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Making an Applique

How I Make an Applique

So... I have a combination sewing/ embroidery machine. Obviously, I can use it for adding an applique to things, however, I mostly add appliques to my kids' clothes. Daniel is rapidly growing, but unfortunately my 4"x4" hoop size is not. At some point, I'd like to upgrade to a machine with a larger hoop size, but until then, the designs are looking smaller and smaller on his clothes. My solution: make my own appliques!

I've also been frustrated at times, not wanting to get everything out to convert my machine, not being able to find a design quite like I had envisioned, and obviously, not being able to stitch larger designs.

So, several weeks back, I set out to make my own applique design for the first time. Daniel had requested a dinosaur shirt for his birthday. I didn't want a tiny dinosaur in the middle of a shirt. And, I wanted a dinosaur with balloons. That's specific. I don't have software for embroidery, and it was EXTREMELY unlikely that I was going to find a design like I wanted, so I honestly didn't even want to waste my time searching. I played around with fabric and Heat and Bond, and was super pleased with my results.

Daniel loved it too, and since then, I have felt like he has pushed my creativity to the limits with his requests! In fact, I started hashtagging his requests "#danielsrequests" on Instagram just because I know one day, I'll probably enjoy looking back at them. He has requested all kinds of shirts! He now has a "hoppopus" (Octopus) shirt, an elephant shirt, and a "shish" (fish) shirt. I doubt that will be the end of his requests. We will see. It's all good though, for now at least, because he recently had a growth spurt and REALLY needed a few more shirts in his closet! 

So let's get to why you're here. 

I'll show you how I've been doing it. I am aware that there is probably more than one way of doing this, just like everything else in life, but this has been working for me.

You don't need an embroidery machine, you don't need a cutting machine. You can use just your sewing machine and scissors!


After deciding what type of design I want, I set out to find something to copy. Let's face it. I'm not artistic. I never thought I was creative until here lately. I'm probably not as creative as I feel. But whatever. I'm claiming creativity. My three year old has made me a creative.

If you are artistic, you won't need to do this step, if you don't want to. You can probably draw your design.

Keep in mind though, in your searching (or in your drawing) that you don't want anything with too much detail, or it will be harder to make your applique. You'll be dealing with way more pieces. The smaller the pieces are, the harder they are to stitch down, and the easier they are to lose!

I have been using Google and searching for "simple coloring sheets." For example, for this one, I probably searched, "Simple fish bowl coloring sheet" or "outline drawing of fish bowl." The simpler the drawing, the easier it will be do make. You can always add more detail yourself. You can add more pieces or add detail with stitching!

Here is what I came up with for this applique design. I found it from Here is the link to the exact sheet I used if you want it.

Here is what it looks like:


Check sizing. Look at your design compared to your shirt (or whatever you want to add the design to) and see how it looks. Does it look too big, to small, about right?

This particular design seemed almost perfect in size, but some others I have found have been too small.

What I have done when my design was too small, I used my printer/copy machine to resize. I just increased the size until I was happy with how big it printed. You can also decrease the size the same way.


Once you have your sizing worked out, it's time to trace your design! On the dinosaur shirt, I mentioned before that I used Heat and Bond Lite. I ran out of that, but found this other stuff that I purchased a couple of years ago. I have no idea why I purchased it, because I NEVER used it. But, I'm glad I have it, because I'm using it now! I actually think I might like this stuff a little better than the Heat and Bond, just because it's thinner, I can see through it better, and seems to be easier for me to use to trace my designs.

I'm fairly certain that I bought this from Amazon. As you can see, you've got all of your instructions on the front of your package. If you use Heat and Bond, it'll obviously come with instructions, as well.

You will take some of this (or your Heat and Bond) and place it over your printed picture (or drawn picture for you artists) and trace it. I've been tracing in Sharpie, because the lines are easy to see.  I said before that I felt like the size of my picture was almost perfect. As you can see here, I narrowed it, ever so slightly.

You will want to trace all of your pieces separately, because you will be cutting them all out of different fabrics. 

So first, I traced the fish bowl. Second I would do the fish. 

However, I wanted different fish. I wanted my design to be fairly easy to stitch down, so I just drew my own. I also decided to add some plants to my fish bowl. I drew everything out on my fusible web.


Once you have everything drawn out, go ahead and cut your pieces apart. As I said before, you're going to do them all in different fabric, so they need to be separate for you to iron them down. 


Go grab your little scraps! This is the perfect project to use up all of your scrap fabrics! I have all kinds of scrap quilting cottons and cotton/ poly broadcloth and this is primarily what I have been using for my appliques. This has worked well for me! 

Go ahead and iron your scrap pieces first so that they're not all wrinkly on your finished product!

You will start ironing all of your pieces to your fabrics. 

When you're finished, you'll have a pile like this.


Cut out all of your pieces. Just cut around the lines that you drew before. Easy peasy. 


Now you can get your shirt (or whatever you want to put your applique on) ready.

I have done these two ways -- on shirts I'm making and on a ready made shirt that we purchased. I prefer to do these on shirts I'm making, because it's easier to stitch all of your pieces down on the front of the shirt before it's constructed. You won't have to worry about accidentally catching the back of the shirt when you're stitching. You just don't have to be quite as careful.

Iron your fabric. It just makes everything lay nicely. Yes, I am one of THOSE people who uses her iron in between every step when she's sewing. I probably am ironing more than I'm stitching, but I like the finished product to look nice! πŸ˜‰

Now for the FUN PART! Place your design. You will peel the paper backing off of your pieces, place them where you want them, and iron them down according to the instructions on the package.


Now flip your shirt front over. I like to use a stabilizer on mine to keep my machine from stretching the fabric funny or wanting to "eat" it while I'm stitching. 

I'm just using regular embroidery stabilizer I bought on Amazon. I already had this because I use it with my embroidery machine. This is regular cut away stabilizer. You can either pin it down or stick it to the back of your shirt front using something like basting spray. 

Just check and make sure you've got it behind your ironed on design.


Now we can sew! Choose your stitch! I've been using two different stitches when I do these. 

The first one I like looks like this.

If you're used to sewing stretch fabrics, you probably use this one. I like it because it's secure. The stitches aren't popping out, and it makes a thick line. I think it looks nice. I like to sew this one on the edges of all of the bigger pieces. I usually extend my stitch length, just because of preference in how it looks. Here is just after I stitched down my first fish. 

The other stitch I like is the regular zig zag stitch (like a satin stitch). I narrow my stitch width so it fills in more. I primarily like to use this for smaller things (like the bubbles here). I'm still practicing small items. My bubbles are a little messy, but I'm not a perfectionist. This is a work of art, right? Imperfections are OKAY.  πŸ˜‰

Play around with your stitches and see which ones you prefer!

STEP 10:

After you have stitched around everything, you are pretty much done. Go back and clip threads. If you have any details you want to add, do that now. 

For example, I like to add buttons for eyes. It gives the design some dimension. 

Flip your shirt front over, and trim your stabilizer on the back around your design. 

STEP 11:

Finally, construct your shirt or whatever you've put your design on (if you're making it yourself). 


Go, enjoy your super cute new applique! You have created a one-of-a-kind shirt! πŸ˜‰πŸ’“

Here are a couple other examples of shirts I've made. 

Follow me on Instagram if you don't already! I'd love to see what you make! 😘


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