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Machine Applique 101 - Beginner's Quilting Series

This post is part of the Beginner's Quilting Tutorial Series. We are going through an in depth series which will teach you everything you need to know to establish a solid quilting foundation. Click here to see all of the posts and learn more about the series. Basic Machine Appliqué isn't a required skill in order to create a quilt, but I have decided to add it to this series, because I feel it is a fairly basic skill that can really add a lot of fun to a quilt.

Types of Machine Appliqué

There are a bunch of different types of appliqué techniques and methods, I would like to talk about just a few of them, as I myself haven't tried them all.

Applique Tree

Raw-edge Appliqué

Usually raw-edge appliqué is fused on to your fabric using a fusible web or a fabric glue stick. The edges can be left raw and the appliqué is sewn inside the edge. The tree pillow above is an example of classic raw-edge appliqué. On the Easy Pezzy Quilt I used a fusible web, but instead of sewing inside the edge of the appliqué, I did a zig-zag stitch right on the edge.

Summer Sunrise Baby Quilt

Freezer Paper Appliqué

Freezer Paper is a wonderful method if you want your appliqué to look seamless and have no appearance of stitching. You take the appliqué design reversed and print or draw it onto freezer paper. Iron the freezer paper onto the wrong side of your fabric. You then cut the template out with a 1/4" seam allowance. Then press the 1/4" of fabric to the back, snipping the 1/4" seam allowance on corners and curves. Then you remove the freezer paper and slip stitch to your quilt. The elephant in the above photo was made with freezer paper, but I decided I wanted the stitching to be noticeable and did a satin stitch all the way around.

Modern Medallion Borders Done, Ready to Embroider

Needlebook -  Project for week 1 in Handstitched Camp

Reverse Appliqué

Reverse appliqué is reversed. You can do reverse appliqué using the different methods above. In the above picture you will see my Modern Medallion Blossom, this is and example of reverse freezer paper appliqué. The needle-book is and example of raw edge reverse appliqué. The two methods were hand sewn but could be machine stitched. There are other methods like, needleturn applique, starch applique, bias applique, and more! I encourage you to give a few different methods a try, to find what you prefer best. That is what I have done and most often use fusible web and raw edge applique.

Fusible Appliqué Instructions

For this tutorial we will be adding an appliquéd name and car to the Easy Pezzy Crib Quilt.

You Will Need

  • Fabric Scraps 2 1/2" or Larger
  • 1/2 yard HeatnBond Light iron-on adhesive
  • Freezer Paper (for printer or Renyolds from the grocery store)
  • Appliqué Templates (download here)
  • Tear-Easy Lightweight Stablizer

Step 1: Preparing your Appliqué

The wonderful thing about appliqué is that the possibilities are endless! You can use fonts, shapes, even shapes with multiple layers. When you first begin you will want to stick to fairly smooth shapes. The Alphabet Template and Car template can be downloaded here.

Print your templates on printer paper. Then trace the template onto the paper side of your freezer paper. (if you have printer friendly freezer paper than print the template directly onto the freezer paper) Cut all your templates out of the freezer paper and set aside.

Following the directions on the HeatnBond packaging, press your fabric scraps to the HeatnBond.

Layout your freezer paper templates onto the fabric scraps and press with a hot dry iron.

Cut each template out.

Remove the freezer paper from front of your template. The wonderful thing about freezer paper is you can reuse it multiple times. So I put all my templates into a Ziploc bag to save for future projects. Then remove the HeatnBond paper backing and throw away.

Position letters shiny side down on your white appliqué section, then press with a hot dry iron.

Recently I have been using a tear away lightweight stabilizer which I have found really helps give you a smooth appliqué with less puckering. Especially when you are working with thin fabrics. I have the Sulky Brand which tears away after you finish stitching. But, there are several different types you can experiment with. With the tear away you pin a piece of the stabilizer that is a few inches larger than your appliqué to the wrong side of your fabric. Make sure the pins are far away from where you will be sewing.

