Tutorial – Three ways to appliqué


I feel funny writing a tutorial on appliqué, because I don’t do it very often.  But appliqué is such a useful and fun technique in zakka sewing that I just have to mention it. In many ways appliqué is more accessible than patchwork, and with nothing more than a bit of scrap fabric, you can transform a potholder from plain to spectacular in no time at all.

Here are three simple ways to do an appliqué. 

(1) Use a bias tape

If you are new to appliqué and want a quick result, playing around with strips of bias tape is a lot of fun. You can buy pretty pre-made bias tapes in craft shops (or better yet, look for lovely handmade ones on Etsy), or you can make your own.  Remember how to make the hanging tab for a potholder? That’s a bias tape right there (well, before you folded it in half just before stitching).  

Bias tapes are even easier to make with bias tape makers – they come in different sizes to make different widths.

(a) Make strips of bias tape (or use bought ones).

(b) Arrange them on the base fabric (cut already to a potholder size).  Pin, and machine stitch at both sides.

Or you can use a fusible webbing tape (as you see in the photo – you can buy it in a large craft shop) and glue the bias tapes onto the base fabric instead of pinning. More on fusible web below.


(2) Use a fusible web for free-form appliqué

You can buy fusible web at most craft stores.  They come in little packets or they might sell it by the meter. It’s about AU$13 a meter – but you don’t need a lot of it. It’s just a very thin sheet (web) of dried glue, backed with paper on one side.  

(a) You cut a little piece of fusible web, iron it on a piece of fabric (with the paper side up), and draw shapes on the paper.  

(b) Cut the shapes out with scissors.  Peel the paper away.  Lay the pieces out on the base fabric, already cut to be a potholder.  Make sure the glue side is facing down, or the fabric will stick to your iron.

(c) When you are happy with the arrangement, press the pieces with hot iron so they stick to the base fabric.

(d) Because the glue might come detached, it’s better to stitch over them. You can do a mini zig zag stitch around the edges for a very secure stitching.  I found this too tedious for a potholder here, so I just did a basic running stitch by hand, for a simple embroidery effect.

That’s it! Proceed to make a potholder (or something else) like you normally would.  

Be warned, though.  Fusible web might cause appliqué addiction. Because you can arrange and re-arrange the pieces till you get the picture just right, before sewing them in, it’s easy to get a good result without too much advance planning like with patchwork. 

(3) Turn corners neatly with iron-on interfacing

You can also do an appliqué the old-fashioned way: (a) cut a simple shape, (b) turn the cut edges inside, and (c) stitching it on (by hand with a blind stitch or sewing along the edges with a machine).

Turning the edges in sounds simpler than it is. It’s hard to get nice clean outlines.  But there is an easier way using a lightweight iron-on interfacing – which you can buy very cheaply at any fabric shop.

(a) Cut out the appliqué shape.  (I’m using a little square of patchworked piece I found in my sewing room here.)  Cut out the interfacing in roughly the same shape.

(b) With the glue side of the interfacing and the right side of the fabric together, saw about 1/4″ around all the outer edges. 

(c) cut a little hole in the middle of the interfacing, and turn the piece inside out.


(d) finger press around the edges to make a nice shape.  Place the piece on a base fabric and apply iron to glue the piece on temporarily.


(e) Blind stitch by hand around the edges, or machine stitch to secure it.

That’s it! This method works pretty well with circles as well. 

Oh, the orange flower appliqué I did above? I thought it looked too nice for another potholder, so I made a shoulder bag for Miss M with it. Which, by the way, is what we’ll be making next week at our second zakka sewing group.




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