The Ultimate Applique Post

June 21, 2013

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

I love this little face!

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Then I started doing things like pillowcases,

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial


Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

and dresses.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Then I realized the sky was the limit and I started appliqueing everything I could get my hands on!

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

This past year I really started pushing myself to do more, be better, and make amazing things.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Baby Blocks Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Superhero Cape Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Nap Mat Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Bean Bag Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Strawberry Shortcake Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Christmas Stockings Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Applique Towel Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Twirly Tshirt Dress Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Shirt Bibs Sew Like My Mom | Hooded Towel Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Cape Shirt Tutorial Sew Like My Mom | Towel Wrap 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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

The second builds on the basics of the first and shows how to nearly applique around curves, to make beautiful letters and rounded edges.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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 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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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…

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

and her teacher fell in love with it since her daughter (Kate) is also a fan so I made this one, too.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

I used a different image for her hands, which happens to be the same one I based Chloe’s from.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Select your fabrics and take them all at once to iron.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Once all your pieces are cut out they’ll look like this:

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Keep layering the parts as you build the design up, checking the placement of your pieces before you iron.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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!

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

Sew Like My Mom | Ultimate Applique Tutorial

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.

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55 Responses to “The Ultimate Applique Post”

  1. RaeAnna said:

    If you do decide to put something on the inside, a lot of my costumers like having the “cloud cover” covering the stitches in the back.

  2. Rebecca said:

    Love the tute!! Makes me want to head to my sewing room and get started!

  3. marissa | Rae Gun Ramblings said:

    what a great resource definitely pinning for reference!

  4. The To-Do List | 2ofUM said:

    […] for them to arrive! My plan is to piece the quilt together, and then appliqué (Thanks to this tutorial by Sew like my mom) a platypus on the front like I did the bear so long ago. I’m working it […]

  5. Darling Adventures Blog said:

    […] of the flower. I like this simple stitching in black thread, but there are other great options here and […]

  6. Marni said:

    Amazing!! What a great tutorial.. Thank you.

    Marni @ HaberdasheryFun

  7. Rebecca Ree said:

    Took the liberty of sharing your mad applique skills on my blog. The post will be autoposting on Tuesday. You can check it out here:
    Thank you so much for your awesome blog! I’m sure crafters all over agree.

  8. Karie S. said:

    I keep thinking I need to just dive in and start appliquéing. I’ve had horrible luck in the past, but I need to just pull this page up and set my laptop next to the sewing machine and do it! I’ve been asked to create a banner for an event in July 2014 and it would be the perfect project to applique…..I think I’ll start with an apron and then angry birds shirts for my son!

  9. Nancy Keaton said:

    I am having trouble finding designs. I went to, but only saw letters. Where do you get all your cute designs???

  10. Nancy Keaton said:

    Where do you get your appliqué templates? I can’t seem to find any but basics. Thanks.

  11. Melissa said:

    I find my templates by doing Google searches for whatever image I’m wanting to applique. Then I choose the one with the most basic design, that I know won’t have tiny pieces that are impossible to stitch on, and I resize the image for the item I’m appliqueing and I start tracing. There are things everywhere that will provide you with great applique images!

  12. Nancy Keaton said:

    And you trace right off your computer?? I can’t imagine how you do that. I love the La La Loopsy! I have searched, but can’t find!

  13. Marta said:

    Great tutorial!!

  14. Vivi said:


  15. Nina fain said:

    I love this blog my daughter sent me. I love your work. These cute & unique patterns are refreshing. I bought an appliqué book five years ago & haven’t used it. I have been busy doing other types of sewing. Now, I’m sewing for my granddaughter & would love to put your patterns on her clothing.
    Nina fain

  16. jennie said:

    i have appliqued before, but i seemed to be at a loss for the la la loopsy, so thank you so much. you have given me inspiration.

  17. c mcpeek said:

    Love your blog . Awesome. Your one talented lady. Keep up the wonderful work.
    God Bless.

  18. jennie said:

    Thanks for your great blog. I have just finished a t=shirt with a lalaloopsy applique for one of my twin granddaughters. My problem now is: do i make the other one the same or try something different? All just part of the fun.

  19. Jenny W said:

    If it isn’t lined, is it itchy at all? I’d love to get away without lining!

  20. Melissa said:

    Nope, no complaints of itching!

  21. liz said:

    Oh my. You are amazing!! Thank you for the inspiration to do more. AMAZING, you know that, right???? WOW!!!

  22. The Ultimate Applique Post - Sew Like My Mom | ... said:

    […] An in-depth picture tutorial on how to create unique and one-of-a-kind appliques on many different fabric surfaces.  […]

  23. kathi said:

    Another great place to find patterns is from coloring books.
    I use them alot.
    Great work, enjoyed the tutorial.

  24. Beck Andrew said:

    I just found this in a Google search, YOU are AMAZING! Well done!

  25. Kim said:

    What type of needle do you use? Jersey? Do you ever use the double Heat n Bond so the pieces iron on right to the shirt and stay put? I’m new to this sewing thing but i really want to try a Lalaloopsy head :-)

  26. Melissa said:

    I use a regular needle, I don’t change to ballpoint or anything. Heat n Bond has 2 sides so it sticks to both sides (that’s why you want to use it!). Just make sure you’re getting the LITE version, you can’t sew the red no sew HnB.

