Fast and Easy Applique Techniques

Aug 18, 2021

Quick, Accessible Quilt Applique Techniques

blue and green flower applique pattern

If you've ever tried your hand at sewing, you were probably met with a vast array of options. Sewing is more than just playing around with a needle and thread; the precise method you use will determine the final product.


Two central sewing techniques are applique and quilting. Applique involves sewing minor pieces of fabric onto a more extensive background or part — some material portions may be sewn onto a more significant amount of fabric to shape images or patterns. A common way to achieve applique designs is through a blanket stitch.


Quilting, on the other hand, is the process of joining pieces of fabrics together to form padded surfaces, which can be done manually (hand stitching) or automatically (by sewing machine).


Quilt and Applique Techniques


Here are some great techniques you can try out for your next project.


Quilting Styles


There are two main types of quilting styles: appliqued and pieced. As mentioned above, applique lets you incorporate different shapes into your quilt by using external fabrics. Pieced quilts, on the other hand, call for basic blocks that are sewn together.


While pieced quilts may be what you think of when you imagine the classic, all-American quilt, appliqued styles definitely let you experiment more with creativity. Here are some types of quilt applique techniques you can try out when quilting.


Hand Quilting

As the name suggests, this type of quilting is done by hand. It's typically performed using a hoop, which allows the quilter to keep the fabric taut when stitching with a needle and thread. However, in recent years, a few quilters have discovered that working without a hoop gives them more freedom. The most important thing to keep in mind with hand quilting is to have a steady hand and stamina. It's less expensive because you don't need a computer or machine. On the flip side, it's more time-consuming, so before going ahead, ensure that you're ready to make that commitment.


Machine Quilting

To save time, many people perform quilting with a stitching machine. By automating the process, a machine can produce your product with minimal effort on your part. On the downside, the quilt may be less personalized. It's important to remember that not all machines are built the same, and the quality and function of yours will affect the quality of the overall product.


Free-Motion Quilting

Free-motion quilting, which can be performed on a sewing machine, challenges the limits of the structure. For this type of quilting, you might want to use a free-movement or darning foot. This form often requires a strong thread. The term "free-movement" refers to the ability to move the fabric with the gadget needle freely. You can stipple and sew in wavy or round motions with or without a plan, even if you're using an instant sew. It's even possible to sew words, including cursive writing.


Longarm Quilting

A longarm quilting machine is a large stitching machine with a long quilting head that can reach up to 14 feet. The longarm device's head can be guided with the aid of a hand or a monitor. It also comes with material rollers and a frame. This machine will sew together all of the layers of a sheet, including the duvet top, batting and backing, to form the entire cover. It works fast, too! Longarm quilting is a bit more advanced than other methods, so it isn't recommended for the beginner quilter. While it saves time and energy, keep in mind that the system is expensive and large.


Quilt Applique Techniques and Tips


Freeze paper applique flower pattern

There are typically two main methods for appliqueing: ironing and interfacing. Ironing is fairly straightforward — it involves using an adhesive to attach your fabric and then quite literally ironing it to the quilt. Interfacing is a bit more complex and calls for attaching your fabric to the wrong side and then stitching around the edges.


There are several tricks and techniques you can try out — some may require stitching, while others may require ironing. Here are some of the best applique techniques out there.


Freezer Paper Method

This is one of the best applique techniques as it offers a smooth finish, assuming you follow the steps accordingly. It features a wax side that can be adhered to fabric through an iron. Materials used for this technique include an applique needle, a rotary cutter, paper scissors, thread, printed or drawn templates, an iron and a soaking solution. If it sounds complicated, don't worry — this freezer paper applique tutorial will help guide you through the process.


The first step is to cut out your desired shapes to create the freezer paper templates. Next, cut fabric shapes from the precut templates and soak them in a vinegar bath or pre-bought solution, such as BubbleJet. Be sure to cover the entire seam around the prototype. Once this is done, you'll need to wait for it to dry before sewing it to the background fabric. Ironing can help speed up the drying process.


One tip to remember is that it's better not to cut off the fabric tab; instead, carefully tuck the fabrics under the applique shapes you've created. You should also allow for some stretching of the fabric. If you desire a convex shape, snip a small cut into the seam allowance. Be sure to break up to three threads well away from the edge.


Hand Applique

This is another effective method and one of the more traditional ways of quilting; it involves creating different designs on fabrics by hand. Hand applique is done by sewing desired dimensional shapes to materials using a needle and thread. The needle-turn technique calls for using a needle to turn the seam allowance while other pieces are being sewn to the material. One advantage of hand applique is that it's a fairly straightforward approach for decorating a design on fabric. One thing you could try is slipping some sequins on the thread around the edges of your fabric motifs for a little extra sparkle.


Fused Applique

The fusible web, or fused applique, is another effective method, although a more advanced method than the hand applique. Fused applique involves an iron-on gluing of fabric shapes to the material background. The base fabric pieces are bound to the base of the web, and the stitching machine is used to hold the parts at the top to form the desired embroidery. The incorporation of a machine makes it less time-consuming than working by hand.


