I’ve been sitting on this tutorial for you guys for a bit, and after a Facebook post by a friend of mine, it’s become clear to me that I need to share it sooner rather than later.
What is Appliqué?
Appliqué is a method for decorating a larger piece of fabric with a smaller piece of fabric to form a picture (or, in the above case, a letter).
You can use just a product like Heat’n Bond Ultra (affiliate) to cut out a shape and simply iron it onto your big fabric and call it done. This holds really nicely and makes for a quick, satisfying project.
Basic Machine Appliqué
If you like the look of the stitching around your appliqué, you can achieve that through the magic of an embroidery machine, or, if you aren’t lucky enough to have one (like yours truly), you can do it with a regular sewing machine – that’s what I’m going to show you today!
For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m going to assume you’ve already chosen your shape, cut it out, applied it with Heat’n Bond Lite (affiliate) and are ready to get stitching. Side note – make sure you use Heat’n Bond Lite, not Ultra, for projects where you intend to stitch around your appliqué piece. Heat’n Bond Ultra, in the red package, isn’t designed to be sewn over and will gum up your needle and cause you a headache.
How to Machine Stitch Your Appliqué to Your Project
There are a few basic tenants to dealing with machine applique, and they all be pretty much summed up with the following statement: go slowly and pay close attention to what you’re doing. Beyond that, it’s in the details.
1. Do not back-stitch where you start and stop.
You will deal with the ends after you’re done sewing, but definitely make sure you do not back-stitch your first few stitches (like you would for regular sewing) to keep a clean, uncluttered look.
2. Start and stop at each corner, do not turn your work.
I know, I know. This is a pretty big pain, but you really need to do this to have really nice results. Yes, you even have to start and stop at the little tiny short sides. It’s absolutely worth it.
3. Work one side at a time.
Each start and stop point is a side, and each side should begin and end on a hard corner. The “n” in the blanket has 13 “sides,” each worked one at a time. You don’t have to work them all in order, but you have to work them one at a time.
4. Go around curves slowly. Stop, lift your presser foot, and adjust your work every few stitches when going over a curve.
Curves require special attention. When you’re going around a curve, pay careful attention to where your needle is landing so you get a clean, finished look to your work. You’ll have to stop with your needle down and reposition your piece to ensure that your stitching follows the curve nicely.
On inside curves, stop with your needle on the outside edge of your appliqué. The zig-zags on the inside of the piece need to be a little wider spaced to account for the curve, which is hardly noticeable, but there, I assure you. Reposition your work a tiny bit, sew a few stitches, then repeat until you’re around your curve.
On outside curves, stop with your needle on the inside of your appliqué. These zig-zags will be just a little wider on the outside edge of your appliqué. You’ll stop sewing, reposition your work, sew a few stitches, and repeat until you have completed your curve.
5. Tie off your ends.
Once you’ve stitched all the way around (or not, you can do this periodically as you go, too), turn your work to the back. You’ll see a bunch of threads all over the place.
Grab and pull on one of the threads gently. As you pull, it should start pulling up a loop – this will be the thread from the front. Stick your seam ripper, a pin, or another thin thing into that loop and pull the thread to the back of your work. Tie it off with a double knot and snip the ends.
Continue around until you have tied off all of the threads. This part takes a little time, but it really gives your piece a clean, finished look.
Once you’re done tying off your ends, you can finish making whatever you were making! In this case, I made a baby blanket for a friend of a friend using one layer of dot minky, one layer of printed cotton, and ruffled satin edging around the border, then top stitched it around the edge and to close the turning hole once I finished sewing the layers together.
So, clear as mud? I thought so! I hope this helps you take your appliqué projects up a notch or two!
What’s your favorite thing to appliqué? Onesies? Blankets? Something else? Share in the comments or join the discussion on Facebook!