June 21, 2013
I get lots of emails from readers with lots of questions about applique. I answer many things not mentioned in the first 2 tutorials so I decided to make a big tute with everything I know all in one place that will hopefully answer all questions you might come up with while creating your own unique appliqued creations.
I taught myself to applique a few years ago. I had nothing to go on, I made it up as I went along, and through trial and error, and MANY hours behind the machine, I’ve mastered my art of applique. I used to think of it as the poor sewists embroidery, but now I usually prefer it to the embroidered look as it pushes the boundaries of what I can do with fabric and thread.
I’ve done lots of cool projects over the years. Some are featured here on my blog, buried back in the early days.
I started with tees and bibs. I probably made 50 shirts and bibs before I branched out past that.
I love this little face!
Then I started doing things like pillowcases,
Then I realized the sky was the limit and I started appliqueing everything I could get my hands on!
This past year I really started pushing myself to do more, be better, and make amazing things.
I discovered how much I love to applique and it really put a lot of my projects over the top. A handful of my favorite tutorials featuring applique are listed here. Click on the picture to take you to the full tutorial.
So, let’s get to a very detailed tutorial on how to do complex appliques. You’ll need to read through my other applique tutorials before this one, because I’m leaving out some steps and assuming you already have the missing information since it’s found in the other 2 places.
The first one gives information on letters, tracing, how I start, stop and finish the seams, and using fusible web.
The second builds on the basics of the first and shows how to nearly applique around curves, to make beautiful letters and rounded edges.
One question I get the most from readers is what fonts do I use and where do I get them. Most of my fonts come from dafont.com and are safe to download. When choosing a font to use, remember they’re usually easiest to applique around if they’re sans serif. I know some of the letters in the Pharmacy font have serifs, but it’s so cute I deal with them.
This third tutorial will walk you through the process of a more difficult, multi-part applique.
I made Chloe this Lalaloopsy shirt for her birthday this year…
and her teacher fell in love with it since her daughter (Kate) is also a fan so I made this one, too.
They both ended up becoming the tutorial so I’ll try not to confuse you, but I’m going to use elements of them both.
Chloe’s shirt wasn’t designed from any particular Lalaloopsy, I just made her up from fabrics I liked. But Kate’s shirt I made to look like her favorite doll, Toffee Cocoa Cuddles.
For the Toffee doll, I did a Google search for a good image and turned it so I could make it bigger.
I used a different image for her hands, which happens to be the same one I based Chloe’s from.
Using my Heat n Bond Lite, I traced the images right from my computer screen. For complex designs, you’ll need to trace each part individually. I like to label my parts to make sure I don’t confuse anything when I go to iron.
Select your fabrics and take them all at once to iron.
Once all your pieces are cut out they’ll look like this:
Then lay them all together on the item you’re appliqueing them to. For me, it’s a shirt. You’ll need to layer them in the order they’ll go so you can figure out what pieces you need to sew on first. The paper on the Heat n Bond will make them curl, so I peel it off so they lay flat. If you need to keep a piece you’ve labeled “right” or “top” or something to keep them straight, don’t peel your paper off them yet.
I like to do the hair parts behind the head to give them depth and make them appear to be on the back of the head. So they get ironed down and stitched first. Here’s another hint–when doing something like this, I don’t stitch them along the edge that goes under the head. My skin fabric is thin and the hair is bright so not only would the stitching show through, but it would stick up and make an unnecessary lump under her head.
Next is the body. Your design will look pretty silly at this point, but go with it. Each time you go to iron on another piece, use the other pieces around it to make sure you’re ironing in the exact right place.
Keep layering the parts as you build the design up, checking the placement of your pieces before you iron.
This is where it got really late at night and I forgot I was taking pictures for the tutorial, so we’re switching shirts to finish it.
Once you have all your fabric pieces sewn on, you’re ready for the finishing details. Things like decorative stitching, buttons, ribbons, etc. Usually this step will add the final piece of amazingness to your project, so don’t skimp if you need them!
There’s no need to put anything on the inside of the shirt. Your threads will remain intact through many, many washings as long as you leave them long enough–about 1/2″ or so. I’ve washed Chloe’s shirt probably a dozen times now and they look the same as they did the day I finished sewing.
And that’s it! With a little patience and a little thinking outside the box creativity, you can applique just about anything you heart desires! I hope I’ve answered all your questions. If you still have more, please post them here in the comments and I’ll try to answer them the best I can.