The Best Way to Applique - The Freezer Paper Applique Method

Applique is a form of sewing in which you create shapes out of fabric and adhere them to a larger piece of fabric. 

This definition is very vague because there are so many ways to achieve this effect. From traditional needle turn applique to quick raw edge applique to freezer paper applique, and many more. Whichever method you choose, the end result is pieces of fabric shapes adhered to a larger piece of fabric. 

My favorite method is the freezer paper method. To me this creates the beautiful finish of needle turn applique but takes the (very difficult) needle turn part out of it and the end result is always accurate and smooth. Because I enjoy hand work, I prefer to stitch my applique pieces onto my background fabric with a hidden hand applique stitch. {It’s the same stitch I use to stitch down my binding!} But this method also works if you like to stitch down applique pieces by machine using any fun stitch your machine has!

To demonstrate this most amazing method, I will be creating a super cute heart shaped mini. Check out the materials list below, as well as the helpful tips at the end!

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Printed template shapes (or your own drawn shapes)
Freezer paper
Paper scissors
Fabric scissors or rotary cutter
Heavy Starch
Small paint brush
Fabric glue or liquid school glue
Applique needle
Iron (no steam)

Stiletto (optional)

Freezer Paper Applique Materials

Step 1: Cut your template shapes

You want to cut your shapes out from the printed paper so you can trace them onto the freezer paper in the following steps. Some templates come with a seam allowance (anywhere from ¼” to ⅜”) and others do not. For this method, you want to make sure there are no seam allowances (or just cut them off).

Freezer Paper Applique - Printer Paper

Step 2: Create your freezer paper templates

Cut 4 sheets of freezer paper from the roll. The size of the sheets depends on the size of the templates or the number of shapes you are making.

Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts

Layer all four sheets with the wax side down (this is the shiny side). Apply heat to these layers with your iron, making sure the wax is melted and the layers have adhered to themselves. This will create a pretty stiff sheet, which is exactly what you need for turning fabric seams later on.

Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts    Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts

Trace your template shapes onto your prepared freezer paper sheet, onto the dull side, not the shiny side. Note: if you have hand drawn your own shapes (ie. not from a purchased pattern or quilt pattern software) and they are directional/asymmetrical in any way, you want to make sure that they are traced mirror image to how you want the fabric shapes to appear on your finished piece.
Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts

With your paper scissors, cut the traced shapes out. You want to make sure your templates are cut as smoothly as possible, so use long strokes of your scissors. You now have durable freezer paper templates that will adhere to fabric when heat is applied, which will prevent slipping when turning the fabrics’ seam allowance.

Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts

Step 3: Create your fabric shapes for applique

With the wax side facing down, lay your freezer paper templates down onto the wrong side of your fabric.


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


Using a hot iron, iron over the freezer paper until you feel it has stuck onto the fabric. (Do not worry! It is easily removed when you are done!).


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts
Using your fabric scissors or rotary cutter, cut out the shape from your fabric, making sure to leave ~¼” to ⅜” of fabric around your template (this is your seam allowance). It doesn’t need to be pretty or smooth since this seam allowance will be flipped over your template.


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


Step 4: Preparing the heavy starch

Take the cap off of your heavy starch can and spray a good amount of starch into it. Using your small paint brush, swirl it around until most of the foam is gone. After a few more minutes, the foam will disappear completely.


Step 5: Flipping the seams

Using your small paint brush, soak it in the heavy starch and apply it generously to the seam allowance area. Make sure to cover the whole seam allowance around your template. Note: I recommend doing this on your ironing surface so that the starch doesn’t get on any of your other sewing room surfaces.


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


Using your fingers, gently flip the starched seam allowance over the template. Then, very carefully! Dry iron your seam allowance so that it is snug against the template but not super tight. The freezer paper template should stay put because it was adhered to the fabric already! If your fingers are feeling a little too hot near the iron, do this with a stiletto (made of iron or heat resistant material). Work your way around your template until it is complete!


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts     Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts     Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


Step 6: Wait & Repeat

Wait until the fabric has cooled to quickly and firmly remove the freezer paper template. You may need to reform your seam allowance. Do this gently with your iron, ironing on the wrong side of the fabric.


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


You can now reuse the freezer paper template on the next piece of fabric! I find I can reuse the template about 8-10 times before it starts warping out of shape and I need to make a new one.

Step 7: Sew onto your background

Now you can take your beautiful fabric shapes and place them onto your background fabric.


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


If needed, play around with where you want them to go. Once you have decided on their placement, take your glue and place small dots all along the seam allowance on the wrong side of your shape.


Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


Carefully place it back onto the background fabric and gently but firmly press down. Flip the whole piece over, and gently iron the fabric to help set the glue. You want to avoid using your iron on the top (or right side) of your fabric shapes, since the seam allowance may create an indent you don’t want to see! 


Using your preferred method, sew down the fabric shapes to the background so that they are permanently attached.


The Best Way to Applique Freezer Paper Method Simone Quilts



  • Don’t cut off any fabric tabs or dog ears that stick out of corners! Gently tuck these under the shape you have just created. Make sure to do this before applying any glue!
Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts
  • For concave shapes, the fabric may gather a bit, which normally is fine. If it is a deep curve where the gathers are creating a lot of bulk, you can snip off some of the fabric in small triangular shapes so that it will take some of that bulk out. Make sure to only cut up to a few threads away from the edge.
  • For convex shapes, you can snip a small cut into the seam allowance to allow for some stretching of the fabric. Make sure to only cut up to a few threads away from the edge. To avoid having to do this too much, make sure to cut curved pieces along the bias of your fabric, so that it can more easily stretch across the curve.
Freezer Paper Applique Simone Quilts


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