Appliqué Tips and Techniques

What is the technique we call appliqué? The word “appliqué” comes from the French “appliquer” which means to apply or to fit over. The basic appliqué technique involves stitching a smaller piece of fabric or decoration to a larger piece to create a design or pattern. Fabric pieces can be stitched by hand or machine, with raw edges turned under or covered with decorative stitching. Appliqué fabric pieces can be placed directly on top of another piece of fabric, or can be held in place with glue. This technique can be used to add decorative elements to clothing, bags, pillows, banners, wall hangings, and quilts.

You can use your sewing machine to secure smaller pieces of appliqué fabric and add a clean finish to edges at the same time, it’s easy if you follow these tips and techniques.

If you’re new to machine appliqué techniques, this free BERNINA eBook is perfect for you! Read all about basic techniques and tools to create successful machine appliqué in the Machine Appliqué Just Sew It! eBook.

How to machine applique

Learn how to create virtually invisible appliqué stitches with your sewing machine with the Machine Appliqué Tutorial. With this special technique you might swear these appliqué shapes were stitched by hand!

Circle Applique

Making a precisely stitched circle appliqué is a snap with the BERNINA Circular embroidery attachment #83. This tip includes all the steps you need to follow to Machine Appliqué Circles.

How to create a fabric collage art quilt from a photo

Using the appliqué method you can create realistic looking pictures in fabrics from photographs. See exactly How to Create a Fabric Collage with Appliqué in this tutorial.

Appliqué tip with tracing paper

This tip is invaluable when building up appliqué shapes with smaller pieces of fabric to keep little pieces in line. Find the Appliqué Tip here.

If you want to appliqué specific shapes with knits and still have the fabric remain flexible, check out this T-Shirt Appliqué Tip using Aquamesh Plus stabilizer.

appliqué tips and techniques

You know what they say, use the right tool for the job! Learn how Appliqué foot #23 is specially engineered to make your appliqué stitches precise in this video tutorial.

Fused Collages - Quilting Foot 29C

Another favorite foot for securing appliqué shapes with the free-motion stitching technique is Quilting foot #29. See how this method can be used in the Best Sewing Foot for Fused Collages tip.

If you use fusible webbing (iron on double-sided glue) to hold your appliqué pieces down, you want to use the right needle. Read up on this Needle Tip for Fused Appliqué here.

If you’re working with small pre-cut appliqué shapes and need to hold them in place for stitching, you’ll love this Appliqué Technique tip!

needle position

Use your Free Hand System when stitching machine appliqué shapes to help keep your hands on the fabric! Learn how to use the FHS for more control with your machine appliqué with this tip.

Applique seen under magnifier

If you need to see clearly where your appliqué stitches are going, try snapping on your Magnifier! Read all about the BERNINA Magnifier Lens accessory in this appliqué tip.

Tape Measure Stitch Tip

Use this stitch tip to create a fun measuring tape look to your appliqué stitch! Find out how to make a Measuring Tape Stitch in this post.

Embellishing the Blanket Stitch - needle under six stiches

Add a fun pop of color to any blanket stitch appliqué with this simple tip to Embellish the Blanket Stitch!

198 thoughts on “Appliqué Tips and Techniques

  1. So much good information here! I am trying to expand my skills from just hand applique, to include machine applique. It’s been quite daunting for me, but this blog post will help! What my first machine applique project will be is appliqueing letters onto a newly pieced quilt top. Thanks!

  2. These tips are very timely as I’m just cutting out appliqué shapes for a baby quilt. Thank you! I’m going to try many of them. I am windowing out the fusible on large pieces so it will keep the quilt cuddly and flexible. ?

  3. Perfect timing. I am sewing appliques onto placemats. This is my first time doing an appliqué, so the timing of these tips is perfect Thank you!

  4. I’d like to make some playmat placemats to entertain the kids when we eat at restaurants. I’ve had the materials for what feels like ages but have been too intimidated to get started. This will be a fun project.

