How to applique

Updated February 21, 2017

The art of appliqueing , or "sewing fabric on top of fabric," has been around for decades. It is often not only beautiful but practical; quilts are one example of a practical use of appliqueing. Doing smaller projects can be a way to express yourself and decorate your clothing and home, in less time. So thread up your needles and get ready to applique for fun.

Decide which method of applique you want to do. There are several methods. One of the most commonly used methods is "turned edges" applique. It involves turning the edges of the applique fabric under before sewing. This causes the stitching to remain clean and almost like it's not even there. Turned edges appliqueing makes the fabric addition stand out and it seems like the colourful design was part of the main fabric all along.

Choose a base fabric to applique. This could be a tablecloth, napkin, towel, shirt or anything you want to add a design to. Children's clothing have been popular choices because of the wide variety of cute applique designs available. You can buy designs but for something more original look through a colouring book. Find a design you like. If you are making your very first applique project, a simple design is best. You can also find free applique patterns, from simple to complex, on the Internet.

Cover the design on the pattern you have chosen with your fusible interfacing. Trace the design onto the non fusible side of your interfacing using your marker. Have your fabric ready. When you have traced the design, pick up the interfacing and lay it, fusible side down on your fabric. Pin in place.

Sew the fabric in place, with small hand stitches or a tiny machine stitch, on the traced lines. As you work with applique you will see that the interfacing helps provide a padding and detail to the applique.

Carefully cut the sewn area around the design. Remember to leave an area of 1/8 th of an inch around the sewn stitching. You will be needing this "hangover" part later. Also be sure to do this around curves in small crevices also.

Make a small cut in the design centre interfacing. Pull the fabric side through this slit.This will cause the fabric to be showing in the front but will keep the edges turned underneath the fabric somewhat, hence the name "turned edges applique." Use your fingers make sure the rest of the edged interfacing is turned under and creased in place.

Prepare your iron and main fabric. Make sure the main fabric is flat and without puckering. Lay your design fabric on top of your main fabric. For example if you are appliqueing a shirt with a star design, lay the shirt down on the ironing board smoothing wrinkles. Then place your cut out star design with interfacing pointed down against the shirt. Once you are satisfied that it is exactly in the spot you want to decorate, lightly press the design into place. The Interfacing causes the design to fuse to the shirt when pressed.

Finish the final step by sewing the edges of the applique to the bottom fabric. You can use a sewing machine or hand sew. Also sew any details into the design you would like, depending on what your design was. Use small blanket stitching if your preference is to either contrast or compliment your thread colours with the colour of your applique fabric. You've completed your first applique project ! Now you are well on your way to creating applique for kids clothes, pillows, dishtowels and more. Let your imagination and creativity loose and try more applique projects. It's fun!


For best results when appliqueing with a sewing machine, use one that can do zig zag stitching.


Use small stitches in all phases of your project for the desired effect in your finished project.

Things You'll Need

  • Base Fabric
  • Colorful fabric for the applique design
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing needles
  • Thread
  • Seam ripper
  • Iron
  • Children's colouring book
  • Fusible Interfacing
  • Light Marker or Disappearing Ink Marker
  • Sewing Machine(optional)
  • Ironing board
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.