Monday, December 13, 2010

Shut Up and Sew: Appliques for Beginners

When I showed off these gorgeous clutch changing pads last week, I was thrilled that there were enough cute little scraps leftover to do some appliques. The fabric was sooo cute, and I was excited that it would make it onto a gift that the baby would wear too.

**If you're interested in any of these fabrics, I got them from Poppy Seed Fabrics here.**

(Also, for those of you who were interested in Patty Young's Sanctuary line last week, it is in now too, so check it out!)


Back to my lovely little scrap pile, to go with the boy changing pad, you really can't go wrong with a tie onesie. (I have a tutorial for making these here, if you missed it.) As long as one of your fabrics has a cute little pattern to it, chances are that it will make an adorable little tie!


For the girl, I cut out a few of these INCREDIBLY adorable little birdies, and put them on a onesie. So cute and sweet!!


Actually, I cut out several birdies and started attaching them to everything! Wouldn't it be so cute on a burp cloth, maybe with a monogram of the baby's initial as well? Since these aren't a present for someone immediately, I still have time to make up my mind about them. :)


I just started appliqueing a few months ago and now I love it! An easy way to make a personalized gift for a loved one, (especially a newborn or soon to be born loved one).


I've had a lot of trial and error along the way, so I thought I'd share some of my best tips, from one beginner to another.

Beginner Applique Tips

1.) Make a stitch cheat sheet. This is especially helpful if you are new to your machine and unfamiliar with the results that you'll get from changing up your settings. Grab a scrap piece of fabric and try out some different combinations of stitch length, width and tension, noting down on a piece of paper the settings as you try them out. As you go, you will see which combinations of settings give you the look you are going for, which don't, and which just aren't working. Star the ones that you like, and make yourself 2 little cheat sheets to keep: a scrap of fabric with an example of the stitch and a piece of paper where you've noted the settings.


My cheat sheets have my 6 favorite zig zag stitches on them. That way when I sit down to do an applique, I take a quick glance at the fabric to see what I'd like the outcome to be, set my sewing machine to the corresponding settings, and I'm off! No more guessing.

2.) Use a fusible webbing. This is the best way to keep your applique from slipping as you sew, especially the little edge pieces that like to shift around right when you are trying to secure them down. It is an extra step if you are used to just pinning down your applique, but it is so worth it for the design to stay exactly where you put it until it is sewn down.


3.) Use a pencil. When you are tracing your pattern onto the back of your fusible webbing, don't use a pen or marker! These can show through the material if it is a light colored fabric or bleed onto the material if you end up using a liquid No Fray. (Like on the inside triangle of this A! I loved this little onesie but all I can see is that blue pen bleeding through.) Just use a pen and spare your perfectionist self some heartache! :)


4.) Use a fabric stabilizer. If you are doing an applique on a stretchy material like a onesie or t-shirt, this gives you a sturdier base for sewing and keeps the fabric from getting stretched out and shifting around as you go. I typically use the tear away kind. I've heard that the water soluble stabilizer is great too, but I'm hesitant to wash something that I've just made as a gift. Anyone have any that they recommend?


5.) Reposition with needle down, and outside. If you need to stop and reposition your applique as you're going, make sure to stop the machine with the needle down on the OUTSIDE of the applique. Then you can reposition the fabric and not have any gaps in the stitching. (I made this mistake on the curves of this little a. I was sure to point out my mistakes to my friend when I gave her this gift. She still liked it, but I wish I had known this before!)


Well, are you ready to give it a shot?!

Does anyone have any more applique tips that they'd like to share? These were the first ones to make their way to my checklist, but I know there are dozens more! I'm still a sewing newbie, so please fill me in!

I'll be linking to these lovely parties as well! Check them out for some great seasonal inspiration!

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Eric and Hilary December 13, 2010 at 8:28 AM  

So cute! I LOVE the birdies!

momof3girls December 13, 2010 at 11:45 AM  

Thank you!!! I have always been hesitant to try this but I love this look -thank you for the step by step direction and the great pictures!

Kimberly December 13, 2010 at 3:16 PM  

Great post Erin,

I love those birds as well, they are too cute...for my applique I use the stabilizer you have listed. I haven't tried the water one, I too don't like to wash before I send...(they just wash it anyways)

Do you have trouble removing your paper back from the wonder under, before you iron it down? I did for the longest time, it was so time consuming.. Then I saw on a sewing show to score it with a pin and that creates a opening to peal it away... So much easier...

Tiffany December 13, 2010 at 6:48 PM  

Absolutely adorable! Of course I am partial to the Mia and banner one! : ) No, I really love all of them! The birdie ones are so precious! Thanks for the tips!

Cari December 13, 2010 at 9:16 PM  

Thanks for all the advice! I'm going to be able to use it when I attempt to decorate these stark white onesies that are staring at me from the craft pile! It's so helpful to find someone who's "been there done that" to provide some good tips!


Wendy December 14, 2010 at 7:19 AM  

Great lesson :) I should really try this!

Amy with Good Day! December 14, 2010 at 10:49 PM  

Thank you! So much helpful information :)

Cassie December 15, 2010 at 2:30 PM  

This is such fabulous information!!!

DIYbyDesign December 15, 2010 at 5:57 PM  

Great tutorial. I am definitely going to try this one. I linked over from Blue Cricket Design party. I am your latest follower. I would love if you would come check out my blog at I hope you will follow me back. Looking forward to seeing more of your projects.

Unknown December 16, 2010 at 4:39 PM  

sometimes its the simplest solutions that elude us the most...

Sewing on Sally the Singer December 17, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

I too am a beginner :) and figuring out how to applique is an on going process! I do suggest to other newbies that they use a small tip needle...I learned the hard way. I had a 'regular' sized needle in my Singer and it left noticeable holes in the onesies if I ever made a mistake and needed to pick out thread. Cheat Sheets are the greatest :)

Jaimee @ Havenwood House of Boys December 18, 2010 at 7:52 AM  

I'm just starting to applique, too. The cheat sheet is brilliant! A no-brainer, but I hadn't thought of doing it!

The Quilt Ladies December 18, 2010 at 8:49 AM  

Nice job and remember is only takes 2 projects to not be a beginner ! !

kristol faucheux December 19, 2010 at 5:50 AM  

I'm getting ready to tackle a HUGE applique project. My first. Thanks so much for this tips.

lafondsi September 15, 2011 at 7:04 PM  

Just tried making the little boy tie/vest combo. It came out so cute. Have been wanting to try applique. Thanks for all the great newbie tips!

Mandi E. May 21, 2012 at 8:18 PM  

I love the designs here. You have inspired me here and I thought this sort of thing was just for old ladies! The cheat sheet is a great idea and I was going to do as you suggested but realized that my machine owners manual has done the work for me.

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