  5. I really like applique, but was ready to try some new techniques. I’m intrigued by the machine applique circles and would like to incorporate this on a wall hanging I’m making. Seems I need those applique scissors! 🙂

  6. Just starting a baby quilt with a large elephant applique. Using the freezer paper method so it will not be stiff. The edges are turned under, and still will do a blanket stitch to secure it. Thank you for all of the great examples!

  7. I am currently working on Green Tea and Sweet Beans pattern by Jen Kingwell. I have several blocks that I will use raw edge applique. It is a very scrappy quilt with many different techniques. It will be a great learning process along the way. I am still using my Bernina 220 that has a lovely blanket stitch.

  8. Great tips! i am going to buy me some of those titanium needles and have always wanted to try the portrait appliques. Also want to make table toppers for all holidays for on my table and as gifts for friends. Keep on sending those great tips for us to learn from. Thanks again. Tres

  9. Loved all the tips, especially the reference to the ebook on machine applique Just Sew It! I’m making pineapple appliques (the fruit, not the block).

  10. I am new to applique. Have done 2 small projects. One came out ok, 2nd one not so good. I am looking for tips and tools to get more comfortable with the process.

  11. I would love to make an Amy Bradley picture. I have the pattern but the appliqué scares me. I will say tho’ that after reading this article I am feeling a lot braver. I have the suggested sewing feet so I should just jump in and do it!

  12. I would love to applique’ a center block for a quilt for my cousin. She loves birds and the outdoors so I would use different North American bird embroidery along with flowers and vines that I would applique’. I can see it in my mind’s eye.

  13. All great tips but I especially like the idea of embellishing the blanket stitch. I plan on using this idea on a place mat for my 4 yr old grand-daughter – appliqued rainbow and butterflies, her favs.

  14. I have always been “afraid” to appliqué. With these instructions I’m sure I can now tackle any project. With three granddaughters, I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting things that can be made. Can’t wait to start laying out a blanket for a dolly with flowers.

  15. I would love to make appliques of fish, a canoe, fishing rod and line, and creel for my brother-in-law. I have the quilt top completed in Adirondack Mountain colors and prints and now need to add some appliques to really personalize it and add the finishing touch. He is an avid fisherman who has not been able to do much of it since he has spent the last five years caring for his wife who now is in the final stages of Alzehiemers disease. I made her a personalized “fidgit” a few years back. Now that she has had to be institutionalized, I would like him to have something special for his lap in the evening. This set would give me the tools that I need to do this,

  16. Thank you so much for this opportunity! I have been considering a Block-of-the-Month Applique Quilt by Bonnie Sullivan but have been unsure of tackling it. This applique package would be a HUGE help and would help boost my confidence enough to take it on! It would be an awesome addition to my “toolkit.” Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity. Bernina ROCKS!!!

  17. That is mainly what I do everyday. I love to make appliqué quilts, pillow, table runners and wall hangings and placemats. I use blanket stitch and satin stitch. I use anything from coloring books to my drawings and patterns from BOM’s on line or patterns I find that are versatile.

  18. I’d like to start learning applique with a table runner. Large enough project to get Technic but small enough that I can get it finished.

  19. So many creative, fun ideas to applique on this post! I’ve wanted to applique names on pillow case cuffs for my nieces and nephews to add a fun, personal touch! duchick at gmail dot com

  20. Lori Holt’s patterns have quite a bit of appliqué. I’d like to try her technique and use the blanket stitch to stitch around the shapes.

  21. My nephew and his wife are expecting baby #2 in Sept. & plan on making a quilt for the little one. I will be using the a pattern that has 4 applique puppies.

  22. I would like to applique some zoo animals to placemats and also I just today saw a free online pattern for pansy placemats. I am also working on a multicolored seahorse that needs to be appliqued to a background…there are about 25 pieces in the seahorse! It was a class given by a local quilt teacher. So lots on my list. I would be interested to try the scissors in your prize package as I have always wondered if they really do prevent cutting the wrong fabric.

  23. I would appliqué the background flowers for a basket of three dimensional flowers I have already made. Just need lots of flowers in the background to make the woven basket look lush.

