I just had to "say" that again! I think even if a few of you hadn't asked me, I would still have had to show you how to use mylar templates for applique so I could use the phrase "pictorial tutorial" a few times. Of course, I could just take a bunch of photos illustrating my method for plucking stray chin hairs instead of demonstrating this applique technique and use the same phrase, but I think I'll save that one for another time.
But while I'm thinking about stuff like health and beauty, here's a tip for women over 45: Fill the bathtub with bubbles and bathe by candlelight. It will help to keep you from catching a glimpse of your middle-aged, saggy, pudgy, naked body reflected in the chrome bath fixtures. Works for me. Otherwise, I'd scare the hell out of myself, have a heart attack right there, and drown in the bathtub.
But enough about me. Here's how to prepare cherries and other simple rounded shapes for applique. First of all, you'll need a sheet of no-melt mylar template plastic. I usually buy mine at JoAnn's; your local quilt shop may also carry it. It's important that it be no-melt because you'll need to use the iron on it, and if you just use the regular plastic template material, it may warp.
I find that a thin point permanent marker works best for drawing shapes, but if you don't have one, try whatever you have on hand. For drawing my circles for the cherries, I traced around a spool of thread. I've also been known to use shot glasses. Whatever works, right?! (You can see some of my shapes drawn on the plastic in the upper right corner.) You can reuse your shapes at least several times, but I'll usually cut several so I can prepare my pieces in batches. I took a class from Robert Callaham once and he actually uses a nail file to get his circles perfectly smooth and round--too anal for me! I just use a bit of care in cutting and I find that's good enough. In this instance, I cut a larger circle out of a stiffer file folder-type paper--that's what I used to trace around to cut my fabric circles. You want to make a pattern that's at least 1/4" larger than your mylar circles all the way around--in other words, at least an extra 1/2" across at the widest point.
Next, trace and cut your fabric circles. Baste with contrasting thread all the way around your circle, using fairly small stitches as this will give you a smoother edge.
Once you've basted around the circle, leave yourself two "tails" of thread for tying. Place one of your plastic circles in the center and draw the fabric tight around the plastic. Tie the tails in a knot. Sometimes the thread may slip while tying, but do the best you can with this.
Once you have a little pile of basted "cherries"--or whatever you're making--you'll want to heat up the iron and get yourself some spray starch. You may also want to use something to keep from getting starch all over your ironing board--I just use a kitchen towel and toss it in the wash when I'm done.
Lay your pieces on your ironing board with the plastic side up and use enough spray starch to saturate the fabric fairly well--you'll see it bead up a bit on the plastic. Press without steam, moving the iron around, until the fabric's nearly dry. If you didn't tie the knot of the basting thread tight enough, you can pull the threads a bit before pressing but make sure not to iron your fingers!--that should be enough to hold it. Flip your pieces over so the "good" side is up and spray and press as before.
Set your pieces aside and wait a bit for them to completely dry. This would be a good time to run down to Starbucks or pluck your chin hairs. Once the pieces are completely dry, you can clip the basting thread at the knot and, being careful not to pull the piece out of shape, slip the plastic out of your "cherry"--or whatever you're making. Usually I'll then give them one last press with the iron because no matter how careful you are getting the plastic out, they tend to not lay quite flat afterward.
Eventually, you'll end up with a nice pile of pieces all ready to be appliqued onto something.
You can use the same method to make leaves, flower petals, or any other simple, rounded shapes.
Once I have my pieces ready, I just pin them onto the background and start sewing.
I hope this helps inspire you to try making a few cherries along with me! And while you're catching up, I think I'll go take my candlelit bubblebath.