A Simple Tutorial On How To Applique A Quilt Update 05/2022

Have you pondered making an appliqué quilt but aren’t sure where to start?

Perhaps you believe that creating appliqué pieces requires some “next level expertise.”

Say no more because I’ll tell you everything you need to know about appliqué and how to do it in this post.

My goal is to provide you with the knowledge and confidence to create stunning appliqué components for your next quilt.

What is Applique Quilting?

So, what is appliqué quilting, exactly?

Applique is a piece of fabric that is cut into the required shape, such as hearts, letters, animals, or other designs, and then applied to the quilt top. When it comes to appliqué, the choices are virtually unlimited. It’s one of my favorite quilt embellishment and personalization techniques.

If you want a complex shape on your quilt top, applique is a terrific solution. The quilt I’ll be sewing for this instruction, for example, features a deer silhouette applique.

It would have been tough to make that out of patchwork or even paper piecing, and I wouldn’t have gotten those lovely curves and exact points for the antlers. I was able to hand-draw the outline and achieve the perfect shape and scale for this huge centerpiece using applique. That will be discussed later.

What is the Best Stitch to Use for Applique?

It’ll come down to personal opinion and how you want your end product to look when deciding what stitch to use on your edges (if you choose to stitch your edges).

If you want to add a name to a quilt, for example, you’ll probably want those edges to look professional, almost as if you used an embroidery machine. A satin stitch is a zig-zag stitch that can be done on any machine having a zig-zag stitch.

It will take some time and effort to make it “right,” but the end result is beautiful, and those edges will hold up to many washes.

On the other hand, if you like a ragged effect, you may use permanent glue on the backs of your applique pieces (such as Heat n’ Bond in the red container) instead of stitching your edges. You could also use a straight stitch approximately 18″ from the edge to sew your pieces down. The edges of your quilt will fray attractively when washed.

The blanket stitch is another popular applique technique that may be done by hand or on some machines. I’ve done this stitch a few times now, and it’s a terrific way to keep those edges in place while also adding a cute touch.

Before we get started on the quilt applique instruction, I’d want to address a few other common applique quilt questions:

Do you quilt before or after you applique?

Answer: After applying my applique pieces, I always quilt. If you’re going to hand-stitch your applique, you could quilt first and then attach your pieces.

How do you finish applique edges?

I either use a satin (zigzag) stitch or a blanket stitch. My personal favorites are listed here.

Is there a “right” and a “wrong” way to do applique?

No, no, no! Find out what works for you. Applique quilting is an art form, and there are many various ways to do it. As long as your applique pieces are secure on your quilt, I would never claim there is a “bad” way to do it.

Different Types of Applique For Quilts

Applique comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common types of appliqué are listed and described below:

  • Needleturn Applique is the most delicate applique style. Your piece will be cut, with a seam allowance. Then hand sew a blind stitch onto the quilt top, turning the edges under as you stitch to ensure no raw edges are visible.
  • Raw Edge Applique: As the name says, the raw edges of this type will be exposed, giving your finished piece a more tattered appearance.
  • Fused Appliqué: This is the type of applique I recommend for applique beginners. You’ll use fusible (iron-on) webbing or glue to connect your applique piece to your quilt top, also known as iron-on applique.
  • Machine Applique: Using a satin stitch or blanket stitch, stitch down your edges with your sewing machine.

Quilt Applique: Tools You Will Need

  • Fabric for the top of your quilt and the applique parts
  • Drawing paper and pencil (if you are drawing your shape by hand)
  • Printer and Computer (if you are printing your shape)
  • Adhesive Fusible I always use Heat n’ Bond Lite paper.
  • Pen (for tracing onto the adhesive paper)
  • Sewing machine, thread, cutting board and rotary cutter (scissors), iron, and ironing board are all standard sewing supplies.

How To Applique On A Quilt

Step 1: Choose your applique piece.

You can usually find what you need if you search for whatever form you need plus the words outline, silhouette, or clipart after it on Google or Pinterest. If you have a home printer, you can print it directly from your phone or computer.

Because the centerpiece I’m working on is for a king-sized quilt, I wanted a large deer silhouette for my example piece. I couldn’t use clipart because it was too small, so I had to draw it by hand.

Stencils are another wonderful alternative, especially if you’re creating lettering. There are many various fonts and decorative shapes and sizes available that would look fantastic as an appliqué element on a quilt.

Step 2: Print or draw the piece.

You may now print, trace, or sketch your design onto a piece of paper once you’ve decided on it. I prefer to draw using a pencil first so that I can simply delete or alter the image. After that, I’ll run over the outline with a Sharpie marker to create a bold line that I can see through the sticky paper I’ll be tracing the image onto next.

IMPORTANT: If you’re doing writing or an image that needs to face right or left, bear in mind that you’ll have to trace the picture in the opposite direction. To do so, I’ll flip the paper on which my image is created or printed over and use a Sharpie to trace the shape onto the reverse of the paper.

It will be facing the wrong way when you trace it onto your paper, which is exactly what you want.

For example, I want my deer silhouette to face right after it’s finished. So I switched my sketching paper around and traced the design onto the back, with the deer facing left.

Step 3: Trace onto Heat n’ Bond Lite paper.

The deer is facing left, as you can see in the shot above. The little bird on my paper is only there as a paperweight to keep it in place while I trace the image onto the sticky paper.

This particular paper is excellent since you can sew through the adhesive without clogging your needle. Make sure you obtain the Lite edition, not the original, if you want to sew your edges. The original Heat n’ Bond adhesive is heavier and not intended for stitching.

Because the antlers are made of a different fabric, I traced the deer’s bust on one piece and the antlers on another.


Step 4: Cut out the shape from Heat n’ Bond paper.

You might skip this step if you are making smaller pieces, but because I am making such huge pieces, there will be a lot of “blank” area on the adhesive paper that will go to waste, so I cut off my large pieces before ironing them onto the cloth.

I also chopped out the center of the deer bust piece so that it wouldn’t be as stiff. If you’re making smaller parts, you won’t have to worry about it, but because this deer is so enormous, I didn’t want a section of the quilt top to be rigid from the adhesive.

Step 5: Iron the fabric onto the adhesive paper.

When ironing your fabric on the adhesive paper, be sure to iron the wrong side of the cloth. Follow the directions on the exact adhesive paper you’ve chosen.


Step 6: Cut out the shape from the fabric.

Cut out all of your pieces and lay them down to ensure that they are facing the right way and that everything is in place. My deer is now facing right in the shot below, which is exactly how I wanted it to turn out.

I also added a few detailed pieces, which I constructed using the same adhesive paper as the large parts.

Step 7: Iron onto the background fabric.

Make sure your applique piece is straight and precisely where you want it on your background cloth before ironing it down. When I bring it over to my ironing board, I always lay out my pieces and pin them down to make sure everything looks perfect and remains in place.

Step 8: Stitch the edges.

Choose a stitch and then sew all of the raw edges together. I went with the satin stitch for this project.


Are you ready to applique your next quilt?

One of my favorite methods is applique, and I use it frequently in my creations. It takes your idea to the next level without being overly challenging or time-consuming. I hope this tutorial has shown you that appliqué isn’t as difficult as it appears.

What kind of appliqué do you prefer? Do you have any insider tips or tricks you’d like to share? Please share them in the comments section below!

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