Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Purr-fectly Easy Applique Method For Knits & It's Magical Powers

There are loads of ways to appliqué , but today I thought I'd share my quick & easy one which works especially well for knits (aka the fabric that challenges many a sewing enthusiast). Does this method really have magical powers?  Well, to me it does, so read on and and find out why!

Appliqué is an easy way to take a plain item & add some fab detail, but in my opinion it's got to look good and hold up over time.  If you just fuse it on it will eventually start to peel off after a few washes.  If you only stitch it around the edge, you'll start getting puckering or wrinkling between the fabric & the appliqué and a lot of fraying around the raw edge.  Not a good look either way.

Here's my method that is super easy and gives results that rival store-bought versions.

Step number one is always prewash the item & appliqué material, so there will be no shrinking or distortion in subsequent washings.

To keep it easy, pick a print or piece you can just cut out.  For the shirt shown, I used leftover twill fabric from the Pretty Kitties Play Set I made a couple of weeks ago.  I loved how this panel had big & large kitties and so much detail (I got mine at Wholeport- it was an easy choice for appliqué use and the bonus is I still have 3 more big cats left:)

I use a paper backed fusible web and iron its rough side onto the back of my appliqué fabric. This makes it easier to mix different combos & weights of fabric and get a smooth finish.  I usually don't cut it out until after it's fused since it's easier to work with this way.  

When cooled, I just peel off the paper backing & now it's good to go.  

Then I cut out my shape with a slight outline around it for the topstitching to come later.

Now it's time to align the shape on the base item.  My 3yr old totally stained up this shirt and I was bummed. It went with everything and no matter what I did I could not get those spots out. Since they're right in the middle it wasn't in wearable shape, so I hoped my appliqué idea could save it.

To fuse the appliqué on, I position it into place and cover with a damp press cloth and press on wool setting for about 10-15 seconds at a time until everything is fused together. Now the appliqué is nicely adhered and the fusible helps keep the raw edges from fraying too fast.

Now comes the topstitching. This also helps keep fraying under control and gives a nice finish.  Some people use a zig-zag, but it tends to look more "homemade-y" and with knits there's some pulling (which means satin stitching isn't an ideal option either).  Straight stitching works ok, but it's easy for those threads to rip or come loose over time and look straggly.  

Here's what I do: Use a triple stitch.  It looks like this on most machines and makes every stitch 3 times over (think more like backstitching, not side by side).

So what's the big deal with using this particular stitch?  It's meant for projects that require strength & elasticity and eliminates puckering on knits.  This makes it ideal for t-shirts, shorts and other knit items that are frequently used for appliqué.  I noticed on factory made appliqués, especially those on knits, you typically see stitching like this and that explains why those tend to last longer & look nicer than a lot of DIY versions.

It also gives a nice, thicker outline than just regular single stitching - especially if you're using a contrasting colored thread.  I did white on white for this shirt, but you can really see the difference here on the back:

And now for the magic part (I did say this how-to was magical right?)....Our stained up, hobo shirt is transformed.  The appliqué has the same good quality as the industrial versions, the old shirt looks like new and no one would ever know it how ratty it was underneath.  That's some appliqué magic to me!

I'm also sharing this project with my FAVE LINK PARTIES.
Click HERE to check them out!


  1. Cute! Why do these always look way better in other blogs than when I do it? :)

    1. I always asked myself that too Lisa - try this technique and yours will look awesome too!

  2. So cute! Thank you for the great tips! I have few T-shirt that could use applique :)

  3. This is really a sweet design. Thanks for the tutorial, Cheryl.

  4. Hi Cheryl! Thank you so much for this tutorial! I am learning to sew and this looks like something I could do one day! Have a nice week! Blessings from Bama!

    1. This is SUPER easy so if you can sew a line, you can do this!

  5. Cute idea, Cheryl! It would be a pleasure to have you join my weekly link party and share this.

  6. I have done MANY appliques like this but you still have some tips in there that I will be applying next time I do this! :) And my daughter even has a brand new shirt (almost exactly like yours) that she wore ONE time and stained it with fresh tomatoes :( Now I know just what to do with it! Thanks so much!
    Heidi @

    1. I'm so glad to hear that Heidi and glad I'm not the only one with this constant staining situation;)

  7. Thanks for the info on that stitch! Despite having been sewing for years, I am embarrassed to say I've only ever used about three stitches that my machine is capable of! I pinned this and will be using it in the future for sure!

    P.S. I'm your newest follower on GFC, Pinterest, twitter and FB!

  8. CONGRATS!!!
    You have been featured at The DIY Dreamer! YAY!! Come on over and grab your featured button, you deserve it!

    Don't forget to swing by this evening to link up again :)

  9. Super cute! I've never done anything like this but I've been wanting to make camping shirts for my kiddos. I think I'll give this a try!

  10. Thanks so much for sharing on craft schooling Sunday!

  11. I love applique and I'm trying to do more with it. This is great info darlin! Thanks so much for linking up with me @ Great Idea Thursday's :) This will be featured! Krista @ A Handful of Everything

  12. Such a great idea to cover up stains!! Thank you so much for sharing at Give Me The Goods Monday!
    Jamie @
    Better With Age


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