Machine Applique Getting Started

There is no right and no wrong way to do appliqué.  Just find the method you like and go with it!

Most machine applique is done using fusible web.  Fusible web is a man made fiber that will melt when heated.  When placed between two pieces of fabric, it fuses the fabric together.

Many brands of fusible are available.  Always read the directions that come with the fusible web you buy! Most fusible webs come with a special paper backing. Patterns can be traced directly on to the paper and then fused.

NEVER iron directly on the fusible web.  It will melt all over your iron and make a HUGE mess.  If ... actually When ... this happens, go out to your laundry room and get an unused dryer sheet.  Iron your hot iron over the sheet.  It will magically remove all the gunk.  I keep my dryer sheets right next to my iron.

Creating Shapes

Place the fusible webbing paper side up over the pattern pieces. “Trace” each pattern piece the required number of times using a sharp pencil.  Once pieces are traced, roughly cut around each shape.  DO NOT CUT ON THE DRAWN LINE.

Using a medium/hot iron, press the fusible webbing to the WRONG side of your fabrics - fusible side to the fabric, paper side towards your iron.  If you do this step backwards - go get that dryer sheet!

Using sharp scissors, cut out the shape on the drawn line. Peel the paper backing from the pattern piece.  A fine layer of fusible will remain on the fabric.

Applying to Background Fabric

Always start with a larger background piece than your finished size will be.  Appliqué can distort the background.

Remove the paper from the applique shapes.  Using the master pattern or layout guide, place the pieces into position on your fabric with the fusible side towards the background fabric and the right side of the applique piece facing up.  Press shapes onto the background.  You are now ready to secure with stitching.

Stitching Shapes

Finish by stitching around shape using a decorative stitch.  Always use a stabilizer on the back of the fabric to prevent stitch puckering.  A disposable coffee filter work great! Just iron them flat.

Take time to experiment on some scraps of fabric with the various stitches available on your machine.  Adjust stitch width and stitch length.

Practice, practice, practice!

Some general guidelines:

  • Keep you machine in needle down position if you have it.
  • When approaching curves, slow down and turn your fabric smoothly to make nice rounded curves.  Stop and reposition if you need to.
  • If using a zig-zag stitch, shorten your stitches as you come to a point.
  • Listen to your machine!  Before aware of how the stitch is being made.

Stitch around your shapes and have some fun with this technique.

Tie Off Methods

Once you’ve stitched your piece down, you need to secure the stitches so they do not become unraveled with use.  There are several ways to do this.

Straight stitch. 

When beginning to sew, take a very few straight stitches prior to starting your decorative stitches.  Keep these stitches as close to the edge of the applique piece as possible so they are hidden.  End in the same way.

Pull the top thread to the wrong side of the fabric.

Pull the top thread to the back of the block by tugging on the bobbin thread.  Tie the two threads into a knot and clip.  Do this both when starting and stopping.


Yes, it could happen.  If you need to rip out decorative stitches, do it from the wrong side of the background fabric.  Rip your bobbin threads and the top threads should come out easily.

Have fun and be CREATIVE!