Kim Diehl’s 5 tips for perfectly centering your appliques

If you have a question about appliqué, you look to the pros for an answer—and when it comes to appliqué, Kim Diehl is the pro-est of the pros! Appliquéing oodles of beautiful quilts through the years (while writing 11 best-selling books and counting), Kim’s perfected her appliqué techniques and shares them all in her book Simple Appliqué.

Detail of Scrap Basket Blossoms quilt
Detail of the Scrap Basket Blossoms project from
Simple Appliqué

Kim knows that just a few quick prep steps before beginning to sew will result in a more efficient—and more fun—experience. So today we’re sharing a tip from Simple Appliqué that will set you on the road to appliqué success. It’s a tip that goes right to the center of it all: namely, how do you center your appliqués before you start sewing, anyway? We’ll let Kim explain!

Kim DiehlAs you begin each new appliqué project, take a moment to evaluate how the design is positioned on the block or unit to be stitched. Very often, you’ll see designs centered, whether from side to side, top to bottom, or diagonally, but occasionally you’ll have a design that requires measuring from a given point or simply placing the elements to create a visually pleasing design. Before you lay out your design, pressing creases into the cloth will act as registration marks to simplify the process of positioning your appliqués.

When adding creases to serve as registration marks for a block background or unit, it’s best to press the creases using a hot, dry iron (I usually use the cotton setting). Using steam can make creases difficult to “un-press” after the stitching is complete.

Simple AppliquePressing the fabric with right sides together will produce inverted creases, making it much easier to position and stitch the appliqués, as opposed to folding the fabric with wrong sides together, which will produce raised creases with peaked centers.

To add a perfectly centered crease (in any direction needed), fold the background fabric in half to find the center position, aligning the raw edges to ensure the piece remains square, and use the heated iron to press the resulting center crease. I’ve found that for nearly all appliqué projects, adding one or more of the creases described below can be tremendously beneficial when laying out the design.

Vertical design. If the majority of your design is based on a center vertical position, crease the block through the vertical center.

Horizontal design. For designs that are based on a horizontal position, crease the block through the horizontal center.

Vertical and horizontal design. For designs that feature both vertically and horizontally centered elements, crease the block through both the horizontal and vertical centers, refolding the cloth as each crease is added.

Diagonal design. If the project features a diagonal design, fold the cloth in half diagonally and crease the fold, and then unfold and refold the cloth in the opposite diagonal direction to add the second crease.

Combination. For designs that include all of the above elements, press horizontal, vertical, and diagonal creases, unfolding and refolding to add each new crease.

Fold, crease, and unfold—you’ll be certain that your appliqués are sewn in just the right place every time!

Kim Diehl's Best Applique Freezer PaperAnother helpful tool that Kim uses is one that she developed to ease appliqué prep even more: Kim Diehl’s Best Appliqué Freezer Paper. If you’re still using cumbersome rolls of freezer paper from the grocery store, Kim’s appliqué papers will change your sewing life for the better! The papers come in flat 8½" x 11″ sheets and they can run through ink-jet printers. Kim even includes a free pattern for trying out her papers:


Folk-Art Dish Garden quilt
Folk-Art Dish Garden: free pattern when you purchase Kim’s papers

Here’s a review of Kim’s Best Appliqué Freezer Paper that came to us via email:

“Kim’s appliqué freezer paper holds its shape well when pressing the seam allowance around the edge of the paper to prepare each piece for hand or machine appliqué. I use starch in my appliqué prep, and Kim’s papers hold up well, even though the starch has water in it. I love it!”

We hope you’ve enjoyed Kim’s appliqué prep tips!

How do you center your appliqués?

a) Just like Kim—fold, crease, and unfold. Voilà!

b) I’ve used rulers and marking tools.

c) I usually eyeball it!

Tell us your methods in the comments!




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