My hometown has this really great fabric shop called AnnaLouisa's Needle Arts. I went there a year or so ago with my mom and bought a whole lotta batiks and learned a great technique for applique. I'm trying to teach myself new techniques so I finally got around to testing this one out.
First up... used fabric softener sheets! The very nice woman who was cutting my fabric (whose name I believe is Chris) said this is the trick to nicely turned edges without having to turn them as you sew the fabric piece onto the larger area.
You take your fabric piece and cut a bit of used fabric softener sheet about the same size.(I saved the sheets from my laundry and then ironed them flat between some fabric so I wouldn't melt those suckers to my iron.)
Sew around the edges like so. I just tested this on a simple square. The stitches were fixed at the start and end and I just crossed them because I can! I'm not one to match threads to fabric color and since this was just a test I went with black.
It's a blurry shot since my camera focused on my hand instead of the applique piece but... trim the corners because you will have to cut a hole in the fabric softener sheet and turn the fabric inside out through the hole. If you do not trim the corners you get clumpy corner edges once the piece is turned out. I know because I had clumpy corners instead of nicely sharp corners.
I didn't take a photo of me using my trusty crochet hook to poke all the fabric out so I had crisp edges but that is what I did. Don't poke too hard or else you'll tear through the fabric softener sheet. I know because I did that also. I need to learn to be a bit more delicate! And once you have all the edges so the stitched seam is out as far as it can go, iron the hell out of it! But fabric side up or else you may melt the fabric softener sheet to the iron (I actually did not do that).
My corners are not as sharp as I would like but the technique does make it easier to have nicely turned edges for whatever you need to applique. And the bonus with using fabric softener sheets is that it smells nice! It does not add any real bulk to the fabric since the sheets are pretty lightweight to begin with. Especially after they've gone through the dryer.
I tried this on a TON of little squares and then sewed them to a quilted black background but I haven't gotten around to photographing it. So I will end this blog post with a photo of my girl Friday (who is not named after the movie, instead is named after the Heinlein novel Friday because he is my favorite author). She has the sweetest crooked face and likes to step in front of the camera only when she is not the object being photographed.