Machine Applique Tutorial

I first learned to machine applique about 6 years ago in a class at the Fat Quarter Shop in Vista taught by Michelle who is now the shop owner.  This shop continues to get better and better and still remains one of my favorite shops.  I thought I would pass on what I have learned over the 6 years since I have been using the machine applique technique.  Some of my favorite quilts are appliqued.  You will find a step by step guide in this post….

First, you want to figure out what shape that you want to applique.  One of the easiest ways to find a shape (if one doesn’t come in the pattern) is to google it.  If you google ‘flower template’ and click on images, you will be amazed at all the different choices that come up.  It is a great resource for getting the applique shape you want. There are many other options as well (kids coloring books, magazines, etc.)

 This technique utilizes fusible web.  My favorite is ‘steam a seam lite’.  There are many kinds including ‘wunder under’, pellon, etc.  This is my favorite and works well for machine applique.  The others work as well, but this is my preference.  You want to trace the image on the waxy (non-sticky) side of the fusible web.  For a simple applique, I slip the template under the fusible web and continue to reposition to trace multiple pieces of the same template.  There is no need for a light box; it is fairly transparent and easy to trace.

I then cut out each of the items leaving some white space around each of them.  I would suggest at least a 1/2″, but do not carefully cut them out.  Rather, I loosely cut them out as shown below.

 I then select the fabric I want for each of the applique pieces.  I place the fabri on the ironing board wrong side up and iron the fusible web onto the wrong side of the fabric.  Really easy and no need to steam or iron multiple times.  It is a really quick iron and they are adhered to the fabric.

Now, you cut each of the shapes out along the trace line.  It can be easily seen on the wrong side of the fabric as seen below.

Here is what the cut out pieces look like when they are ready to start placing on your project whether it is a pillow, quilt top or even a piece of clothing.

Now, carefully layout where you want each of your applique pieces.  Once you know where you want them, peel the paper backing off each of the applique pieces.  This will leave you with a piece of fabric with a slightly tacky back.  This tacky back is the magic and what will eventually adhere to your quilt with a little heat.  If the paper backing is difficult to get off, score it lightly with a pin and it will make it easier.

Now, iron on your applique pieces onto your project.  Just run over each piece several times with the iron and you are ready to sew.

I prefer to machine applique using the blanket stitch.  Here is what it looks like on my machine.  The stitch length is set to 2.0 and the stitch width is 2.7.  Make sure that you change your foot to allow for the side to side motion or you will break a needle!  Trust me, I have done it a number of times!  I also use the knee lever on my machine when I applique as it makes it gives me the most flexibility to operate the pressure foot and keep my hands on the material when maneuvering corners or tricky areas.

I always start the stick by bringing up the bobbin thread first.  Then, I make multiple stitches to knot the beginning of the stitch with the needle dropping down right on the outside edge of the applique piece.  You will want to practice this stitch and to understand the rhythm of your machine and the order with which the blanket stitch is created.  This will help you to understand how to manuever curves, turn and angles.  You will learn when you are on the inside of the stitch and on the outside.  You always want to turn corners and curves on the outside of the stitch.  You need to practice, practice, practice.  The more you practice, the better you will get!

Here is a closeout of how the stitch looks on the applique.  You will notice that part of the stitch is on the applique piece (the legs of the stitch) and the other part (the stem of the stitch) is on the base fabric.  You will notice the turns are maneuvered with the stem portion of the stitch.  Again…practice, practice, practice!

Here is a sneak peak of a quilt that I am working on with multiple appliques. 

The key to this technique is patience and practice.  The great part about this technique is it’s simplicity.  Compared to other techniques (starch method, plastic template, double applique, needle turn, etc), it is pretty simple and quick to do.

Applique away….




  1. Shannon says:

    This is fabulous!! I’d love for you to stop by my blog sometime, I am subscribing to your blog now!


  2. Roxie says:

    It has been a really long time since I have done this kind of work on a quilt top. A number of years ago I went through a time where I brought all of the ‘Aunt Grace’ 1930′s reproduction fabrics I could find. I made several Sun Bonnet Sue and Sun Hat Sam quilts. I used black thread in my machine to match the 1930′s black out line stitches on the quilts. Were very pretty. I need to try this again. I do enjoy it.

    • Wendy Cohen says:

      Roxie-thanks for stopping by. I have to be just in the right mood for appliqué. This quilt top has just the right amount…not too much. I have tried so many techniques…this is one that I like the best! Happy quilting!

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