Appliques can add a creative flair to a plain project. You can use a single shape such as a heart or several shapes stitched together to create a fabric picture. Appliques require very little fabric so you can use up your fabric scraps from other projects.
Appliques can be very simple depending on the fabric you use or very elegant if you choose to work with satins. Most fabrics are suitable for an applique but the easiest to work with are medium-weight fabrics with smooth surfaces. Starting off with you should look for fabrics that are cotton or cotton blends. Loosely woven fabrics and bulky fabrics are difficult to work with but as you advance in applique you might decide to try it. When choosing your fabrics make sure that all fabrics are compatible and require the same washing and drying care.
The first step in creating an applique is designing a motif. You can find inspiration just going to a craft store and browsing. The internet is also a good option and there are several websites that are dedicated to applique.
Before transferring motifs to fabric, press the fabric to remove any wrinkles. It is a good idea to use a press cloth to avoid damaging the fabric.
Take a look at your fabric before cutting out the applique. Unlike most sewing projects appliques do not have to be cut on the grainline. This will free up your creativity when designing a motif because you may cut your applique in any direction you choose. Once you have settled on what to cut you can then transfer your design directly to the fabric or use a template as a pattern.
Now that you have prepared your applique it is ready to be applied to the background fabric. It is a good idea to trace the template onto your background fabric in the exact spot in which you want to attach the applique. To do this, first find the center of the fabric by folding it in half lengthwise and crosswise; lightly crease it. Open the fabric; the spot at which the folds cross is the center. Hand-baste or mark along the creases with a water-soluble marker. Center the template on the center markings and trace around the template with a water-soluble marker.
To stitch an applique in place use all-purpose sewing thread and a medium-length hand sewing needle. Appliques may be pinned or basted to the background fabric to hold them in place when stitching. Beginning sewers should always baste first to ensure that the applique will stay in place. The general-use stitch is the slip-stitch. It is almost invisible because the stitches are hidden in the fold of the fabric. When you begin stitching hide the knot of the thread under the applique.
A Few Extra Tips
Cutting Out Pieces
Prepare your template by tracing the shape or design onto tracing paper. Transfer shape or design onto heavy paper such as cardboard with dressmaker’s carbon paper, or simply cut out and trace around the edge onto the cardboard. On right side of fabric, trace around the edge of template with a water-soluble marker to mark seamline. Cut out applique by cutting 1/4 inch away from the marked line. If using a printed fabric choose carefully when deciding to cut.
Preparing Curved Edges
Hand-baste 1/4 inch in from the raw edge of applique along the seamline. Make small V-shape cuts into the curved areas of the applique along the seam allowances using very tiny scissors. Do not clip beyond the basting. Turn the appliques edges under along the seam basting. Press under edges with an iron. If the fabric is not lying flat or is puckering you will need to make additional cuts in the seam allowance. After turning the edges under you can remove the basting stitches.
Preparing Pointed Appliques
Prepare your template and cut out the applique. Measure in 1/4 inch from the edge and draw line from 1 raw edge to the other. Baste along the line. Fold tip of point down to the line and press in place on the wrong side of the fabric. Turn in 1 side of point to wrong side of fabric along the seamline, 1/4 inch in from the raw edge. Fabric will lap over the point. Press into place. Turn in remaining edge of the fabric to the wrong side along the seamline. The edge will overlap the seamlines of point and the first edge. Press into place. If the point seems bulky you can trim the tip.
Preparing An Interior Corner
Start off with tracing your template and cut out the applique. Hand-baste 1/4 inch in from the raw edge to create a seamline. Make small diagonal cuts in the inside corner of the applique. Do not clip through the basting. Turn the edges of the inside corner to the wrong side of the fabric. Press into place. Place a small drop of seam sealant on the corner to prevent fraying.
Appliqueing Shapes To Fabric
After preparing your templates and cutting out the pieces you will need to press the seam allowance to the wrong side of the fabric. Place piece in desired location on the background fabric and pin or hand-baste into place. Slipstitch applique in place by bringing needle up though the folded edge of applique. Take small stitches in the background fabric. Insert needle back into the folded edge. Continue around the applique taking stitches every 1/4 inch. To add decorative finishes on appliques you can stitch around the edges with embroidery floss and the embroidery stitch. There are several embroidery stitches that can add a decorative finish to your applique.
Cut desired number of fabric layers to the exact same size. Stack the layers keeping the edges even. Baste around the outer edge. Trace desired shape on the top layer of fabric using a water-soluble marker. On the top layer of fabric only carefully cut away shape 1/8 inch inside the marked line. Turn under 1/4 inch on the cut edge, clipping corners and curves as you go. Press into place. Slipstitch folded edge into place. Trace desired shape on second layer of fabric. Make another template slightly smaller than the original. Cut through the second layer of fabric only. Turn down the cut edge and press into place. Slipstitch along folded edges. Continue using smaller template with each layer of fabric.
Once you get the hang of applique you will find many ways to embellish items with this creative technique. Purchase books and search websites online for additional techniques as you become more advanced.
Applique For Beginners