Appliqué 101

Have you ever wanted to try to create an appliqué design, but just weren't sure exactly how to do it? Maybe you're just getting started and are having a hard time finding clear instructions on what to do. Well, you've come to the right place. 

In this post, we will walk through the basics of how to create an appliqué design using an embroidery machine. 

1. First, start by gathering your materials. You will need

  • item to be embroidered
  • embroidery hoop
  • thread
  • stabilizer
  • fabric for appliqué
  • scissors (preferably curved embroidery scissors to trim close to your stitching)
  • iron
  • Steam-A-Seam/Heat N Bond Lite/Wonder Under (Any of these will work just fine)
  • Water Soluble Stabilizer (Optional)

2. Load the design into your machine. If you are using a single needle embroidery machine, you will want to print out and follow along with the color chart (usually a PDF or JPEG file) that comes with the design to know when color/thread changes need to occur. For multi-needles, this is not as big of a concern, but can still be helpful. 

3. Find the center of the item to be embroidered and mark it. Use this line to center the item in the hoop. Then, hoop the item with the appropriate stabilizer. 

4. Now you're ready to start stitching. The first thing that will stitch out is called the placement stitch/line. This will show you where you need to place the fabric. If the machine does not automatically stop after this step, pause your machine when the placement line is finished stitching. 

5. Next, cut the fabric about 1/2" to 1" larger than the overall length and width of the placement stitch area. Don't worry about cutting the specific shapes yet. That will come later. For now, just make sure to cover all the placement stitching with fabric

6. Take the piece of fabric you just cut and, following the instructions on the package, iron the Steam-A-Seam/Heat N Bond Lite/Wonder Under to the wrong side of the fabric. This will provide much cleaner cuts later on when you trim the fabric to size and will help the fabric lay smoothly on the embroidered item. 

7. Next, lay the fabric with the backing on top of the placement stitch. The next line your machine will stitch is called a tack down stitch. As the name suggests, this will tack your fabric down to your embroidered item. Again, if you machine does not automatically stop after this step, pause your machine when the tack down stitch is complete

8. Remove your hoop from the machine. Do NOT remove the item from the hoop, however. 

9. Using your sharp, curved embroidery scissors, trim away the excess fabric as close to the stitch line as possible. Be careful not to cut the item underneath or the stitching holding the fabric down. 

10. Repeat steps 6-9 until all the pieces of the applique design have been tacked down. 

11. Once all of the pieces have been tacked down and trimmed close to the stitching, remove the hoop from the machine. Again, do NOT remove the item from the hoop. Carefully, iron the fabric to the item. This will allow the backing (the Steam-A-Seam, etc.) to bond to the embroidered item, creating a smooth attachment for the fabric.

12. (Optional) Pin water soluble stabilizer on top of the design. This will keep the satin stitches in the next step from sinking down into your embroidered item and give the stitches a more raised effect. 

13. Using thread colors that match the fabric you chose, finish stitching out the rest of the design. 

14. You're finished! You just stitched an appliqué design! Yay! Now, for a few final clean-up steps....

15. Trim away any excess stabilizer from the back of the design. Be careful not to trim too close, as it is easy to trim a bobbin thread and cause unraveling. Also, if your machine does not automatically trim jump stitches (the long stitches between sections of the design), make sure to trim those away carefully. Lastly, trim away any excess thread tails from tying on and off. 

That wasn't so hard, was it? Now you can create adorable appliqué designs any time you want! Check out our embroidery design resource list for several websites that offer quality appliqué designs. Also, if you have any questions or need a little help, feel free to contact us or comment below!