Applique refers to any project, in which a shape, pattern or design is cut out of one material and is applied or transferred to another material. Applique can be used to add style and personalization to any project or store bought item.
appliqued play tent by A Little Gray
Oliver & S Roller Skate dress with applique
woodland circle applique quilt
Finding your applique shapes: Basic silhouette shapes, with less detail are best for machine applique. I like to find my shapes using google images. You can limit the results of your google image search by adding, “clipart” or “coloring page” after your search word. For example, if I wanted a butterfly applique shape, I would type “butterfly clipart” into the google image search engine. Right click on the image and save it to your computer, print the image at the desired size.
"heart-coloring-page" applique shape
"flower coloring page" applique shapes
If you are looking to applique a letter or number, a good place to find your applique pattern is in whatever word editing program you have. Pages or Microsoft Word. These programs allow you to pick your font and font size. Print your pattern. Of course, you can also freehand draw the applique image of your choice or trace any household object. I trace my cereal bowls every time I need a circle shape.
Preparing your applique shape: Once you have your applique image and the fabric that you want to make the image from, you need to prepare the fabric. I use a heavy duty double sided adhesive, usually Wonder Under. This product is paper on one side and has a bumpy texture on the other, the bumpy side is the glue. Trace your image onto the paper side of the Wonder Under, cut loosely around it. Place the glue side onto the wrong side of your desired fabric and iron for at least the count of 10 in each place. Cut the image out. Peel off the paper side of the Wonder Under. You can drag the tip of a pin across the paper to tear it, making it easier to pull off. Your applique shape should now have a shiny surface on the wrong side of the fabric. The shininess is the glue.
shiny glue side of the Wonder Under
trace shape onto paper side of Wonder Under
iron Wonder Under onto wrong side of fabric
The shiny glue side of the applique after removing the paper side
Place the shiny side down onto the right side of your project to be appliqued, press for at least the count of 10 in each spot. Your shape is now permanently adhered to your project.
iron applique shape onto project, right side up, glue side down
Preparing your foundation fabric/project: I like to use a lightweight fusible interfacing on the inside of whatever I will be appliqueing onto. This gives the heavy stitching something to hold onto and helps to prevent fabric snags and tears. Cut a piece of interfacing slightly larger than the size of your applique shape and put it on the inside (wrong side) of your foundation fabric or project. Again, the bumpy side of the interfacing is the glue side, so place the bumpy side down. Use an iron to adhere the interfacing. It only take a few seconds of heat in each place.
Stitching your applique: There are multiple ways to stitch your applique. Zig zag satin stitch, straight stitch and hand sewn blanket embroidery stitch are a few of my faves.
Zig Zag Satin Stitch: This look is created by using a machine zig zag stitch with a decreased stitch length. I like to decrease my stitch length to 0.5 or 0.6. You could go lower than that, but I feel like it increases the risk of creating a jumbled mess of knotty threads underneath the project that almost always leads to a tear in your project. You should always test your satin stitch on scrap fabric before you use it on your final project. Find the stitch length that works best for you and practice it a bit before moving on to project.
Check out this tutorial for sewing around the curves of your applique!
- zig zag (satin) applique using a shortened stitch length
decrease stitch length to 0.5 or 0.6
Straight Stitch: This look is created by using your standard machine straight stitch about 1/8 of inch inside your applique shape. The raw edges of the applique shape will fray a bit, but not past the stitch line. This gives the applique a more casual look.
straight stitch applique 1/4 inch from raw edge of applique
Sewn owner, Julie Bossert, made this fantastic US map quilt and quilted it with straight lines 1/4 inch from each states raw edge.
Blanket Hand Embroidery: The applique below was stitched with Perle cotton embroidery thread.
Here is a tutorial for using blanket stitch embroidery on your applique:
blanket embroidery stitch applique
Here’s a roundup of my favorite applique projects from the interwebs:
Sewn customer, Nikki, made this awesome applique quilt using a pattern from Elizabeth Hartman‘s book, Practical Guide to Patchwork.
Ballet shoe applique shirt by Make It and Love It.
Hexagon appliqued tote bag by V and Co.
Raw edge applique tree skirt, by The Red Pistachio