Friday, September 28, 2012

Crafty Gear 411: How To Make Your Own Appliqués

Appliqués are a great way to turn something drab into fab and make coordinating looks.  Give a basic tote new style or a plain shirt some extra flair.  It's easy and inexpensive too - especially when using scraps.  Earlier this week I shared my how-to for making lined pants with fold-over detailing (aka Ants In My Pants) using some darling Timeless Treasures Itsy Bitsy Ant print fabric.  

Today's Crafty Gear 411 gives a quick run-down of making appliqués from scratch and shows how adding an appliqué to a plain tee makes a totally custom ensemble:
Here's how to make your own custom appliqués:

You'll Need
  • Item to appliqué
  • Paper & pencil
  • Cotton fabric
  • Paper-backed Fusible Web and Sew-In Stabilizer 
  • Sewing Notions: shears/rotary cutter, disappearing marker/tailor's chalk, iron & ironing board, press cloth, pins, coordinating threads)
  • Optional: hand sewing needle for detailing

To start, create an appliqué design on paper and decide what will be the basic outline shape(s) for the applique (fine detailing will come later in the stitching).  I wanted to make an ant on a picnic blanket, so I drew a three-segment body for my little ant on paper and used that as the pattern to pin onto some Soho Solid Black fabric and cut out:
I also cut a curved triangle shape from some coordinating Itsy Bitsy watermelon fabric for the picnic blanket and cut matching pieces for each from my fusible web:
Paper backed fusible allows you to fuse to materials together in a two-step process.  First, fuse the rough side of the fusible to the backs of the pieces with a dry, hot iron and let cool. Then peel off the paper backing and fuse them onto the front of the shirt/bag/whatever using a damp press cloth between applique and iron set to the wool setting.
To make a nice finish, and avoid fraying, edging around the entire design with satin stitching is ideal.  This is how most store-made appliquéd items look.  Satin stitch is really just a fancy name for using a wide zig-zag set to a very small stitch length (close to zero).  The trick is to line things up so the right side of stitches go just past the raw edge of the fabric to enclose it under the stitching and go slow around corners and curves for a uniform look.
This stitch is nice for adding design details too.  I used it to make the legs, mouth, eye and antennae by drawing them on with disappearing marker & chalk and then stitch over the markings.  If there's any part where there's a gap between stitches, just stitch over that spot again.  Easy fix!!
It's also best to use a good stabilizer on the back if you're appliquéing on a thin or stretchy fabric.  The stitches tend to pull a bit and get puckery on these materials - especially when there's a lot of stitching close together.  My stabilizer of choice for these sorts of projects is the kind you can tear away because it gives a good, solid backing and just rips away when done.  

For the really fine details hand stitching is the way to go.  I added a couple of hand stitches in blue for some the tiny eye detail - little accents like that can really add personality.
Now the appliqué is all set and a custom-created-by-you look is complete.  Enjoy!


  1. Fantastic I love it, its just so cute. Did you have the stabilizer floating under the garment when you were doing your satin stitch? How did you secure it?

    1. Thanks Mel. I had a piece larger than the applique as you can see in the picture and just pinned it to the shirt around the far edges of the stabilizer while stitching it on.

  2. How do you lock your stitches when using zigzag? I try to switch back to a straight stitch and but I can see the backstitch, and when I do only zigzag it pulls out a few stitches and leaves a run. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Kimberly, You should be able to backstitch your zig-zag. I've never had it not hold when I do it, so it may be that your tension is off. This post is REALLY helpful about troubleshooting zig zag stitching - it may be able to help you get this working:


Getting your comments brightens my day. I'd love if you left one:)


Related Posts with Thumbnails