sewing 101: machine appliqué

Here’s a great way to snazz up simple textiles with an easy embellishment technique – machine appliqué! This technique allows you to apply cut-out shapes of fabric to the surface of another fabric, achieving colorful and interesting effects that would otherwise be complicated to sew.

In this post I’m appliquéing a tablecloth, but you can use the basic instructions here to appliqué shapes on just about anything around the house — curtain panels, throw pillows, cocktail napkins, duvets, even totes. (Bonus: appliqué is great for covering stains or flaws, so it’s a sneaky way to rescue stained pieces!)

For beginners, it’s best to start with simple shapes with straight lines, but once you get the hang of this easy technique, you can appliqué just about any shape. Think monograms, floral or animal silhouettes, or even images cut from patterned fabric. The sky’s the limit and this really is the easiest thing in the world, so let’s get started! –Brett

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

What You’ll Need

A variety of coordinating fabrics for the appliqué

Background fabric

Fusible webbing (a popular brand is Pellon)

Sharp scissors

Straight pins

Sewing machine


1. Prepare your template

To start, you’ll make a template of the shape you want to use, and cut it from fusible webbing. Fusible webbing is a whisper thin, web-like sheet that has adhesive on both sides which is activated with a hot iron. Check the packaging of the webbing you purchase for instructions on how to apply your specific brand; generally there is a paper backing on one or both sides of the webbing which you peel off to expose the adhesive.

Choose a shape for your appliqué — for beginners, simple shapes and straight lines are the way to go. I chose hexagons because I love the look of quilted hexes, but applying them the real way (ie, sewn on by hand) is dauntingly labor intensive!

Simple trace your desired shape onto the paper backing of the fusible webbing, and cut it out.

2. Transfer the cut-out webbing to your fabric

Place your cut-out piece of fusible webbing on the wrong side of your fabric, with the paper side of the webbing facing up (again, check your packaging here for brand-specific instructions). Iron over the paper backing to adhere the webbing to the fabric (the paper will stick to the fabric too, but that will come off later).

3. Cut out the shape

Cut the fabric around the perimeter of the paper, then peel off the paper backing. It can be tricky to un-stick the paper from the fabric, so I sometimes use tweezers to grab the paper and separate it from the fabric.

After you remove the paper, there will be a nearly-invisible layer of adhesive remaining on the fabric.

4. Fuse the cut-out shapes to the background fabric

Next, determine where you’d like to place your shapes on your background fabric, and position them right-side up on the right side of the background fabric. Iron them in place, and voila! The fabrics will be neatly fused together.

5. Stitch around the edges

To prevent the edges of the fabric from fraying, sew a zig-zag line of stitching around each raw edge. Play around with your machine’s stitch settings, varying the width of the zig-zag and the stitch length, until you have a zig-zag that’s the width you like and with a short stitch length so that the stitching will be nearly solid.

Center the stitch over the outer edge of the cut-out piece, and simply sew around the perimeter of each piece.

If you have two pieces of appliqué touching each other, sew along the border where they meet. The goal is to cover every raw edge with stitching.

6. Press

When you’re done, don’t be dismayed if your stitching looks puckered.

Just hit it with a steam iron, and it will smooth right out!

And that’s all there is to it. Have fun!

  1. kate says:

    I’m guilty of saving even the smallest scraps of fabric that I love – this would be a great way to use them. I love the pattern you’ve done above!

  2. That’s a super cute tablecloth! I love the design and fabrics you chose.

  3. i love these sawing posts. i saw a curtain for my dining room this weekend, acording to your instructions. it was easy and i love my new curtains. thanks.

  4. maeve says:

    Great project! I’ve been wanting to make cloth napkins and this will be the perfect way to embellish them. Thank you!

  5. amy says:

    Love this. The hexagons are fab!

  6. Rosy says:

    This is amazing!! I’m just like Kate – I save all the teeny scraps of fabric left after making something so this is perfect for using them up! In fact, my cushions are looking really plain and dull right now… In need of jazzing up! Thank you!

  7. Kris McCorvey says:

    There is a better product than the Pellon fusible web that you can purchase at quilting stores! It is called Misty Fuse. Sam at the Quilter’s Workshop in Dallas introduced it to us at one of her workshop’s. It is much lighter almost like a web, therefore making the finished project much more like the hand of the original product. Also, they have invisible thread now, so if you are interested in not having your stitches show and having the beauty of just the fabric pick up some invisible thread and a size eight needle and you will get all the effects of the pattern without the distraction of the stitches.

  8. this is adorable! love the idea. xoxo

  9. Moocy says:

    I’ve been wanting to try applique for ages. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  10. alex sunday says:

    you’ve just solved my curtain fabric dilema. i’ve been planning to use this type of technique and was just going to dive in without instructions! so timely!! thank you!!!!

  11. agne nananai says:

    Very beautiful result and great tutorial. Thanks, I hope someday I’ll do something like this. Looks very very beautiful!

  12. This is such a cool idea & a great tutorial – I’m so trying this at home x

  13. Very cute, great idea.

  14. kelly says:

    i have an old ‘tied’ quilt of my mother’s that needs some repair to the backside. i think this may do the trick in a cool & simply way!

  15. AlpineGypsy says:

    Can’t wait to do this!

    Thank you, always such varied posts.


  16. yvette turnbull says:

    i love it when i find things that have an instant application to projects im working on! thanks for the great tutorial :)

  17. Very cool! I’m going to make myself some new pillows using this technique.

  18. en.arquitectura says:

    Beautiful! good for you!

  19. thank you for this! I’m in the market for a new sewing machine. Which one do you recommend?


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