Appliques are a unique and beautiful way to add a little pizzazz to any project you’re working on, but if you’re wondering how to apply an applique with a sewing machine correctly, not to worry because it is much easier than you think. At one time, sewers thought the only way to get an applique to look good was to sew it on by hand, but that is certainly no longer the case.
Appliques can be sewn on with machines successfully as long as you follow a few simple tips. The good news is, you don’t have to be an experienced sewer to do the job right because in the end, it is a very simple job to do.
Why Apply an Applique with a Sewing Machine?
Appliques are often more delicate than the materials used for the rest of your project, so they can present a challenge when it comes to making sure they’re sewn on properly. One of the reasons for sewing on an applique by machine is that most of the time, you will be doing two things: sewing the applique onto a piece of material and binding the edge of the applique piece at the same time.
You’re doing two different things as you sew, so it’s usually best to use a sewing machine because they tend to produce wider stitches than those sewn by hand. This means you’ll be able to bind the edge properly while sewing the entire applique onto the other material you’re using without any problems.
When you cut out an applique and do not sew the edges of it before sewing it onto the item you’re creating, this is called a “raw edge” applique because the edges of the applique are left undone. This is the way most sewers work with appliques.
Does it Require a Special Sewing Machine?
We’ve already determined that applying an applique with a sewing machine is an easier way to work with appliques, but do you need a special type of sewing machine and not just a basic one? Most sewers answer that question with a resounding “yes.”
While a standard sewing machine is great for basic sewing jobs, an applique is easier to sew on when you use an embroidery machine and not a regular sewing machine. The differences between the two can seem subtle, but that is not exactly the case.
As a general rule, one of three stitches is usually used when sewing on an applique: the straight stitch, the satin stitch (which is a tight zigzag stitch), and the blanket stitch. Can you use other stitches instead? Of course, but make sure they are able to accommodate both of the tasks mentioned above.
In other words, the stitch you’re using has to both seal the edges of the applique and sew it onto the item you’re making. This isn’t difficult if you choose the right stitch.
By the time you’re ready to start stitching your applique, you will have placed fusible web to the back of it so that it stays down and makes it easier for you to sew. As far as the stitch you end up choosing, the best thing to do is to choose one that you’re most comfortable with so that you can stick with it.
Many people find that the blanket stitch produces a much neater look than the other stitches, but this is just an opinion. You’d do wise to research several stitches to find the one that works best for you.
There are also numerous tips to pay attention to so that your appliques come out much neater, especially if you’re a beginner. Here are some of those tips:
- Always start the sewing on a bend; that is, a turn or a curve.
- When you turn to go in another direction, make sure your needle is down first.
- Use either cotton thread or embroidery thread to apply the applique.
- Use a back-stitch at the beginning and the end of your project to secure both ends.
- Make sure to add embellishments (buttons, bows, and so on) at the very end of the project.
Sewing on an applique with a sewing machine is also much easier if you use a foot made specially for appliques; in other words, an applique foot. These are usually easier to work with because their base is usually a clear plastic.
Making the Job Easier on Yourself
If this is your first time to work with an applique, there are things you can do to make the task much easier. This includes the right type of fabric, and if you think only cotton will work with an applique, think again.
There are two types of material to consider for the applique itself: fabric that doesn’t fray at all when cut and fabric that frays only slightly. While 100% cotton fabric is great for sewing an applique with a sewing machine, here are some other fabrics that do well:
Fabrics that fray only a little bit:
- Jersey knit
- Quilting cotton
Fabrics that don’t fray at all:
- Leather, suede, or ultra-suede
- Marine vinyl
In the end, it’s up to you which fabric to use, but using one you know won’t fray at all or will only fray some is always your best option.
When it comes to your thread, the main thing you need to remember is to use a high-quality thread, not an inexpensive one that is cheaply made. Having said this, some of the thread types sewers like to use include cotton, rayon, and 60-weight embroidery thread.
The point is, don’t skimp on your thread when you’re sewing on appliques. Go ahead and spend what you need to spend to get a high-quality, strong thread in the end.
What About the Machine Itself?
Regardless of the type of sewing machine you choose, the first thing to pay attention to is the type of needle you use. For applique sewing, it’s best to use an embroidery needle that is very sharp and one of the following sizes:
When you sew an applique, it also works best if the stitch you use to attach the applique is roughly 1/8-inch wide. In addition, when you first start sewing, try to set the motor at half-speed until you get used to what you’re doing.
You’ll also want your stitching to be in the proper place once you’ve decided to sew your
applique with a sewing machine. The stitch should go over the edge of the fabric, enough to secure the applique to the item you’re working on, without going too far over it.
Sewing stitches that are straight and in the exact place they need to be to secure the applique may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s just like any other sewing project, you just have to practice to get good at it.
Sewing appliques with a machine isn’t difficult, and as long as you follow these tips and keep practicing, it will become much easier over time.
Appliques are gorgeous additions to any pillow, blanket, or article of clothing, so knowing how to sew them onto different items is a skill you’ll be able to use for a lifetime.