Appliqué – a tutorial

Appliqué – a tutorial

Appliqué – from the French word appliquer – to apply or fasten.

Appliqué is essentially where you fasten one piece of fabric to another – you can use a variety of different methods.

Today I’m looking at raw edge appliqué and the way of doing it I’m showing you now achieves a look similar to free motion embroidery, where you drop the feed dogs on your sewing machine (the mechanism underneath your needle plate that guides/feeds the fabric through), and draw with your needle – it produces a very sketchy, wobbly look that is very popular at the moment.

I like to use the method I’m going to show you today – where you don’t drop the feed dogs, because I like to have a little bit more control over the fabric and I like the finished effect.

Anyway, here goes, this is my first tutorial on here so bear with me!

First of all you will need to draw the shape that you would like to appliqué onto your fabric. If this is your first time, keep it simple – you can even trace something if you don’t like drawing – a simple shape or an outline of a tree or animal from a book. The most important thing for the first time, is not to be too ambitious with your shape – if there are too many awkward curves etc, then it may put you off – and even the simplest design can look really effective

I’m using a poppy design that I sketched out and then traced over.


You need to be able to fix your shape onto the main fabric so that it doesn’t move about as you sew it. There are many ways of doing this –

  • you can use Reynolds Freezer Paper – so many uses for this, I’ll do a tutuorial using this at a later date.
  • you can pin the shape onto your fabric but the disadvantage here is that the shape can move as you’re stitching it, which can be off-putting if you’re new to appliqué
  • you can use a fabric glue
  • you can use a spray adhesive – this works well, I just don’t personally like using these sprays if I can help it
  • you can use a double sided adhesive  bondaweb .

I like to use bondaweb – simply personal choice – it works for me. If you feel the bondaweb, you’ll notice that one side is bobbly – that’s the glue side, while the other side is smooth. Trace your design onto the smooth side but remember that you will need to reverse your design as you will then iron this onto the wrong side of your fabric and so when you flip the fabric over, the image will be reversed. With a simple design like a poppy there is no wrong or right side but if you have chosen letters then it’s important that you trace the reversed image onto the smooth side of the bondaweb. All will become clear!


I usually cut loosely around the traced shape on the bondaweb first. Iron the sticky side of your bondaweb onto the WRONG SIDE of your fabric.Now cut the shape out accurately.


While my iron is out,I usually at this point add a fusible fleece backing onto my main fabric to give it a little body and make it easier to stitch. Iron the fusible fleece onto the back of your main fabric according to manufacturer’s instructions.


Once you have cut your shape out, think carefully about where you want to place it on your main fabric, as once you have ironed it on, it will be very tough to remove! You’ll notice now that your shape will be a mirror image when ironed down. Once you have decided where to place your appliqué shape, tear the bondaweb off of your fabric and place the shape sticky side down on the RIGHT side of your main fabric. Iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions – usually a few seconds – I also usually use a pressing cloth here to protect the fabric. Hold the iron on the fabric rather than moving the iron as that may move the appliqué.


Your appliqué is now fixed in place, so you’re ready to sew. Set your machine to a very short stitch -my machine offers 1.5 or 1.8 – either should work well. Some people prefer to use a longer stitch here so that it looks more like hand stitching – personal preference.

You also need to change your foot to an appliqué or open toe foot – this will enable you to see exactly where you’re stitching. I usually thread my machine with a brown or black thread as they give that sketchy look I’m after but any colour will work. If you want to add an extra design to your appliqué, do so now. I use a Frixion pen – this pen allows you to draw on your fabric, then disappears at the touch of an iron. Some people  have said that the pen marks can reappear at very cold temperatures but I’ve never experienced this.


Carefully and slowly at first, begin to outline your appliqué shape. It doesn’t matter if you wobble or go off your appliqué shape, that all adds to the charm! As you get to corners stop, lift your foot, pivot the fabric, drop the foot and continue. This might sound a faff but you’ll soon get in the swing of it. The main thing is, take your time. 


Here. I’m stitching over some detail on the poppy head that I drew in using a Frixion pen.

Because your stitch length is so small, you can just snip the cotton off where you start and finish. If you’re adding a little detail, like on the poppy head in this photo, just lift the foot and move to start stitching again – you can snip the threads later.

Once you get used to doing it, you’ll be able to draw all sorts of things on your machine.

I’ve made mine up into a glasses case but it would make a great cushion, design on bunting or ready to frame.


Anyway, I hope this tutorial will be of some use – let me know how you get on. I’ve still got my tutorial learner plates on!

I’ve put in lots of links to Amazon, simply so you can identify the products I’m discussing, but they may be cheaper elsewhere or better still, your local fabric shop may stock them.

Happy sewing!

Sherry xx



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