I do a lot of applique. The method I use, seen in this tutorial, allows me to turn under all my edges and layer my pieces before I even put them on the background to sew down. I can see exactly what I'm going to get! In this way, I can find the best possible arrangement and background.
When I have a design with a lot of pieces, I don't want to take the time to arrange the entire design on each background candidate so I came up with this little trick.
I cut a square of clear vinyl (the type sold for table and furniture covering. It is fairly thick.). My square is about 20" x 24". Make it the size of the largest applique you might do. This is a reusable tool!
Cover the edges of the vinyl by folding masking tape over the edge. This will be helpful because you don't want to spend time looking for the edges of the vinyl.
Now arrange your applique on the vinyl, sticking the pieces in place with a dab of glue stick (which can later be wiped off with a damp cloth) or pieces of rolled making or transparent tape. I used the glue stick. If you only have one piece, you don't have to do this.
Now you can move your applique from background to background, and see which you like best! (Sorry about the sideways photo!)
You can easily roll the vinyl (with your applique stuck on) and take it to your quilt shop to "audition" backgrounds!
By the way, I also use this vinyl to try out quilting designs. I use Dry-Erase Bright Crayons (by Crayola) to try out quilting designs. I can rub off the designs when finished.
Until next time.....