save the contact paper tracings, just stick them to a sheet of template plastic, as shown in the photo below.  Then you can peel them back off and reuse them.


So, your next step for the Sew Along is to prepare any layered cotton shapes, make your contact paper placement guides, and use them to glue your applique shapes to the background fabric.

And just one last thing – Before you do that, I want to point out that I  always do my handwork in the smallest possible form.  I am making the quilt below, so to start with I will applique onto the large circles in the center of each motif first.


Here is an example of that:


In the upper right motif in the full quilt, I will even applique the small circles onto the large pink petals before I applique them to the background fabric.  Anything you can do to make it easier to handle will help!


Next, I will applique the pieces in each motif to the background squares of just that block.  I have 3 of my four blocks prepared here –


Lastly, I will sew the four sections together and applique any pieces that overlap.


If anyone has any questions, please leave it in the comments and check back to see my response.  That should be the last of the prep!  Next time we will be ready to sew – my favorite part!




About Heather Peterson

Quilt pattern designer
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5 Responses to My Contact Paper Trick – Summer Stitch Along Post #5

  1. Marty says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing your “Contact Paper Trick” ~ I have been trying to figure out a different method than use of a clear vinyl overlay, and this is just exactly what I neede!!

  2. AnnieO says:

    Great tutorial! Those clear contact instructions are very helpful. I’ve tried the overlay before but with larger pieces. Looking beautiful. Boho stars is gorgeous.

  3. Sue says:

    would this technique also work if you are using cotton, rather than wool?
    Great idea! I also love the look of placing cotton fabric behind the wool!
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Karen says:


  5. Sheryl says:

    Love this tip; thank you!

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