In this context an applique refers to a machine embroidery technique in which patterns or pictures are created by the attachment of smaller pieces of fabric to a larger piece of fabric with a contrasting colour or texture.
There are several techniques for applying an applique and I will outline a couple of different ones in this tutorial. This tutorial will focus on a style where the applique is edged with a thick satin stitch. If you would like to know about raw-edge applique please see the blog post here. Alternatively there is an accompanying video tutorial outlining these techniques which can be found here.
Fabrics, fabrics, fabrics!
Technically you could use any type of fabric for applique projects however some are definitely more suitable, and tend to be more successful than others. The same can be said for the fabric you are appliqueing onto, for example getting silk to stay stiff inside the hoop and not pucker can be extremely tricky however, if you are up to the challenge, who am I to stop you!? With that said, the types of fabric I would recommend using are fairly thick and tightly woven; calico, cottons, felt and twill are all great for this and can be found in a wide variety of colours. Personally I tend to use a lot of felt which is what I will be demonstrating in this tutorial.
Step 1. Download the necessary files
Fall in love with an applique design and download the file for your machine, download the colour chart if you wish, for this first type of applique you will need the dieline file as well (Little Bit Of Whimsy and most embroidery sites will provide these). A Dieline is an outline of the simple shape of the applique, usually the shape a satin stitch will run around, use it to ensure you have the correct size and shape you need.
Step 2. Print and cut
You will now want to print out the dieline file and cut out the applique shape. Place or pin it on top of your chosen applique fabric and cut around carefully, try to be accurate to ensure a clean edge. Hoop the fabric or clothing you wish to applique onto along with stabiliser, I use a tearaway stabiliser however cut away can work well for this too. Now depending on what material you are using for the applique you may or may not need to add stabiliser for this, in this example I use felt which is fairly think and so not necessary however cotton might need stiffening. If that’s the case you will need to also use the dieline to cut the shape out of the stabiliser and use spray adhesive to attatch it to the fabric applique shape.
Step 3. First Stitch!
Load the file into your machine, the first stitch on any applique pattern will be a placement stitch, this will tell you exactly where to position your applique shape, try to be as accurate as possible! Spray the back of the applique shape with temporary fabric spray adhesive and lay it within the placement stitch outline.
Step 4. Tackdown Stitch
Continue with the embroidery, the design will now lay down a tackdown stitch, this is a zigzag which will hold the applique shape to the fabric you are applying it to. This stitch will eventually be covered by the satin stitch outline so the colour in not important.
Side Note: Additional Applique
Some designs will have additional applique pieces within the design as in the case of this avocado, here the same steps apply as above. First the machine will do a placement stitch showing you where to put the fabric shape, followed by a zigzag tackdown stitch to hold it in place.
Step 5. Decorative Stitches
The design will now start to take shape and the machine will embroider all the other parts of the pattern onto the applique fabric such as the eyes in this example.
Step 6. Satin Stitch
The final step on the machine is usually a nice neat satin stitch which will outline the piece of fabric over the initial tackdown or zigzag stitch and the lovely applique is finished!
Step 7. Cut Out/tear away
Now remove the stabiliser from the back of the applique, either tear or cut it away depending on what type you used, if you have appliqued onto clothing especially for babies or children I would suggest you then iron on a soft “over the back” stabiliser backing such as Cloud Cover Stitch to prevent the embroidery back from rubbing on delicate skin.
This is a lovely neat way to do applique which will give the finished product a clean edge, great for repeated washes and wear and tear. There is also an alternative technique which is similar to raw-edge applique. For this, rather than cutting out the exact shape as in step 2 using the dieline you skip this step and rather simply lay a square piece of fabric over the placement stitch and continue with the design. after the satin stitch outline has finished you would then cut around the satin stitch using applique scissors to create a neat edge but with a slight fluffy fabric outline. This type of applique works great for felties particularly and other non-fraying fabrics.
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and found it useful I look forward to seeing what gorgeous designs you come up with and what amazing fabrics you will use to colour in your appliques.