How To: Appliqué (3 stitches)

Learn how to decorate and personalise a garment or product with appliqué. The perfect way to up-cycle some clothing, decorate bunting for a new born baby or personalise a tote bag. Watch a video of the tutorial on YouTube: How To: Appliqué.

Start by deciding on the motif you wish to use. If drawing isn’t your forte you are welcome to print a motif or letter from the computer or simply trace something you already have available.

Start by drawing the motif onto a double sided adhesive. We are working with Vilene Bondaweb throughout this tutorial, so if you are working with a different product please check the instructions.

Draw the motif onto the paper side of the doubled sided adhesive. One side should be textured the other smooth. Draw the motif onto the smooth side using a pencil.

If you are working with a letter or a directional motif you MUST draw the motif back to front on the Bondaweb. Flip the letter or motif and trace around it back to front (the motif should look correct with the textured side of the Bondaweb facing UP).

Take the motif fabric and iron the Bondaweb onto the WRONG side of the fabric. The textured side of the Bondaweb should be touching the WRONG side of the fabric. Iron with a dry iron for 5 seconds (please check your individual instructions).

Cut around the motif shape using a sharp pair of scissors.

Peel off the paper side of the Bondaweb, this is tricky to get started! But once started you should be able to peel off the paper layer.

We recommend interfacing the main fabric to support the motif and any stitching you wish to add. If you are adding a motif to a certain area of a garment or product you only need to interface around the placement of the motif. Cut a circle or oval of interfacing, rather than a square (without corners the circle or oval will be less likely obvious). Choose a similar weight interfacing to the product fabric and iron on for the instructed time.

Now it is time to think about the placement of the motif on the garment or product. If you are working with more than one motif we recommend positioning them all in place at the same time, to check you are happy with the design.

Once all of the motifs are in the correct position you will need to iron them on individually to attach them to the fabric. Place the Bondaweb side of the motif onto the RIGHT side of the garment or product. Iron using heat and steam, you may need to use a damp cloth if your iron doesn’t produce steam. Protect your fabric with a pressing cloth if required.

Now the motif should be attached to the garment or product. If you haven’t got access to a sewing machine you are welcome to leave the motif as it is!

There are a number of different options that can be used to sew the motif onto the product on the sewing machine or by hand. This will secure the motif onto the fabric, some techniques may stop the motif fabric from fraying and all provide a detail and design element.

If you would like to sew around the motif by hand, check out our hand sewing tutorial for how to sew a backstitch using appliqué: How To: Back Stitch (Appliqué).

Straight Stitch Appliqué
Edgestitch 1/8″ (3mm) away from the edge of the motif, using a standard straight stitch with a length of 2.5mm. Feel free to play with the positioning and length of the stitch. You are the designer! Thicker fabrics may require an increased stitch length to make the stitch visible.

Play around with different threads to achieve a decorative finish, work with the same colour or different colour thread depending on the look you are after. Why not try an embroidery thread or metallic thread.

Do NOT backstitch to start or stop sewing, as this can look messy. Simply start sewing, sew around the motif finishing back at the start of the stitching. Turn the corners by positioning the needle into the fabric, lifting the presser foot and moving the fabric.

To finish the motif neatly pull on the threads from the WRONG side of the fabric, you should see a small loop emerge. Use a pin or needle to grab the small loop and pull the thread through from the right side of the fabric. If this is not possible, use a needle to thread the threads from the front of the motif through to the WRONG side. Tie the threads together with a knot (the two starting threads, and two finishing threads). Trim the threads off about 3/8″ (1cm) from the knots.

This method will mean that the edges of the motif are susceptible to fraying, however this may be the design you are looking for!

Zigzag Appliqué
An alternative option is to sew a simple zigzag stitch on the sewing machine. We used the following settings; width 3mm, length 1mm, however you are welcome to change the width and length depending on your individual design.

Sew trying to keep the edge of the motif in the centre of the zigzag so that the stitching catches both the motif and main fabric evenly. Turn the corners following the same method completed above. Do NOT backstitch and again pull the threads through to the wrong side of the fabric, as completed with the straight stitch.

The zigzag stitch will help to prevent the motif from fraying.

Satin Stitch Appliqué
The final method is a zigzag stitch sewn very close together, this is referred to as the satin stitch. Some sewing machines will have a satin stitch setting, others will require you to use the standard 2 step zigzag. The satin stitch is a zigzag stitch sewn very close together to create a block of threads. When sewn it appears as a neat and professional finish that will stop the motif fabric from fraying.

The stitch length must be between 0.25 and 0.5mm, however you may need to test this on your sewing machine. You are aiming for the stitch to sew as close together as possible, whilst still moving the fabric through the sewing machine. If the setting is too close to 0mm in length, the fabric will not move through the sewing machine and the machine will stitch in one area, creating a lump (gigantic bar-tack).

We used a width of 2mm, however this can be changed based on the design and the fabric you are working with. Thicker, more textured fabrics may required a larger width.

Again do not backstitch, simply sew around the motif, sewing back to the start. Use the same techniques as with the previous stitches to sew around corners and to tie off the threads after sewing.

The most important thing is to test your fabric and the design you wish to achieve. If possible test the fabric and a sample motif so that you can check the thread and stitch settings are perfect, so that you are happy with your creation!

We would love to see what you have decorated with appliqué, feel free to share your makes with us on Facebook and Instagram.