Step 2: Preparing your machine

Before you begin to sew your appliqué you should install your clear applique presser foot, a new needle and wind a new bobbin. Follow your machines directions for machine appliqué settings. On my machine I needed to drop the tension on the presser foot, and switch to a zig-zag stitch.

I tested the zig-zag out on a scrap first to determine how wide I would like my stitches. You will want to set the stitch width at about 1 to 1.5mm, approx. 1/8" wide.

Step 3: Sewing your Appliqué

If you are going to be sewing a curvy piece of applique such as a circle you will want to mark your appliqué in 1/4" to 1/2" increments with a water soluble marking pen. These markings will be the points you use as a guide to pivoting when stitching your appliqué. For the letters in this tutorial you will not need these markings. On my machine when using my clear appliqué foot, the needle is in a centered position and the foot has a center mark.

Line up the center mark with the edge of your appliqué and begin to stitch. There is no need to backstitch.

When you reach and outside corner, your will want to stop with the needle down on the right side of your center mark on your presser foot. Every machine is different, some have a needle that stops in down position which can be very helpful when doing appliqué. My machine on the other hand does not. But, before pivoting you will always want your needle in down position.

Now lift the presser foot and pivot your piece to start sewing the next edge of you applique. You will notice that since you stopped on the right side of your presser foot center guide, when you begin sewing again the stitches will overlap each other in the corner, this is a good thing!

When you are sewing the inside corners you will want to stop with the needle down to the left of your presser foot, pivot and continue sewing. Again your stitches will overlap in the corner.

Continue sewing around each piece of applique. Leave your thread tails fairly long. When you are done you will have a lot of threads!

We will now pull your threads to the back of your work. Thread a quilting needle with a pair of thread tails, stitch your needle through the front to the back directly by the base of the thread tails.

Your thread tails should now be on the backside of your fabric. Tie them into a knot and trim them. Your applique is complete!

Other Resources

Here are some other tutorials on the web I found pretty helpful for learning Applique. I had a few people ask about providing a PDF or e-book of this Beginner's Quilting Series, so you could easily print the tutorials. I am working on creating a nice PDF of each lesson, when I have it up on the site I will let you know! Let me know if you have any Applique questions, next week we will be talking about basting your quilt!

    Post Comments

  • Nette says...

    I have got a few dirty marks from making my quilt. Is is best to drip dry the quilt when it is finished? – not sure if you can iron it once the batting (quilting is done.)
    Thanks for all your great info.
    Best wishes

    On March 05, 2015

  • Regina says...

    Hello! Thanks for the great post. I downloaded the alphabet, and have noticed that the one in the picture is not the same font as the download. Do you have a source for the one in the picture? It is more rounded and would probably be a lot easier to appliqué (plus I like it better). Thanks!

    On November 22, 2014

  • nautical theme tooth fairy pillow | nautical theme tooth fairy pillow | says...

    […] was my first time doing appliqué so I carefully followed this great machine appliqué tutorial from Pile O’ Fabric. It was extremely helpful. I printed out an alphabet from there and […]

    On August 20, 2014

  • viv says...

    Niiice. Very clear pictures. Clear instructions with the WHY of it. I wish I had thought of a water soluble pen before I pinned all my 60 some circles in quarter inclements. Great job

    On August 20, 2014

  • Barbara says...

    Thanks for finally talking about >Machine Applique 101 <Loved it!

    On August 20, 2014

  • Terese says...

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say great blog!

    On August 20, 2014

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Alyssa Lichner from Pile O' Fabric

Welcome to the Pile O’ Fabric blog, my name is Alyssa Lichner, I live in sunny Gilbert, AZ. I am a freelance web and graphic designer turned avid sewist. I write modern quilting tutorials and share techniques and inspiration here at Pile O’ Fabric… Read More

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