How To Applique On A Quilt

Appliqueing was once used as a method to cover ripped areas of clothing. People used to cut whatever fabric they could and patch it over the ripped part of a pant or shirt. It was initially known as patchwork. Today, appliqueing is the method of sewing or gluing a design or decorative piece of clothing on a larger cloth like a quilt.

Applique design looks simple and elegant on any size of the fabric, especially the quilts. A lot of people like to applique using some old memorable pieces of clothes. This turns their quilts into family heirlooms that are given as a gift for comfort and love.

How To Applique On A Quilt

how to applique on a quilt

Appliqueing on a quilt needs a lot of time because of the size of the quilt. You will have to work on multiple sections of the fabric and you may take days to finish a quilt. There are multiple methods of appliqueing a quilt. You can choose the method based on your sewing skills and the amount of time you have to finish the project.

One other aspect that you need to consider is the end result. Every method of appliqueing produces a different end result. Therefore, you can also choose a style based on how you want your quilt to look. Some of the common methods of appliqueing are machine applique, hand applique, smooth edge applique, fusible applique, reverse applique and decorative stitch applique.

3 Different Methods of Appliqueing

There are a bunch of different appliqueing methods. Here, let’s discuss a few methods that produce excellent results. You can choose any one of these based on how you like the end result and ease of the process.

Machine Applique

Machine applique method uses sewing the applique pieces on the quilt using a sewing machine. This is a quick method as compared to sewing with hand. This method of course needs an expertise in using a sewing machine.

Machine applique can be simply done by taking pre cut shapes, placing them at the right place on the quilt and running the machine over it. You can use a zigzag stitch on the edge of the design to hold it in place. Follow it up with a tight satin stitch and retrace over the zigzag stitch to cover it.

Fusible Applique

fusible applique

Fusible Applique is also known as Raw Edge Applique. This is one of the easiest methods of appliqueing. In this method, you have to create your design/applique on sheet of fusible web. Fusible web has a paper or webbing on one side and fabric adhesive on the other side.

You can print or hand trace your design on the non-adhesive side. The next step is to attach the fabric for the applique and cut out the finished design. The last step is to stick the cut-out on your quilt.

The raw edges of this method can be finished with a zigzag stitch, a blanket stick or any stylish stitch of your choice.

Needle -Turn Applique

This method calls for intricate knowledge of needle work but it produces the best applique results. You have to be very confident of your skills to use this method. Start by tracing the shape/design you want on a freezer paper. Press the paper onto the right side of the fabric – the side where you want to apply your applique. Trace around the freezer paper using a marker pen (water soluble). The traced line is the edge of your fold.

Cut around your design while leaving a ¼ inch seam allowance. Baste the pieces onto the background fabric. Now hand-stitch the applique in place on your quilt. Use the needle or your finger to sweep the edge under the fabric. You are done now. If you want, you can double stitch the applique to secure the design in place.

Should Appliqueing be Done Before Quilting?

should appliqueing be done before quilting

It will be easier to finish a quilt if you quilt first and then applique. Quilting gives you a clear base that you need to work on. It provides you with a canvas which can be then decorated by stitching or gluing a design in a pattern. Appliqueing first and then quilting the pieces may lead to design complications. For smaller quilts though, you can approach the process either way. Smaller quilts can be appliqued first and quilted later.

What is the Best Stitch for Applique?

If you are appliqueing with a machine, there are two popular stitches that you can use: the zigzag stitch and the button hole stitch. The zigzag stitch is also known as satin stitch while the button hole stitch is famously known as the blanket stitch.

Which Fabric is Best for Appliqueing?

which fabric is best for appliqueing

You can applique using any fabric that you want but some fabrics fray more than others. Therefore, your choice of fabric decides the life of your appliqued quilt. For example, standard quilting cotton frays a bit after a few washes but if you compare it to plush minky fabric, it is nothing. That is to say that plush minky fabric frays a lot even with minimal use. Similarly, terrycloth and flannel flay easily and may ruin your applique work way faster than you would like. Some people use heavy weight fusible web to reduce fraying but it may have a bad effect on the overall strength of the quilt at a later time. Some great fabrics for appliqueing on a quilt are:

  1. Quilting cotton
  2. Twill
  3. Jersey knit
  4. Corduroy

Materials that completely eliminate fraying are:

  1. Fleece
  2. Felt
  3. Leather
  4. Suede
  5. Marine vinyl

Is there a Rule for Thread Color?

is there a rule for thread color

If you are a beginner, you should stick to a thread color that is very similar to the color of the applique design. When you choose the same color, your stitches blend well with the fabric and do not pop out. In the initial days, this will help you hide your wonky stitches. Even when you become a pro at appliqueing, stick to matching colours, it looks neat. Moreover, even the experienced people can make mistakes. Why take a risk!

Is It Easier To Applique With Glue Than Sewing?

Using a fabric gum to stick your designs is way easier than sewing them but the ease and convenience depends on the fabric you are using. Fabric glue works best with only a few fabrics and it is good to stick only a few embellishments like sequins and gemstones. This means, you cannot applique huge cloth designs on your quilt using a fabric glue but you can stick small designs with it. So, the answer is that it is definitely easier to use glue but it does not work well with the type of appliqueing that goes in the making of a quilt.

Quick Tips for Adding Applique to Quilts

Both quilting and appliqueing are complicated processes. Therefore, it will be good to learn about both the processes before starting a project. Here are a few tips that will come in handy when you decide to get creative.

  • Always cut oversized backgrounds for all types of appliqués because they tend to shrink and become distorted with use.
  • Choose materials that do not fray much. There is no point creating a beautiful design with a material that frays in just 2 days.
  • Learn and practice different types of decorative stitches before you have to stitch your applique. Do not try it for the first time on your quilt.
  • If you are making a big quilt, always quilt first and applique later. For the smaller quilts, you can applique first and quilt later.

Appliqueing on a quilt is a lot of work but the end result is always delightful. If you are planning to make a quilt, start by designing it on a paper. Do it one step at a time and always learn the nuances before you start the project rather than experimenting at the last minute.



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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