How to Appliquè with a Sewing Machine

All you need to know is the zig-zag or satin stitch.

applique work on a sewing machine
Photo: Janne Peters

This method allows you to apply a motif without turning under its raw edges. The zigzag or satin stitch on a sewing machine is used to bind the edge while attaching the appliqué pieces at the same time. Machine appliqué can be done quickly, making it a better choice for large appliquéd areas, such as the duvet cover shown here.

Cut out a motif.

Your motif, especially if repeated, should start with a template. From an online source, download, print, and cut out copyright-free art. In most cases, an existing template will include information regarding how much you will need to resize it (if at all). Place the wrong side of your template on the right side of the appliqué fabric, and trace with a disappearing-ink fabric pen; cut out.

Mark your placement.

Position the appliqué piece or template on the background fabric. Use a disappearing-ink fabric pen to outline the design. For a large motif or multiple pieces in a pattern, use transfer paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the template design (as shown, above left).

Baste or pin the pieces.

Pin or baste the appliqué piece to the background fabric. If you are pinning, keep the head of the pin a safe distance from the edge of the motif to prevent catching it in the seam. If appliquéing multiple pieces, secure and sew one piece before moving on to another; this will cut down on handling, which may fray the fabric edges.

Machine-stitch them in place.

With your machine set to the zigzag stitch or satin stitch, sew around the perimeter of the motif (above right). (Use a short zigzag or satin stitch for smaller pieces; for larger ones, use longer stitch lengths.) To finish, tuck the thread tail back under the stitches by hand with a needle. Trim any loose threads with small pointed scissors. Repeat with the remaining appliqué pieces.

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