  24. I have a project that I haven’t started because I haven’t ever done applique before. It is a floral, spring wallhanging. I would like to try making it using your tutorials.

  25. I would love to make a sweet wallhanging with applique, one that welcomes guests to my home. I would like to use that embellished button-hole technique with the Perl cotton. Clever & beautiful!

  26. I would like to make bags and applique decorative elements on to them. The circle applique is beautiful, I’d love to incorporate that into quilting!

  27. Hi, I bought a pattern that uses machine applique with yo-yos. With this pattern I appliqued a crab with yo-yos on a dress for my graddaughter.
    I appliqued with yo-yos 3 sea horses on a summer top for my grandaughter. I appliqued with yo-yos, palm trees with a Sun on a beach bag for my daughter.
    What I want to applique next is a hand towel for me. Most likely it will be a crab with a yo-yo. I do live in Maryland we do love our crabs. I have owned my Bernina for 20 years. I love it!!! Margie

  28. I would make a table topper for spring with appliqué flowers and leaves!! I love appliqué…would love to try new techniques, some you described!!
    Thank you!!!

  29. I am making a Dresden plate with floral applique quilt for a niece who lives in Bavaria, Germany and is getting married in late May. I am using the pattern Miss Kyra by Erin Russek. I hope my quilt will turn out as fantastically beautiful as hers did. Thanks for the opportunity.

  30. Right now I’m thinking about appliqueing on some dishtowels and pot holders to brighten up the kitchen some for spring and summer. Fresh and fun!

  31. I’d love to appliqué a unicorn on a shirt for my 7 yo daughter, and teach her how to appliqué as well. She’s already sewing on my machine, and I’m looking forward to both of learning the proper way to appliqué together!

  32. I am in a bee and we decided to swap appliqué squares then each create our own Baltimore quilt. I am going to do mine by machine, as hand would take too long for the six blocks I need to create. Would love these tools! S

  33. This is so exciting to have all of these tips and to be able to use my Bernina to make more individual projects.
    The more knowledge I have to add applique to the quilts I make and make them more personal. Working on a quilt for my son that has a hiking theme. Thanks for providing these great ideas.

  34. I have a quilt kit from my daughter-in-law’s grandmother’s sewing room. It’s a schoolhouse design with eight large pieces for each block! There are NO instructions. I think that I will try the glue method. We are teachers in this family group, so someone will get the quilt when I’m done. Maybe we’ll draw straws!

  35. Have several Laura Heine applique patterns that are so beautiful and look complicated. Bought them to challenge myself one day. These tips on applique would give me more confidence in starting one of her patterns.

  36. My daughter wants matching quilts for my 5-year old and 2-year old granddaughters, so I’m planning to applique zoo animals that my daughter has designed.

  37. These applique tips are really great! I really need to create some sewing machine covers for my Bernina machines and want to do applique on them. Thank you for this post! 🙂

  38. I love applique quilt, now I would like to make a buddha surrounded by flowers wall hanging. A sereine and peaceful quilt to put in my sewing room.
    thank you for the great giveaway.

  39. I really enjoy making art quilts and all these different techniques will help me make them exquisite. Learning something new or different is the spark that starts creativity.

  40. The project I would like to make would be for my sisters. I would like to make a memory quilt for both of them using colorful appliqued things of our growing up years. These will be placed in blank areas opposite pictures.

  41. I would like to make an applique scene of my daughter at Walden Pond. It would be using a photo taken where She is looking at Walden’s statue after she put her cell phone in “his hand”.

  42. I’ve cut out a large map of the United States using fusible & it’s ready to be appliquéd down on the background fabric for my sweet 6 yr old granddaughter! Would love to win your give-away.

  43. Great tutorial! I am going to use these techniques to machine appliqué a BOM that began in January but I have been afraid to start – now I have more confidence! I also plan to use the techniques of hand embroidery combined with machine embroidery on a Karen Buckley quilt.

