Applique embroidery is a great technique that adds personalization to your embroidery. What are the differences between applique embroidery and regular embroidery? Regular embroidery uses thread to stitch out the design. Applique embroidery uses fabric to fill the design and finishes the edge with a finishing stitch. The finishing stitches can conceal the edge of your fabric or let the edge show and let the fabric fray a bit. It’s all about what you want your design to look like as a finished product.

Applique embroidery requires more “hands-on” time. Regular embroidery mostly lets the machine work, but applique requires more steps, such as placing the fabric for the applique and trimming the edges to finish it. The extra fabric can add cost and thickness to the finished product. I like to take advantage of my scrap basket for small pieces of applique. And lastly, the edges of the added fabric can fray if not carefully caught in the edge stitches, such as with a satin stitch. Some might find these as disadvantages to applique embroidery, but I think it adds charm and character!

Select your applique design and print out the color chart. I used the reading gnome from Designs by JuJu Cute Loveable Gnome set DBJJ2214.  The first 4 steps for my design are placement stitches and tack-down stitches. They are separate colors on the color chart, but I usually choose to do them in a light color or a color that matches my fabric so they don’t show. It’s unnecessary to change colors between the placement stitch and tack-down stitch, but you can if you want to follow the order of the color chart. 

Assemble your supplies. You will need:

  • Hoop to fit the design
  • Stabilizer 
  • Fabric for the hoop and the applique pieces
  • Thread to coordinate with your fabric and the design
  • Small applique scissors
  • Color chart
  • Basting spray

Upload your design onto your machine. Hoop your design with a stabilizer and your fabric. Use a stabilizer that works for your fabric. I’m making a pillow on 100% cotton fabric using a tearaway stabilizer.

Load your hoop into your machine and start your embroidery. My gnome design starts with a placement stitch for the hat. Stitch out the first step and remove the hoop from the machine.

Then, cut a piece of fabric for the hay that completely covers the stitches. For added security, spray it lightly with adhesive spray so it won't move while it's being tacked down.

Load the hoop back in your machine and run the tack down stitch. I usually choose a thread to match my fabric, but I chose a contrasting thread to visualize the project better. The machine will stitch the same lines as before and go around twice to secure it.

It's now time to remove the extra fabric around the stitches. A good pair of applique scissors is helpful. Some scissors have a duckbill on one side to help keep from clipping the stitches. I prefer a small pair that is sharp and allows more precision without a protective piece for the stitches. Clip as close as you can to the stitches without clipping them.

Once the fabric is trimmed, it’s time to move on to your design's next step. This design has the second piece of fabric placed next so that the placement stitch will stitch first.

Cover it completely with the following choice of fabric. Secure the fabric if this is a first-time project.

Run the tack down stitch.

And again, cut the fabrix next to the stitches. Get as close as possible without cutting the stitches.

After the fabric is all trimmed, it’s time for the machine to finish stitching out the design. Follow the steps on the color chart and ensure you’re going to make sure the edges of everything overlap correctly. For this design, the face will be stitched out next.

The next step is a satin stitch around the edge of the hat. The first stitches are a wide zig-zag around the edges where the satin stitch will be placed. I like to check and make sure the edges are off my fabric so that I know the edge of the fabric will be under the satin stitch.

Then, let the machine finish the satin stitching. There will be a few gaps that will be filled in with other stitches later.

Continue stitching through the steps on the color chart. Watch your design come to life as all the details are added to the applique design.

Remove the design from the machine and trim all the threads. You can now remove the design from the hoop. 

I removed the tearaway stabilizer from the back of my design and pressed out the hoop marks from the fabric.

Your applique embroidery is done. It can be used in many different ways. I put a border on it with an envelope back and put a pillow form inside. You could put the applique design on a baby onesie or an adult sweatshirt or turn them into quilt blocks! Enjoy the new technique you’ve learned!