Applique Tutorial

My sister Serena is getting a sewing machine, and I would love to be able to sit down with her and teach her the basics of sewing.  But right now, she lives in Mississippi, and I live in England, and there’s no way I can travel there anytime soon.  So I decided the easiest way to help her learn how to sew would be to post tutorials of stuff she would actually like to make.
My other sister has a sewing machine now too, and she’s really the greenest person I know – she used to volunteer full-time for Freecycle .  So I suspect she might like me promoting the idea of using old fabric scraps to applique onto old clothes to make new wearable art.

So: here’s a tutorial on how to do simple appliqué. There are lots of pics and lots of instructions, but individually each step is pretty easy. If you can draw a wiggly line and you have a sewing machine, you can do appliqué:

Here’s what you’ll need:
Heat n Bond LITE (so you can sew through it) – N.B. My lovely sis Serena reminded me that if you’re just starting to sew, you might not know what Heat n Bond actually is… it’s this groovy paper stuff you can buy at haberdasheries that basically lets you make an iron-on patch out of any fabric you choose. I promise that the first time you play with it, you’ll be like, ‘Oh! That’s how that works!’ It’s pretty cheap, easy to use, and goes a long way.
The material out of which you want to make your applique design – I used green and pink felt that was bought for some project then forgotten about
The material you want to appliqué onto – I used the Amy Butler flower fabric shown
Some blank pattern paper
A cutting mat or some metric pattern paper is useful (but not absolutely necessary)
A square of medium weight fusible interfacing (a little bigger than your appliqué), or you can use the special applique tear-away stuff, but it’s not necessary to buy a whole thing of it if you’re making one heart.
Matching thread
Any chosen embellishments (I used buttons)
A glass or something to trace around, or some shape you can use as a pattern (I did a freehand of a glass and the heart is from Cath Kidston’s SEW.)
Sewing machine and kit

The bias binding isn’t necessary for the applique – it was used in the half apron project I made after I did the applique.

Ok, you’re gonna want to sort out your design. One simple solution is to trace around a glass and freehand a curve down the centre:

This is where your cutting mat or metric paper comes in handy – simply place your design over the paper with a thick red placement line down the centre and use the boxes to guide where you place your chosen curve or line or whatever – just remember that you’ll have to sew over the outline of the shape later, so really tiny curves might not be a good idea…

Here’s how I started out, with just a heart positioned over metric pattern paper.
After a few tries, I got the curve just the way I wanted it! Lots of eraser shavings everywhere!
Here’s my pattern paper with my plain shapes and my freehand curved shapes; I did both to see which one I liked better – you can make it however you want! Go wild!

Then, cut out your shape. Now you need some Heat n Bond for your fabric. Cut out rectangles or squares that are a bit bigger than your pattern pieces:

and iron them onto your appliqué fabric, like so:

Then, trace your designs onto your Heat n Bond paper:

Now cut them out, like so:

You also need to iron the medium fusible interfacing onto the back of the fabric where you’re going to appliqué, as this gives the fabric some extra stability before you start doing heavy duty stuff to the front of it (like appliqué):

Now you need to iron your appliqué pieces onto the fabric, following the directions on the Heat n Bond: 
Ironed! Yours should look similar to this.
Now, set your sewing machine to satin stitch. If you don’t have satin stitch on your machine (I don’t), you can set it to a short(ish) zigzag with a very short stitch length (mine’s just above zero). Also, your buttonhole setting might work. It’s best to play around on a fabric scrap to see what you like best before you jump in to do the appliqué.
This is my setting on my machine for my heart applique – notice it’s not a full length zig-zag.(OPTIONAL but recommended: try driving your machine for a bit on a fabric scrap before jumping straight in.)
When you’ve got your settings all sorted out, start stitching.  This requires some patience, but it’s worth it, so go slowly. Start on the right-most side, whichever way up is easiest for you. Appliqué is easier to see if you’re stitching on the right-most side while you sew it, and it’s also easier if you start on a straight bit rather than a curved bit – though if your design is all curves, start on the least curvy bit:

When you start and stop stitching, leave a 4 inch tail on the front and back threads. That way, when you’re done stitching you can take the top strings through to the back and tie a square knot before you cut them off, like so: 

Use a needle to take your beginning and end thread tails through to the back.
I’m not that neat at appliqué so I have a few (okay, a LOT) of starts and stops and it ends up looking like this:
Actually, I cleaned it up a bit before I took the pic! Don’t leave too many hanging around at a time as they might get tangled in your bobbin or stitching…

Remember, you can go back over parts that you aren’t happy with.  Just do it as neatly as you can. After you’re happy with your stitching, and you’ve tied off all your strings, you’re done and you can embellish it all you want! I chose to put loads of buttons on cuz it helps to cover up my not-so-good stitching… Here’s my finished appliqué:
That’s me, smiling my cheesiest smile! 🙂
Thank you so much for using this appliqué tutorial! Please leave comments, and if you have a request of a tutorial you’d like me to put together, email me or leave a comment! Here’s a final pic of the apron I made, in all its appliquéd glory!
If you find yourself stuck at any point, or just need some sewing advice, please email me here! 

© Copyright J C Excell, 2011
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