Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Applique on Fabric . . .

Earlier this week -- after posting about Brunhilde and Manfred my tooth pillow creations -- I promised a tutorial on "Fabric Applique".  Applique refers to the technique in which pieces of fabric are sewn onto another piece of fabric to create a design, pattern, or picture. The technique is especially popular right now on childrens items or totes. Here are some basic instructions that the beginner sewer can use to learn how to applique.

Before you Start: Find a design for your applique that can be broken down into basic shapes. You can draw your own creation onto paper or use a stencil or a coloring book page. There are also free applique templates online and many for a very reasonable price on Etsy. To make your pattern, simply trace the shapes onto a piece of paper.

Fabric Selection: Choose fabrics that will compliment or contrast. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so work with fabrics that appeal to you!

As you read through the tutorial, know that each step coincides with the number on the photos.

Step 1: Choose one piece of your pattern and cut a piece of double-sided paper-backed fusible web (like Wonder-Under) slightly larger than the pattern piece.

Step 2: Place the Wonder-Under rough side down (paper side up) onto the wrong side of the fabric. Remember the paper side of the Wonder-Under is to the iron!

Step 3: Adhere the Wonder-Under to the fabric by pressing your hot iron onto the paper.

Step 4: It shouldn't take more than a couple of seconds -- just long enough to adhere it securely.

Step 5: Take the pattern piece and lay it over the paper side of the Wonder-Under.

Step 6: With a pencil draw around your pattern piece and cut it out. You will now have a piece of your applique with the Wonder-Under attached to the back.

Step 7: In order to apply the applique to the background fabric, you will need to take the paper off the Wonder-Under on the back of your pattern piece. Sometimes it's difficult to remove this paper from the fabric on the edge --  as the fabric edge will fray a little as you are trying to get the paper off. Years ago I devised this trick. Run a needle or pin along the back of the paper and then bend the paper at that line. The paper will split at the line.

Step 8: Now it will be much easier to remove the paper from the back of the fusible web or pattern piece.

Step 9: Continue using this same technique to fuse Wonder-Under to the back of all your pattern pieces. (Important note: I only use Wonder-Under on cotton fabrics -- for the felt pieces the fusible web is not needed. That will be explained later.)

Step 10: Now it's time to get the background fabric ready for your applique. I always iron on a piece of fusible fleece to the wrong side of the background fabric to give it more body. (This isn't necessary when you are appliqueing onto a wearable item, like a shirt or onesie.)

Step 11: At this point you should have all your cotton pattern pieces with Wonder-Under adhered on the back. The paper backing should have been taken off each piece. Arrange the applique pieces onto the background fabric. Remember that applique is a layering technique with one piece laying on top of another.

Step 12: Take off all but the bottom pieces of applique and iron those bottom pieces onto your fabric.

Having the fabric fused to your background will ensure that the fabric pieces will stay in place as you sew around them. Some say there is no need to sew around the applique pieces if you have fused them onto the fabric, but I believe that's a risky opinion at best. Your applique will not be nearly as durable if you don't secure the pieces by sewing around the edges.

Step 13: Now it's time to sew around those applique pieces. I choose to use a blanket stitch (#36 in the photo below) on my sewing machine. A zig-zag (#6 in the photo below) or satin stitch (#16 in the photo below) can be used if your machine doesn't have the blanket stitch. If you don't have a sewing machine, you can do this work by hand.

Step 14: Set the stitch to the length and width you desire.

Step 15: Stitch around each piece.

Step 16: Continue adding layers and adding each additional piece in the same way.

Step 17: Because felt "melts" when it is ironed fusible web or Wonder-Under shouldn't be added to the back of the felt pieces. They have enough body to stand alone anyway. Just pin the felt piece down using two pins to secure it and sew around.

Steps 18-19: Continue pinning and layering each additional piece.

Step 20: Soon you will have your completed applique...

I hope this tutorial was helpful. I would suggest you practice a little on pieces of scrap fabric before you dive in, but it won't take long for you to get the hang of it!

Tomorrow I'll be posting the pattern for Manfred the Snaggle-Toothed He-Monster Tooth Pillow!

Linked to:
Free For All Friday @ Sassy Sites
20 Below Thursday @ Christina's Adventures


Sylvia N. said...

Thanks for the tips and tricks! I avoid appliqué in general, but maybe I will give it another try. Is there a reason not to use satin stitch around the edges? I like the look of satin stitch in addition to blanket stitch...hmmmm?

Krista said...

So very helpful, thanks Suzanne! How I'm wishing I'd bought a machine that has more stitches now. I need to go inspect it. Perhaps that blanket stitch is there and I didn't notice. Also, never knew felt melted under an iron! Thanks for that tip, too! Now my home is much safer. :)

Suzanne said...

Jerri - As I said, I choose to use the blanket stitch but either of the other stitches (zig-zag or satin) works too. I just think for the beginner sewer the blanket stitch might be a little easier to control. ;o)

Krista - I don't know if "melt" was the best word to use there, but the inexpensive felt squares that I buy do "melt" under my iron, so I iron around them when I press my appliques.

Mia said...

You make it look so easy! I think I am going to try this... you know in November when I I do my once a year sewing craft ;)

Debilou ~ Mississippi Mama said...

i've been wanting to try an applique for 1st birthday shirt for my daughters friend,, thanks for posting this. Is the fusible fleece on the underside of the background(garment) necessary if it is going on something to be worn??

Suzanne said...

Debilou - No don't put the fusible fleece on the background fabric if it is a wearable item -- only if it's to be framed or used for a pillow, etc.

Sandy said...

Just had to tell you that this is hands down the best tutorial I have seen out in blogland on how to applique onto fabric. You do a great job of explaining it step-by-step, and the numbered photos are just awesome! I am bookmarking this so I can have it as a handy reference. Thanks so much :)

Judy said...

Thank you so much. I am going to make these with my girls. Ages 26 and 28. They want to make them for some cute little friends.

JessicaR said...

Thanks for doing this! I was confused at how exactly to do this, but this was easy to follow & understand!

Michele T said...

This is sooo cute!! Thanks for the tutorial!

Michele T said...

This is soooo cute!! Thanks for the tutorial1

Lbtoyos said...


Aleasha said...

This is adorable! I can't wait to make it for my kiddos.

Marni @ Haberdashery Fun said...

just stumbled upon this.. Really awesome. Love the monsters!

Marla said...

I just found your post today....wonderful and easy explanation. Thank you for providing pictures for each step. It is a very cute pillow, I think I might try to make one myself. ;)