How to Make an Applique
You’ve just spent all of this time making your table runner (or another sewing project), and it just feels… lackluster. You want to spruce up the project a bit, and make it really stand out. That’s where finishing details like appliques come into play. There’s more than one way to go about making an applique, but I’m going to show you one of the simple ways I like to make them for my projects.
To start with, you’ll need a piece of fabric (it doesn’t have to be huge, just big enough to fit your design on), some double-sided, lightweight fusible web, your iron, ironing board, thread, sewing machine, pencil, and maybe some pins, and some rubbing alcohol and cotton balls (for cleaning your machine needle as necessary). I’m including a template for the design I created, but you could look up different designs in your search engine and print out a shape or silhouette that you like, and use that for your pattern. You can also free-hand your design, which is what I did, based off of a leaf from the yard (I made it larger though). And you’ll need your table runner top or whatever piece of your project that you are working on that you would like to add an applique to.
For my little project, I made a small wall-hanging with leftover squares from my patchwork table runner project. I chose two fabrics and alternated them to create a checkerboard design, 5 squares by 5 squares. (It’s roughly 15-16″ squared in dimension.)
Start by making sure your project piece that you will be adding your applique onto and the fabric that you will be using for the applique itself have been ironed appropriately before beginning. ALWAYS iron before beginning a project. You’ll have neater results in the end.
Place your double-sided fusible web shiny side down onto the BACK side of your fabric. Try to put this piece of web on an edge or corner of your material as to not waste perfectly good fabric. The size of the fusible web you apply will be dependent on the size of your applique. PRESS the fusible web (on the papery, dull side) onto the fabric. Do not iron, as it will cause the fusible web to slide around and not adhere properly. Your fusible web should have come with directions, so read those before working to make sure you are following the manufacturers’ directions… they can vary from maker to maker, so make sure you read them! Remember as well, it’s best to NOT wash any fabrics with fabric softener if you plan on applying fusible web to them; it adheres better this way.
Once your piece of fusible web is in place, let it cool a little, and then trace your design onto the paper side of your it. With your design drawn on, cut out your design. This is one of the few times you can use your sewing scissors on paper… but it’s even better if you have a good pair of scissors that are for things like this so you don’t ruin your fabric scissors 🙂 Then again, you don’t need it. Once it’s cut, remove the paper backing, leaving you with a piece of fabric with a shiny backing.
I always save the scraps of fabric with the fusible web already applied because they can be used for future projects, and I’ve never regretted having them on hand! Alternatively, you can cut out the design on the paper before pressing it onto the fabric, and still save the bits of fused scraps, without the pre-determined fabric attached to it…. it’s up to you. And you don’t have to save every scrap, but often, all you need is a small piece of this stuff for a project. Stick them in a zip-lock bag and store in your sewing basket for safe keeping (or wherever you store your sewing supplies).
Decide on exact positioning of your applique piece BEFORE you iron your applique in place. Once it goes on, it’s not coming off very easily! If it helps you to pin parts in place prior to pressing, go for it, but I find that pins just get in the way. Patience and caution go a long way!
Press the piece in place on a dry setting (no steam), shiny side down! If you mess up that part, you’ll end up with a sticky mess on your iron as the glue adheres to your iron instead of your fabric. And remember to PRESS, not iron. That means you will set your iron on a portion of your design, then LIFT the iron, and move it to the next location.
After that, it’s onto sewing. Set your machine to a zig-zag stitch, I went with a stitch width of just under a 1/4″ , and a stitch length just under 1. If your machine gives you a limited zig-zag without options for variation, that’s okay, you can use what the machine came with as well. I chose a contrasting (but coordinating) thread for all of my appliqueing and quilting, but you could pick something that matches the color of the piece you are applying.
I started by slowly sewing down the edges of the ironed-on applique. On the down-stroke of the needle, the needle always lined up with one edge of the applique, and the other came down just inside of the applique. Take your time and sew all of the way around the perimeter of the appliqued item.
During this time, you may have some thread breakage or notice that your needle is getting gummed up. This is the result of the adhesive of the fusible web heating up from the needle and melting and sticking to the needle. If you notice this happening, you can either clean the needle or change it. I opted for cleaning it because I can’t make a bunch of trips to the sewing store.
Now I’ll show you one way to quilt around the applique. First I created an echo around the shape of my design, sewing all around the maple leaf. Next, I quilted lines 1/4″ on either side of every seam allowance, stopping and starting (with back-stitching, of course) right up to the leaf. Once you have all of that done, clip all of those threads!
And there you have it. BUT, if you are doing the table runner project with me and have not done Part 2 (as of writing this post, that one has not been published), do not do the quilting in this step. Come back to reference this when we are done with part two. You can add the applique now, just wait on the quilting. You can also do quilting on the applique to add dimension and details to it. You don’t have to use a single shape or a single fabric either…make a turkey and add feathers in different colors, make a pumpkin and add a stem and leaves, the possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Just remember to be patient. You might find that your wrists hurt a bit after sewing down the applique if you had to make a lot of turns like I did. Don’t overextend yourself. Take breaks if needed.
Wow…A short sewing post! I didn’t know I had it in me 🙂 Let me know if you try doing this at all and what you think of your results. Of course, as always, let me know if you have any questions.
Love~Danielle and Trudy
P.S. Want the rest of the Sewing Saturday series? Check out the links below!
Introduction to Sewing: Part 1
Introduction to Sewing: Part 2
Your Sewing Machine
Getting To Know Your Sewing Machine
Setting Up Your Sewing Machine
Sewing Machine Maintenance and Troubleshooting
Throw Pillow Supplies and More Sewing Tools
How to Make a Patchwork Table Runner: Part 1
How to Make an Applique
I just love this! You give such great, clear instructions, and handy tips! I also really appreciate how you have all the links organized for easy reference at the end of your post! What a great series!
Spring Lake Homestead
Thank you 🙂 Let me know if you end up making one!
Danielle & Trudy: a basic question–why don’t you quilt before adding the applique? It just seems like it would be easier.
Spring Lake Homestead
Excellent question! You can certainly do that, and I won’t tell you that it’s wrong, however, your applique will take on the texture of your quilting. My pretty leaf would look like it was crushed onto a checkered background. By quilting around the applique, it gives dimension to the applique and helps it to “pop” out more. Thanks for asking!