April – Freezer Paper Applique Domes

Continuing on the trend of echoing each month’s Vancouver Improv Sampler block with our Block Lotto blocks, this month we’re inspired by the dome on top of the Sun Building. That means that this month’s Block Lotto will be freezer paper applique domes. These are a really quick and easy block, and they look amazing grouped together!

The fabric selections for the blocks are GEOMETRIC PRINTS for the domes and SOLIDS for the backgrounds.

We’re defining geometric prints using the definition from this site,

A motif, pattern, or design depicting abstract, nonrepresentational shapes such as lines, circles, ellipses, triangles, rectangles, and polygons.

Your solid can be any colour, but try to use a variety if you make multiple blocks.

Here are some examples of modern geometric prints –

For each block you’ll need a square of background fabric and a scrap of geometric fabric. We set the finished size at 5″ x 5″, so that you could use charm squares if you have them, but if you’re cutting your background from yardage, cut your squares 5 1/8″ x 5 1/8″ so that you can trim them down, because applique often stretches the fabric slightly.

How to make the blocks –

Step 1: Draw your dome shape out on the paper side of freezer paper. I use a pencil, because i know it won’t bleed through later. Cut it out with paper scissors. Feel free to cut any shape of dome you like, and vary your sizes between blocks. I did some skinny, some chubby, some tall, some short, some pretty uniform, some a little wonky. If you’re not sure, lay your cut out dome on your background to see if you think it’s the right size. 

Step 2: Iron your shape onto the backside of your fabric, plastic side down. Use a dry iron with a high heat/cotton setting. Cut out your fabric, leaving a good 1/4”-3/8” seam allowance around the freezer paper shape. You can always trim off extra, but you can’t add more!

Step 3: This is the step that a lot of tutorials don’t mention, but it’s what makes this so easy – BASTING! You can do this by hand, but it’s way faster to do it by machine, and it’ll be more consistent by machine too. Set your stitch length to the longest your machine does, usually a 5. I like to use up extra bits of thread on bobbins, and using two different colours of thread makes basting easier too.  Stitch around your dome shape in the middle of the seam allowance, leaving yourself tails of thread at your start and stop point. (note the arrows!)

My biggest tip for this though is to adjust your tension – I turn mine down to 0 and it makes gathering super easy. BEFORE YOU MOVE ON – turn your tension back up!!

Step 4: Grab your bobbin threads (if you sewed the basting stitch with the freezer paper side up, bobbin threads are on the bottom) and gently pull to gather the fabric. You don’t want to fold the freezer paper, so don’t pull too hard. (If you’re finding it difficult to not fold the freezer paper, for your next block, iron two pieces of freezer paper on top of each other before you cut out your shape, making the template thicker)

Step 5: Starch!! Pour some starch into a little bowl. Using a small paintbrush or a q-tip, brush starch around your dome. Try to get the gathers all the way down to the fold. Give it a minute to soak in. If your fabric isn’t pre-washed, it takes a bit longer to soak through the sizing. Remember that for guild projects like Block Lottos, you should only be using non-scented starch.

Step 6: Using the tip of your iron, press the gathers to dry the starch. Starting at the top of the curve, work your way down the sides. Flip the dome over and press from the front to make sure that all the starch is dry.

Step 7: Gently remove the freezer paper. If we were doing hand applique, you could leave it in place and remove it after the piece is sewn on, but since we’re doing machine applique, we have to remove it so that we don’t sew through it. If your basting thread will show through the front of the fabric, remove that too. It’ll be a bit wrinkled, but you can reuse your freezer paper template. Iron it onto your ironing board to flatten it out a bit, then peel if off once it cools.

Step 8: You have two options now, you can either glue baste your dome in place, or pin it in place.

A) Lay the dome on the background fabric square and press over it to leave a slight imprint in the background fabric. 

Lift the dome off and using a glue bottle with a very fine tip, run a bit of white glue along the gathers. I like to do it closer to the raw edge, so that if you use a bit too much, it doesn’t seep out under the fold. 

Lay the dome back down on the background fabric and press it to dry the glue.

B) Lay your dome in position on the background fabric square and adhere it with pins.

Step 9: Thread your machine with a coordinating thread and switch your stitch length to a top stitch appropriate setting, around a 3 or so. If you have a needle down setting, it might be helpful. If you changed your tension setting for basting, doublecheck now that you switched it back! Stitch around the dome, leaving the raw edge at the bottom open. Backstitch at the beginning and end.

(I am using a blind hem foot for my topstitching, but not all machines have these. A regular foot is fine too, you just have to be a bit more careful to sew straight!)

Step 10: If your background fabric will show through your dome fabric, you’ll need to trim it from behind the dome. Leave yourself a 1/4″ seam allowance from the stitching line, and be careful not to cut through the dome!

Step 11: Press your block one last time. If you cut your background fabric 5 1/8” square, trim it down to 5” square. If you used a charm square, you’re done!

These are really quick and easy blocks, once you dig all of the geometric prints out of your stash! Feel free to make an many as you’d like, and as usual, every block that you bring back to the May meeting is an entry to win ALL THE BLOCKS!*


*(or half of them, if we get a huge response!)