Tips & Tricks: Overlay Techniques

Mylar Overlay Material

Overlays have been used for hand applique for a very long time. It makes perfect sense that they can also be used for machine applique. An "overlay" is an applique pattern that has been traced onto a sheet of see-through material such as mylar, thin clear vinyl, tracing paper or tissue paper.

Overlay Materials

Mylar and Vinyl are used extensively for hand applique. Be careful using them for machine applique because they will melt if touched by a hot iron. I don't know about you, but scraping that off my iron ranks real low on the 'want-to-do' list.

Tracing Paper and Tissue Paper don’t melt and they can be ironed over to anchor the appliques until they can be completely fused down. Set the iron for no-steam to prevent the paper from puckering - and watch to make certain that your iron isn't dripping water.

Making the Overlay

• Tape your applique pattern to a flat surface.
• Lightly tape a piece of the see-through material on top of the pattern. I like tracing paper, and buy it by the roll.
• Gently trace the pattern with a fine tipped permanent-marking pen, like a Sharpie Ultra-Fine point.
• Be sure to transfer all of the markings on the pattern including centering lines and other placement lines.
• Carefully release the tape around the overlay.

Tape around the edges of the overlay for protection if it is to be used repeatedly. For example if you're going to have to position the same applique pieces on several quilt blocks, taping will prevent the material from tearing before you're finished.

Using the Overlay

To find the center of a background block, fold it in half, then in quarters matching all the edges and crease lightly. Match the overlay to the markings on the fabric and pin it along the upper edge. If it is a garment, like a vest or a shirt, place the overlay between the center front and the armhole, towards the lower edge of the vest, or above the waistline of the shirt.

• Lay the overlay and background fabric flat on an ironing board and secure both to the ironing board with straight pins along the upper edge.
• Remove the paper backing from the applique pieces and move them under the overlay matching them to the drawn pattern piece.
• Fuse down by ironing over the overlay; only if using tissue or tracing paper.

For detail pattern pieces such as spots on butterfly wings, position the overlay over the fused applique. Move the pieces under the overlay, matching them to the pattern drawing and fuse.