  27. sarah said:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I just need a little more detail on the part where, after you trace from computer screen to heat n bond, do you cut out the traced pieces and then iron them
    on to your fabric? or do you leave it intact, iron it, and then cut it out?

  28. Melissa said:

    I do a rough cut around the whole shape that goes on each particular fabric, iron it on, then cut it out on the lines. I go into that more in the first tutorial if you want to click on it and see the pictures for better details.

  29. Tonya Favors said:

    Hi, I am trying to get into doing this type of stuff and was wondering if you could email me to answer a few questions. I had a few shirts done and I am trying to figure out how she did it so I didnt know if there was a way to send u a pic of it and if you could help me out with it. Thanks

  30. Melissa said:


  31. Julie said:

    I stumbled across you blog a few months ago and I’ve been haunting it evar since and this past week I tried appliqueing for the first time using your blogs on the subject and I am loving the results.

  32. Jessica said:

    Love love love your work!!
    So, tell me – how do you get the threads both on the back side of the fabric to tie them off? And is there a certain way to tie them off?

  33. Melissa said:

    Hey Jessica!! Look back in the post to a link for the first applique tutorial and in that post I talk about pulling the threads to the back to tie off. :)

  34. Sharon said:

    A lot of work but, soooo cute!!
    My daughter would LOVE this~
    Thank you!

  35. Sara C said:

    This is an awesome tutorial! Thank you so much! Do you need to do anything to keep the edges of the appliqued fabrics from fraying or does the heatnbond and zigzag stitch take care of that well enough to survive laundering etc?

  36. Melissa said:

    No you don’t need to do anything extra! The HnB and the stitching keep it looking great. This shirt has easily been washed 100 times by now (it’s her FAVORITE) and it’s still in perfect shape!

  37. Appliqued Canvases - Sew Like My Mom | Sew Like My Mom said:

    […] get your image, follow the steps in my applique tutorial. For this project, though, instead of using Heat n Bond, I used freezer paper. Ironing just […]

  38. Great British Sewing Bee :: Series 2, week 4 | Little Black Duck said:

    […] but if you’ve got more time on your hands and want some great results check out a rather comprehensive series of applique tutorials by Sew Like My […]

  39. Star said:

    Thanks for the cute tutorial. Could you tell me how you print your fonts from Would love to learn and add name to my daughter’s clothes. Thank You!

  40. Gweny said:

    I’m amazed that you don’t need any stabalizer or anything.. very good tutorial.

  41. Melissa said:

    Hi Star, I just download the font and install it on my computer so I’m able to use it in MS Word, Photoshop, etc.

  42. E Elm said:

    Great tutorial! I’ve been seeing appliqués for awhile and love it! One question,just curious how do you see your bows on? Ie. in her hair at her waist.::I’ve handsewn and machine seen them on.

  43. Melissa said:

    I usually tack them on by hand. Since I do buttons by hand, I just add them to the pile.

  44. Martha said:

    My son saw the Angry birds and blues Clues and is repeatedly asking for a knock off! This would be my first applique-which would be the easier of the two?

  45. Melissa said:

    Neither of them will be easy, but the Angry Birds would be much more difficult than Blue. It’s got lots of tiny pieces and until you’re comfortable doing the them, it can be frustrating. Go slow with Blue and you should be successful! Good luck! And please don’t hesitate to email me with questions.

  46. Aline said:

    C’est magnifique : merci !!

  47. Robin Sundahl said:

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial
    You are so talented and have given me inspiration to applique.

  48. trudy said:

    tell me how do you sew through the Heat n Bond. it gums my needles…what am i doing wrong.

  49. Niki said:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful tutorial! My three year old has requested that I make him a bigger dinosaur blanket than he already has. These tutorials are so easy to follow that I think I’ll try to do appliquéd dinosaurs!

  50. robyn bavinton said:

    love it….

  51. Jennifer said:

    Wow wow wow your amazing! I hope one day I can do this!!!

  52. Jenna said:

    Awesome tutorial. As a computer person, I just want to make sure no one traces directly on their laptop screens or LCD screens that aren’t made of glass. If you trace or press on a flat panel computer that is not hard/glass, you may damage the screen. You can achieve the same result with the tracing by printing the image and taping it to the window. This way you can control the size of it as well, before you trace it and make sure it will fit on your shirt/tote bag/blanket. You can also flip it with your print settings to make letters come out the right way.

  53. Melissa said:

    I’ve been tracing off my laptop screen for 5 years and it hasn’t done any damage. As long as you’re not pressing down hard enough to change the pixels, it’s perfectly fine! I married a computer person who watched me do it thousands of times and I promise, it can be done just fine!

  54. How to Applique - a Sewing Tutorial  said:

    […] For more great information about appliqué, see this post from Sew Like My Mom. […]

  55. paulahug said:

    Thanks for the information. This was very useful to me. I am starting my own business at home.

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