How to Make Embroidery Appliques

By Barbara Thompson

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.

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.

Tip

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.

Warning

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.

About the Author

Barbara Thompson has a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology from Clayton State University and more than 10 years experience developing print and web-based training materials for various industries. For the last seven years, Barbara has worked in a public university system designing online college courses and developing training materials for faculty and students.