How to Make Embroidery Appliques

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Appliques are a fun way to embellish clothing and household items. Different colors and textures in the applique fabric can give the finished product a completely new look. Applique is also a great choice for items and fabrics that are difficult to embroider or can't take the strain of a dense embroidery design. Whether you applique by hand or use a sewing or embroidery machine, the process is fairly easy and the results can be stunning.

Things You'll Need

  • Item to be appliqued
  • Scrap(s) of fabric
  • Iron-on stabilizer (like Heat-n-Bond Lite)
  • Tear-away or cut-away stabilizer
  • Spray adhesive
  • Thread in a coordinating or contrasting color
  • Applique embroidery design (if using an embroidery machine)

Applique by Hand or Sewing Machine

  • Select the design you wish to applique. Simple shapes with straight lines or gentle curves work best. Draw or print a paper template.

  • Follow the directions on your stabilizer to iron it onto the back of your applique fabric.

  • Spray a shot of adhesive on your paper template and stick it to the back of your stabilized applique fabric. Cut around the shape of the template and discard the paper.

  • Use spray adhesive to stick the tear-away stabilizer on the back of the item you're going to applique. This is less important if you are sewing by hand. Use a piece of stabilizer that is slightly larger than your applique.

  • Remove the backing from the Heat-n-Bond and iron the applique in place on the main fabric. Sew around the applique using a satin, zigzag, E-stitch, blanket stitch or other decorative stitch to achieve the desired appearance. Tear away the excess stabilizer.

Applique With an Embroidery Machine

  • Select an embroidery design that is intended for applique and print a paper template.

  • Follow the directions on your stabilizer to iron it onto the back of your applique fabric.

  • Spray a shot of adhesive on your paper template and stick it to the back of your stabilized applique fabric. Cut around the shape of the template and discard the paper.

  • Stabilize and hoop the main fabric as you normally would for embroidery. Send the design to your embroidery machine. A dieline should stitch out first showing you where to place the applique fabric.

  • Remove the paper backing from the Heat-n-Bond, spray a shot of adhesive on the back of the stabilized applique piece and adhere it exactly within the sewn dieline. Finish stitching out the design. Trim the stabilizer to within 1/4 inch of the stitches.

Tips & Warnings

  • Iron-on stabilizer on your applique fabric will help prevent fraying, but for fabrics that fray badly, consider using a tighter zig-zag or satin stitch.
  • Use a wide zig-zag or blanket stitch to give the applique a hand-sewn, heirloom appearance. Use a satin stitch for a more professional, more finished look.
  • Make sure that both the main fabric and the applique fabric have been laundered before sewing. Colors bleeding or fabrics shrinking differently can ruin a beautiful applique.
  • Look for iron-on stabilizer that says it can be sewn through. Heat-n-Bond is intended to be used without sewing so the glue is much thicker and stronger. It will gum up the needle and cause the fabric to stretch. Heat-n-Bond Lite is thinner and made to be sewn on.

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