Appliqué is needlework where pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn onto background fabric to form a picture or pattern.
Embroidery machines make the art of appliqué substantially simpler, but a lot of quilters still prefer doing the handwork. I have never been a fan of hand sewing – that’s what machines were made for!
Let’s take a look at hand appliqué first.
Tools to help
Speciality paper is available for the purpose of appliqué. Appliqué paper has paper over a webbing that becomes sticky when heat is applied. You draw your appliqué design on the paper side, press that to the wrong side of your fabric and then trim the fabric by using the outline drawn on the paper.
The paper is then removed and the design pressed to the background fabric. All pretty simple and straight forward. You can then stitch decorative stitches around the appliqué, or use a blanket stitch to neaten the edges.
Nowadays it has become popular to run a straight stitch around the edge a few times giving it a more contemporary frayed look.
There are two ways to prepare appliqué shapes for quilting or handwork projects. The first is the finished size and has a raw edge. You draw the shape on the appliqué paper, apply to the fabric and cut it out.
The second has a turned under seam allowance. In this case one would cut the shape from the fabric with an added seam allowance, and turn it over before attaching it to the background fabric. You can then use a ladder stitch to attach it leaving a very neat finish.
No embroidery machine – but you also don’t like hand sewing?
The same methods can be applied to appliqué with your sewing machine.
Older machines don’t have a blanket stitch, but you can use a zig-zag set to a short length to create a satin stitch.
If you’re in the market for a new machine, don’t get one that doesn’t have a true blanket stitch! There are stitches with some machines that resemble a blanket stitch, but are not 100% suitable to appliqué with a sewing machine.
What’s in a blanket stitch?
A blanket stitch can also be called a hemstitch, point de Paris, or pin stitch.
A true blanket stitch has a single straight stitch forward, then a perpendicular stitch to the left and back again, then another stitch forward. Remember that you can use the mirror image function if the stitches stitch to the right. The idea is that the straight stitch lies exactly on the edge of your appliqué shape, and the perpendicular stitches attaches the shape to the background.
Here are examples of the different stitches that are available with sewing machines and what a true stitch looks like on the graph of a machine.
- The multiple blanket stitch is difficult to manoeuvre around curves and points.
- The overlock stitch makes it difficult to stitch around points and curves as well.
- The double stitch blanket stitch doesn’t work as well because it doesn’t fill in well along the edge of the appliqué.
Appliqué steps in our designs
Here are the steps we follow in our appliqué designs. All our projects come with detailed instructions, and these are from the Fuzzy Wuzzy quilt.
The first step in our appliqué designs is a placement line to show you where your fabric must be placed.
Place your fabric over the placement stitches, making sure that it covers the stitches. If you have a big area of appliqué, I suggest that you use a glue pen (click here to check out the tools I like for quilting and embroidery, including the glue pen I use) to keep the fabric in place and avoid bubbles. You can also starch the fabric that you’re going to use for appliqué which helps to reduce any fraying.
The embroidery machine will stitch a single stitch line around the shape of the appliqué after which you can trim the fabric close to the attachment stitches.
The final step is the satin stitches or in some cases blanket stitches around the shape.