  44. What a wonderful way to apply 🙂 interesting patches to holes in clothing, or to apply tailored patches. Fish swimming over the knees of a child’s pants, discrete ersatz pockets over “failed” jeans back pockets, as well as the more fun applications mentioned above. I have in mind two of my favorite tea towels that were “well ironed” and would benefit by some colorful redecoration on their linen faces.

  45. I have some animal placemats pictures that I would like to turn into real placemats! One of many UFOs! I am also interested to learn how those scissors with the wing work for applique. Do they really keep one from clipping the wrong fabric?

  46. I have always wanted to make a Baltimore style applied quilt ! Thank you so much for the instruction it has helped we with a project I am currently working on. And Thanks so much for the give away !

  47. I love to applique but only know one way so thank you for giving me some new ideas and pointers. I’m anxious to try these out. Being a first time new grandmother, I’m certain I’ll be delightfully busy.

  48. I would applique for “Mary’s Closet, a Community orginization that donates necessary baby-toddler items from new/ gently used baby clothing, blankets, diapers etc, to families needing these items.

  49. I made my first quilt by hand. Not one stitch was on a machine. That was about 40 years ago. It is falling apart, I think I would like to “fix” it. I used the blanket stitch on the appliqué. I plan to “fix’ it with my new 770. I’m going to take apart – redo the appliqué with as many decorative stitches I can put on it. Then put back together and quilt it with my machine using my stitch regulator! It will definitely be an update, but all the material (except batting) and the pattern will be the original!

  50. I love to make mug rugs with applique, especially seasonal themes. My family appreciates them as little, fabric pictures and steal them away. 🙂

  51. I am going to do a wool wall hanging with my new Bernina. Just did some quilt squares for project Linus and love how easy and nice my machine applique looked.

  52. I am working on an animal quilt that is all applique for my granddaughter who is turning two on July 29th. I particularly love using the buttonhole applique stitch.

  53. I just completed a “streak of lightning” fence rail quilt and would like to appliqué shadows of birds on a telephone wire across the front of the quilt to match one of the fabrics in the fence rail.

  54. In the Ebook, to do the blanket stitch applique (page 7) it says to use a zig zag stitch. Why would you use that rather than the blanket stitch. I’m confused.

    1. Hello dtyber, the e-book does mention lots of appliqué techniques including the zig zag stitch, blanket stitch, invisible appliqué and more! Where machine settings are concerned, you do need to use a zig zag foot that will accommodate the full stitch width of the blanket stitch.

  55. I love the Bernini feet for appliqué! I used to dread completing a project with hand appliqué, but now that I use my Bernina feet I can speed through projects. I plan on incorporating appliqué in a quilt I will make my son. Items such as cars, cards, etc. Just subtly interspersing in the quilt.

  56. I recieved a precious gift. My husband’s grandmother was a quilter and I am the recipient of an unfinished quilt. Actually hardly started, all pieces are cut and only a couple of squares were hand quilted. I want to put her finished squares in the center and finish the quilt around it. My granddaughter is almost 3 and a portion will be saved for her to have her hands in on it too. I am returning to sewing after too many years I use to love appliques. Thank you

  57. Interesting article, I have not been brave enough to this point to try Applique on my new 570 Tula Pink, but this article give me some confidence that I can do it. The next step is to give it a try.

  58. I’m creating a quilt from a painting I did for my son on his first deployment. He had just purchased a new home when he was deployed. His roommate gave me access to the house and I painted an eight foot square canvas of the Statue of Liberty. I started quilting about 4 years ago and I’m an appliqué girl!. So I’m marrying the two. I just bought a B740 and I’m in love!!

  59. I always love doing lettering applique to make bulky names on quilts. Parents love that their child’s name is on there so as not to get confused at daycare centers.

  60. I would make a table runner for Easter. I love to applique and with a Bernina feet, it makes it so easy. Then I would do some quilting with my new rulers.

  61. I would love to blanket stitch a penny rug for my sister. I just purchased a new Bernina 570qe and am having so much fun with it! Who knew you could do so many things with a sewing machine. A big upgrade from my old Bernina 830 record, which I still do love.

Leave a Reply