How to Applique

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Whether you're creating a complicated landscape scene or a simple geometric pattern, appliqué may be the right sewing technique for you. Appliqué is simply applying fabric to a background to create a pattern or image. A variety of stitches, by either machine or hand, can be used to create different effects, from rustic to elegant. Beginners should start with simple images and work up to more complicated designs. While cotton fabrics are easy to work with, fabrics such as linen or silk create striking appliqué designs for those with experience.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • A Design Or Image
  • Fusible Interfacing
  • Needle
  • Sewing Machine (If Stitching By Machine)
  • Pencil
  • Open Presser Foot (If Stitching By Machine)
  • Heavy Paper, Card Stock, Or Lightweight Cardboard
  • Fabric
  • Iron

Separating the Pieces

Create a template by transferring the image to card stock and cutting out each section. For example, an image of a red apple with a brown stem and a green leaf would need to be cut into three sections.

Trace the template on the paper side of the fusible interfacing.

Cut around the design up to 1/4 inch around the line.

Bonding the Fabric

Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric with the iron. Follow the directions on the interfacing carefully as heat or steam needs vary according to brand. Allow fused fabric to cool completely.

Cut the image out of the fused fabric along the lines on the paper side of the interfacing.

Remove the paper backing and position the bottom part of the image on the background fabric. Fuse the image to the background following the directions on the interfacing.

Begin Sewing

Stitch around the image, either by hand or with the sewing machine. Take care to keep stitching even around curves.

Lower the needle at the corner, lift the presser foot and turn the fabric in order to handle sharp corners with a sewing machine. Lower the presser foot and continue sewing.

Repeat with the remaining sections of the designs, layering if needed.


  • Any wrinkles in the fabric will become permanent once fused to the interfacing. Ironing fabric before fusing is recommended.

    Fusing a slightly larger section of interfacing to the fabric and then cutting out the exact image creates a cleaner, sharper edge for stitching.

    Use stitches that go from the outside of the design to the inside. Examples of machine stitches are zigzag, blind stitch (also called blind hem stitch) or blanket stitch. Hand stitches include blanket stitch or satin stitch.

    Contrasting thread can be used to create visual interest, or you can use clear thread for a crisp look to the appliqué.

    Choose fusible interfacing that matches the weight of the fabric.


  • Not all fusible interfacing works well with all fiber types. Purchase interfacing labeled for the fiber.

    Do not allow stray edges of interfacing to come into contact with the iron or ironing surface. It will fuse to surfaces other than fabric and is difficult to remove.