How To Applique By Hand Step By Step

Appliqueing came into existence as a remedy for torn clothes. Yes, there was a time when people used to repair their torn clothing by sewing a piece of cloth on the hole in their fabric. It eventually turned into a fashion where people started sewing random, colorful patches on the clothes to make them look stylish. This is why applique is also known as patchwork. Today applique is a well-known method of designing and is commonly used in quilts and to give a stylish twist to clothing like a pair of denims.

How To Applique By Hand Step By Step

Appliqueing by hand involves a number of steps. It begins with preparing the fabric both for applique as well as the base. Both the fabrics need to be washed and ironed. Washing is necessary because if the material you have chosen has a tendency to shrink or lose color, it will do so before you create a design and start stitching. Similarly, ironing is crucial so that there are no creases on the applique cloth as well as the target cloth like a quilt or a shirt.

After prepping you move through processes like printing the design, pinning the applique to fabric background and then finally sewing the applique. Let’s understand these steps in detail.

How to Applique by Hand?

Hand appliqueing is a popular method of appliqueing. This method calls for an expertise in hand stitching and a good understanding of different types of clothes. Following are the main steps involved in appliqueing by hand.

Preparing the Fabric

As mentioned above, the very first step is to prep the fabric. You have to wash both the background fabric as well as the applique fabric. This step is crucial because washing takes care of any unfortunate shrinking that may happen to both the fabrics. You cannot afford for your applique fabric to shrink once it has been attached to the base. The shrinking of background fabric will be equally disastrous for the design.

The next step in prepping involves ironing both the clothes. This step will remove all the creases that may come in the way when you sit down to stitch.

Creating the Applique Design

This step involves choosing a design for your applique project. You can print a design that you like or you can also create a design by drawing a figure, a monogram or a cartoon. Copy your design on a plastic template. This template is what will help you create the same design, multiple times.

Tracing the Template

Now take the applique fabric, place it flat on a table or floor. Place your template on it and trace it using a pencil or a chalk.

Cutting the Fabric

Once your design is traced, it is time to cut the fabric. Do not cut on the traced lines. Leave space of approximately half a centimeter around your design. This extra space is called seam allowance which will be tucked in while stitching. This extra space also allows margin for error while cutting and stitching.

Pinning Applique on background template

Before you start sewing the applique on your background fabric, you should roughly pin it in its place. Rather you should pin the template at its intended place first and then draw an outline. Drawing the applique on the background fabric will give you a place marker for when you are ready to sew. Now, pin the applique fabric on top of it. Doing this will help you avoid mistakes like sewing the applique at the wrong place or sewing the applique upside down. It will also help you to create a canvas with rough placement of all the designs in case of multiple appliques. You can use a scale or measuring tape to place the applique in the right position.

Always use a pencil or tailor’s chalk to draw on the fabric and to pin it in place, use short thin pins. Place the pins at the end of seam allowance so that they do not come in the way when you start sewing. Pin the applique fabric properly so that it doesn’t move after it has been placed.

Sewing the Applique

This is the last step of the hand appliqueing process. Start by choosing a thread color. Your stitches will neatly blend with your applique design if you choose a matching shade. You can use a silk thread or an embroidery thread for sewing. Use a straw needle for appliqueing. Thread it with the thread you have chosen. A straw needle is thin and extra-long and helps in stitching while producing neat stitches.

Use your needle to fold the seam allowance and start sewing from the back on the chalk outline that you had made using the template. Proceed slowly and tuck in the applique fabric as you move in. You can do that either with your fingers or the needle.

Use the needle turn method to stitch the applique on your background fabric. The needle turn method is where you start from the back, then insert the needle at a distance on the top. Pull at the back then come back on the front at a distance. Keep your stitches parallel to your outline or your stitches will look wonky.

Tying the Knot

End your stitching by adding a few back stitches and tying a knot. To back-stitch, put a few stitches in the opposite direction and then create a circle with the thread and pass the end of the needle through it to make a knot. Trim the extra thread left after tying the knot and you are done.

Which Fabric is Best for Appliqueing?

Natural fabrics like cotton, linen, silk and wool are considered as the best fabrics for appliqueing. All these fabrics have a tight weave and provide a sturdy surface that holds the decorative stitching. Hence, they are ideal for both machine and hand appliqueing.

Does Blanket Stitch Stop Fraying?

Fraying is very common with appliqueing. It happens especially when the choice of fabric is not right. Blanket stitch is an effective method of managing this problem. It creates an interlocked thread that runs on the edge of the fabric and prevents the fabric from fraying or stretching.

Which Hand Stitch is Used for Applique?

There are two popular stitches that are commonly used for appliqueing. The first is the straight stitch which is a simple and strong pattern. The second is the satin stitch which is made up of a series of flat stitches that are used to completely cover a section of cloth. It is also known as damask stitch. The satin stitch looks fancier than the straight stitch for obvious reasons.

How Do You Apply Applique Without Sewing?

Appliqueing is possible without sewing. You can use glue to stick your applique to the background cloth, rather than sewing it using a needle and thread. But this method works only with certain fabrics and small sized embellishments. The glue used to stick the cloth or embellishments is mostly washable, therefore, any applique work done using glue is temporary. Sewing is the best method for you if you want your applique work to last as long as the fabric. On the other hand, if you are looking at temporary fancy work, gluing is an easy and less tiring method of appliqueing.

There are several different types of glues available in the market that work with fabric. Some of them are light while others are strong glues that will last for a long time. But no matter which glue you choose; it is best to avoid washing the cloth. Dry-cleaning is the best way to ensure that the glue applique work survives for a long time.

Appliqueing by hand is a tedious job but it is worth every single minute invested in it. Try appliqueing to create designs on t-shirts, pillow covers, table mats, frocks, bedsheets and more. Start small and once you master the technique pick up bigger projects like bed sheets and quilts.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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