Raw-Edge Applique (Using Flower Motifs)

The raw-edge embroidery hoop with flower motifs method uses printed fabric flower motifs to create applique by cutting 1/4 inch of the material's pattern. The free-motion sewing technique of making appliques is one of the essential methods used in this approach. This is done by tracing the outline of your template onto the fabric before adhering the pattern to the material with glue or an iron. Stitching around the edge of the design with a sewing machine applique can also be done to achieve a close zigzag stitch.


Turned Edge or Basting Applique Method

This technique is also known as needle turn applique and requires working by hand. First, trace the layout onto the proper facet of the applique fabric. Then, cut out the applique piece with a 1/4-inch seam allowance all around the edges. Fold the seam allowance to the appropriate spot — it's helpful to use sharp scissors to clip seam allowances regularly so that it curves properly. You can use a cardboard template within the layout to help get a neat part.


Satin Stitch Applique with Fusible Web

Satin Stitch applique with fusible web heart design

Using a fusible web (also known as a fusible adhesive) to adhere to the background material of the applique parts is a great way to keep the designs in place. In other words, the portions will not be able to move as you sew, which reduces the chances of you having to redo work. The fusible net will have a paper backing that can be peeled off before being adhered to the background materials, which will help bind everything together.


To accomplish this technique, start by tracing the layout onto the paper side of the double-sided fusible net (keep in mind that you'll wind up with a duplicate photo of the design if you do this). You want to shrink the fusible net to fit within the finished layout's shape.


With a paper backing, label the layout on the back of the fusible adhesive. Then, apply the fusible net to the applique portions on the wrong side of the fabric — this process is known as interfacing. Now, peel off the backing and tuck this sticky side into the top of your fabric. To press this firmly into the material, use a warm iron.


To do the satin sewing along the applique rims, use a foot with enough space to allow the dense satin sewing to skip easily beneath the foot. Stitch the close zigzag sew along the applique piece's threshold. To avoid stretching or distorting the fabric, you can use a tear-away stabilizer, which can be secured to fabrics with a pin.


Once the stitching is completed, you can easily cut away the tear-away stabilizer. To extract the paper, you might want to create a small tear.


Frayed Applique

A frayed side applique is an impressive technique, both in execution and final appearance. You can achieve this look by reducing some of the applique portions by fraying part of the product. Remember to make the parts just wide enough so the frayed side doesn't distract from the layout. A 1/4-inch to a 1/2-inch all around should suffice. For the applique pieces, no interfacing is necessary. Glue the applique to the fabric and place the garment or material in the washing machine to achieve the fraying — after a good tumble, you'll notice the applique's edges have the desired look.


Machine Applique Technique

When using a sewing machine to finish off your applique quilt or project, there are a few techniques you should consider. These include:

  • Sewing a positioning line

  • Placing a piece of cloth over the stitches

  • Finishing the second row of stitches to link the cloth to the bottom material

This final method, often referred to as "tack down and trim," is one of the more sophisticated techniques. After completing it, the excess fabric is cut away to reveal an ornamental applied shape. While this style of applique takes a longer time to complete, the end result is satisfying.


A more recent (and increasingly popular) method of system applique is the use of precut shapes, which can be laser-cut or purchased from a store. A zigzag stitch is generally used around the layout's threshold to help create a clean side for the subsequent stitches to keep the shape in place. You'll follow up by setting your method on an excellent satin stitch and adjusting the rims to cover up the zig-zag stitch.


Reverse Applique

Reverse applique works similarly to how it sounds. All you need to do is layer fabrics together and join a motif on top, as opposed to stitching a fabric template on top of a material backdrop. After this, remove parts of the fabric to expose the form underneath.


How to Prepare Fabrics for Quilt Applique: Technique and Tips


Rose applique pattern

Before achieving your desired quilt pattern, you need to properly prepare your fabrics for the process. You'll start by prewashing the fabric to remove sizing. Manufacturers typically size their fabrics to reduce wrinkles, but this also causes them to stiffen, ultimately making them harder to work with. If the sizing isn't modified, the material can pucker and become wrinkly. Prewashing is also an important step; it helps reduce the chances of your colors bleeding, which will consequently ruin your project. You should thoroughly wet the fabric and then let it dry naturally.


Stitchin' Heaven


Now that you've learned all of these great quilting and applique techniques, you need a high-quality fabric to work with. Stitchin' Heaven is an independent, family-owned premier quilt shop and an online holiday spot for quilters and sewers of all levels. Since 1996, Stitchin' Heaven has furnished quilting and stitching materials, Block of the Month packages and extraordinary Quilt Kits. The 17,500-foot facility in Quitman, Texas, is the most extensive quilting store within the state, presenting a space for quilters to work with an assortment of fabrics and experiment with new designs.

Stitchin' Heaven offers first-class fabric, with over 10,000 distinct materials to pick from. Get started on your quilting project by visiting Stitchin' Heaven today.