This method of preparing shapes for applique will work for any shapes with convex (outside) curves, like leaves or circles.
Orange peel is an applique pattern which means, at the core of things, that a piece of fabric is being cut into a certain shape and stitched down onto another piece of fabric. There are many of ways to get the shape you desire in applique, but I almost always use freezer paper templates, because I find it the easiest way to get smooth curves and sharp points. By preparing the folded edge in advance, I feel like I can relax and enjoy the applique stitch. And, this method generally involves no extra marking pens or pencils, which I always have such a hard time with.
(Snowflakes die-cut freezer paper shapes are available for sale here)
Choosing a size:
Orange peels are sized by the finished size of the square upon which they fit diagonally. So you can plan on a 2.5” orange peel (which is actually almost 3.5” tip to tip) taking up 2.5” of space, vertically and horizontally, in your quilt.
Preparing the shapes:
First, lay your fabric face down on your ironing surface and give it a quick press without steam. Arrange your shapes, shiny side down, on the fabric, at least 5/8” apart. For curved applique pieces, it will help you achieve a smooth curve if you have as much of the curve on the bias (diagonal) as possible. So when possible I arrange the pieces with the corner points on the two straight grains and that puts most of the curve on the diagonal. This is the ideal method, but if you have a stripe or other design that you want to go a certain way on the pieces, go ahead and follow that instead.
Now press the shapes with a medium-hot iron just for a second or two to adhere them to the fabric. Wait a bit for them to cool, then cut out leaving a generous 1/4- 3/8” seam allowance.
Now to baste the edges: Thread a sharp, thin needle, with sturdy thread (I use leftover machine or hand quilting thread) and knot the end. Starting in the center of one side, fold over the seam allowance to the back of the paper shape and take a small stitch through paper and fabric.
Now make several small running stitches through fabric only, until you are about ¾” away from the point. Right handed folk are going counter clockwise around the shape and lefties go clockwise.
Now take another small stitch through paper and fabric, and pull the thread to gather the running stitches you just made. The fabric will automatically smooth itself over the curve (which is such a blessing if you’ve tried other applique methods and had a hard time making smooth curves!)
Now make a sharp fold over the point and take another small stitch through paper and fabric to anchor the point.
Now you are ready to make another few running stitches through fabric only.
Stop at the midway point, stitch once through the paper and fabric, and pull the gathers again. The shape is now half- basted and you can follow the same steps to baste the other half, ending with a final stitch through the paper and fabric and a knot on the back.
Cutting background squares:
I always cut my background squares a little bigger than necessary. Just in case the orange peel shifts a bit while you applique, or the square gets a bit distorted, you will be able to trim down to the perfect size. So, for 2.5″ Orange Peels, you add .5″ for the seam allowance, plus another .25″ of insurance, making the cut size 3.25”. (If you are beginner to applique you may want to go up to 3.5”.) After appliqueing, you will trim them down to 3”. When sewn together they reach their final size of 2.5” and the orange peels will almost touch at the corners. Press each square lightly in half on the diagonal to mark your placement line for the orange peel.
OK, I think that’s enough for today! Tomorrow I will go over my applique stitch, and then the final post will give some layout options for this versatile shape.