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How to Applique Pieces of Fabric by Hand and Machine

What is it?

Appliqué is a technique featuring pieces of fabric stitched on top of the main fabric as decoration. Appliqué can be sewn to a garment by hand or machine. Instead of cut pieces of fabric, you can buy premade appliqués to attach to your garment.

Appliqué

Purchased appliqué on Saltspring Dress

Appliqué detail

Appliqué detail

When do you Use It?

Use appliqués as decoration on just about anything—blouses, dresses or skirts; pocket openings, bodices, necklines, monograms, skirt hems or anywhere you like. Appliqués can be sewn all over the garment, placed evenly along hemlines or edges, or used to highlight specific areas like the waistline.

Depending on the project, you can either apply the appliqué before the garment is constructed or once the garment is fully sewn. Applying it before the garment is sewn is the easiest to do, since the fabric pieces are flat. This is the best way to add appliqués to small areas and the easiest to machine-appliqué. This is also the best method if you are confident on where to place the appliqué.

Sewing the appliqué in place after the garment is finished lets you pick the perfect placement. Try the garment on a dress form or yourself, pin the appliqué in place and adjust until it’s in the perfect place, then sew it on securely. To sew an appliqué to a completed garment, handsewing is best unless the area is easy to access by machine, such as the hemline.

Tips + Notes

  • If your purchased appliqué is cotton or a natural fiber, you may want to prewash the appliqué first, before applying it to your project, especially if the finished project will be washed and not dry-cleaned. Wet the appliqué thoroughly and let it dry before sewing it on.
  • Consider where you’re placing delicate or intricate appliqués, like beaded ones. Are they going to be abrasive? Are they located in a spot that’s going to be rubbed and worn?
  • Beaded appliqués are best applied by hand. The machine’s presser foot could damage the beads and the bumpiness makes it difficult to feed through the machine.
  • For interesting appliqués, cut out motifs from a printed fabric. Shapes with well-defined edges work best, like flowers with distinct outlines.

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric by Hand

How to applique pieces of Fabric by Hand (1)

Cut out the appliqué shape, adding a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance all around the edges. If you are cutting multiple pieces of the same shape, make a template from cardboard.

How to applique pieces of Fabric by Hand (2)

Staystitch (page link) around the edges and fold the seam allowance to the wrong side. Clip edges (page link) where necessary so the curves form nicely.
To press the edges, use the cardboard template and wrap the edges around the cardboard edge to the wrong side. Press with the iron.

How to applique pieces of Fabric by Hand (3)

Hand baste (page link) the appliqué in place, catching the folded seam allowance so it doesn’t flip out to the right side.

How to applique pieces of Fabric by Hand (4)

Handsew the appliqué around the edges. You can use a blanket stitch (page link), slipstitch (page link) or any stitch you prefer. Blanket stitches will be visible, while a slipstitch will hide your stitches.

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric by Machine

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric by Machine (1)

Apply a fusible adhesive to the wrong side of the appliqué fabric. This adhesive comes with a paper backing that peels off like a sticker. Use it to stick the appliqué to the garment fabric. Apply to the wrong side of your fabric, with the paper side up.

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric by Machine (2)

Trace around your template, or draw your appliqué design directly onto the paper backing. Cut out the appliqué shape through both the fabric and the backing, without adding any seam allowance.

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric by Machine (3)

Peel off the backing and place the appliqué sticky side down on the right side of your garment. Fuse the appliqué in place with an iron.

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric by Machine (4)

Set your machine to sew a satin stitch by switching it to the zigzag function and shortening the stitch length to nearly zero. Doing so creates a very dense zigzag stitch that looks like a thick solid line. Sew around the edges of the appliqué, pivoting around curves and at corners. I find it easier to pivot when the needle is in position at the outer edge of the appliqué. When you reach the starting point, pull the threads to the back, tie in a knot and clip threads.

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric with Edges Finished

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric with Edges Finished (1)

Cut out the appliqué shape, adding a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance. If you are cutting multiple pieces of the same shape, make a template from cardboard. For each appliqué, cut two pieces of fabric. Sew each appliqué pair together with a ¼” (6mm) seam, right sides together, and leave a small opening for turning. Clip curves, notch outer edges and trim corners (page link).

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric with Edges Finished (2)

Turn right side out and press the shape flat, then turn in the edges of the opening in line with the sewn edges.

How to Applique Pieces of Fabric with Edges Finished (3)

Position the appliqué and hand baste (page link) the appliqué in place. Catch the folded seam allowance so it doesn’t flip out to the right side. Edgestitch (page link) around the appliqué with a straight machine stitch, sewing your row of stitching an even distance from the turned edge.

How to Apply a Purchased Applique by Hand

Place the appliqué where you want it and hand baste. Some purchased appliqués will come with an adhesive backing. If yours does, read the directions on the packaging to adhere the appliqué to your project. Thread a sewing needle with thread to match the appliqué. I’m using a contrast thread so it’s easy to see. Handsew around the appliqué with a blanket stitch (page link). Place the stitches close together to create a satin-stitch effect. Continue around the edges of the appliqué until you reach the starting point.

How to Apply a purchased Applique by Hand

How to Apply a Purchased Applique by Machine

Decide where to place the appliqué. Hand baste it in place before sewing permanently, or use a fabric glue or the adhesive backing to secure the appliqué without pins. Pins will make it bumpy and harder to sew the appliqué on evenly. Sew around the edges of the appliqué. Use a zigzag stitch or satin stitch set to the same width as the appliqué’s edging. Sew around the edges of the appliqué until you reach the starting point.

How to Apply a Purchased Applique by Machine

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine