Appliqué 101 (Step-by-Step and Free Pattern)


One definition of appliqué is, a decorative design made of one material sewn over another.

I say it’s an awesome and easy way to embellish almost anything – from quilts to clothing to pillows to seasonal decorations to towels to anything else you dream up.

Okay, let’s get started with the basics.

Fabric (generally quilting-type cotton)
Item to applique on (shirt, towel, bag, anything you want to embellish)
Thread and needle or a sewing machine
Adhesive paper
Appliqué pattern (provided below)

1. When choosing your adhesive backing, the most important thing is the weight. For appliqué it is best to use a “lite” product to make sewing possible and the end result not so stiff. I’ve had success with both Heat N’ Bond Lite and Lite Steam-A-Seam2 (though I somewhat prefer the Steam-A-Seam as it is even lighter weight and very easy to trace through).


2. Begin by ironing all the fabric you will be using and the item you’ll be embellishing.


3. Place the printed pattern on a table and lay the adhesive paper on top. Trace your pattern onto the adhesive paper.


4. Notice how I traced the pattern to use up less of my adhesive paper.


5. Cut out the adhesive pattern – leaving room around the edges of the design.


6. Place the pattern sticky side down on the back side of the fabric.


7. If using Heat N’ Bond iron for 2 seconds. If using Steam-A-Seam simply press on.


8. Notice that you don’t necessarily need a solid for certain colors. I had a scrap of fabric with orange flowers that worked perfectly for the beak. Get creative with the fabric you have.


9. Now cut out the design along the lines you traced earlier.


10. This is the backside of the pieces with the adhesive paper still attached.


11. Peel off the paper backing.


12. Layout the design. For this design I’m embellishing a tea towel. I simply folded the towel in thirds, ironed and then eye-balled the placement of the design in the center of the front third of the towel.


13. Once satisfied with the design, iron it on – pressing for about 6 seconds, without steam.


14. Post-ironing.


15. It is now time to sew. I used a sewing machine, but you can certainly sew by hand, as well. Even though we’ve used adhesive backing, we want to make sure we sew through each and every piece. After many washings and normal wear and use the adhesive may wear off – and we don’t want our design to fall apart at that point.


16. Tie the ends of the thread together on the back side of the design. This will help secure everything.


17. When turning corners (especially when developing your sewing skills) I find it useful to stop where you want to turn a corner, lift the presser foot and move the item so you can begin sewing in the new direction. This will create nice sharp corners or you can do it incrementally to help you sew a curved design.


18. I wanted silly, long-legs on my birds, but you can make yours as long or short as you want. Simply sew a straight line and then add three short lines to make the foot.


19. You can also add extra embellishments as I did for the eye. I have a bag of random buttons and sequins that I searched through to find a little extra pizazz for the bird.


20. Your appliqué project is finished and looking great. Remember that this will get easier and quicker the more projects you do, so keep at it.


Click Here to Get the Free Bird Pattern

Do you have a question about any of the steps or applique in general? Send me an email (mallory(at)mallorypaige(dot)com) or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer.