October 2, 2010

How to Make Your Own Applique Pattern

Applique is one of my favorite sewing techniques.  Sometimes I have a pattern to follow, but I usually want to do something original or personal (for baby gifts and such).  So how do you go about making your own applique pattern?  I hope this tutorial will inspire you to come up with your own designs and let the sky be the limit.
  1. Sketch out a simple drawing.  Try to keep all the pieces bigger than 1/4 inch so that you will have room to stitch around the edges.  Otherwise the edges will fray - unless that's the look you're going for, of course.  For this tutorial I'm showing a bird I created for my sister's baby quilt.
  2. Once you have a drawing you are pleased with, outline with a marker or thick pen to where you can see the outline from the back of the paper.
  3. Trace the outline to the back side of the paper to get a reverse image.  If you have a light box, they are very helpful with the tracing steps.  If you don't have a light box, any window works well and it works out your shoulder muscles at the same time. :)
  4. Trace the REVERSE image to the paper side of fusible adhesive.  My favorite brand is Heat n Bond.
    • Trace each shape independent of each other.  For example, the head, body, beak, and wing should all be traced separately.
    • For nice joins between the pieces trace them to where they will overlap each other.  for example, continue the shape of the body as if the head were not there and add about 1/8 inch to the length of the beak so it can go under the head.  The dashed line on the beak is the portion that will go underneath the head.
    • Tip:  When doing a very elaborate pattern, it may be helpful to label your pieces. 
    • Tip:  If I have to stop before I can iron the pieces on, I store them in a zip lock bag so no small pieces go astray.
  5. Roughly cut out each piece leaving at least 1/8 inch outside of the traced lines.  You want to go outside your traced lines so that when you cut the fabric, you will have glue all the way to the edges.  Iron according to the package directions to the WRONG side of your fabric - adhesive side down.  I know that's a duh, but if I had a nickle for every silly shape stuck to my iron...
  6. Cut out your fabric and shape exactly on your traced outline. **I used a different method for the wing that is described below.
  7. When you are ready to assemble your pattern, remove the paper from each shape and iron to your background fabric.  Be sure to iron in layered order - so that the pieces that go underneath others get ironed down first or are tucked under as you iron.  Note: Iron according to your adhesive instructions - these instructions may differ from the steps you took to iron the adhesive initially in Step 5.
  8. Once all the pieces are ironed on, you are ready to hand or machine stitch the outside edges.  A blanket stitch is a common stitch to use.  If you don't want to sew the edges, there are some iron-on adhesives that are strong enough to hold in the wash without stitching.  Be sure to read your labels.
** I did the bird's wing a little differently.  I could have easily followed the same instructions and ironed the wing directly on top of the bird's body and stitched around the edges, but I wanted it to stand out a little more.  Here are the alternate steps I took:
  1. Cut the shape traced on the iron-on adhesive out directly on the traced lines.  Typically you do a rough cut here so that you can cut the paper and fabric at the same time - see Step 5 above.  I'm doing this with the intention of the glue not going all the way to the edge of my pattern.
  2. Iron to the WRONG side of the fabric leaving enough room to cut at least 1/8 inch bigger than the paper, then cut around the paper, leaving about 1/8 inch all the way around.
  3. Remove the paper and iron the shape to a coordinating fabric.  This fabric will become the underside of the wing.  Cut the coordinating fabric following your other fabric wing.
  4. Cut very small slits down the top and bottom of the wing about 1/8 inch apart.  This will frey and kind of look like feathers.
  5. Sew a small dart in the middle of the top of the wing to give some shape.
  6. Attach the wing to the bird body with a blanket stitch or straight stitch.

1 comment:

  1. too cute - i am definitely hiring you to do my baby blankets! :)