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How do I stitch out a machine applique design?

Applique Tutorial Before and After

Are you new to machine embroidery? Have you been nervous to try an applique design? Well, have no fear! The following is a step-by-step tutorial for stitching a three-fabric applique design from start to finish. A free design is available so you can work alongside us!

Gather your supplies.
In addition to the design file and color chart, you will need:
- embroidery thread and bobbin
- fabric
- scissors
- stabilizer hooped with your base item.

supplies needed: thread, fabric, stabilizer, scissors


Prepare your fabrics ahead of time with a fusible product.
This step is not required BUT makes trimming easier, prevents fraying along the edge of the fabric, and adheres the applique fabric to the base item to prevent wrinkles.
We use and recommend Heat'n Bond Lite. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fusing to the backside of fabric.

fuse HNBL to backside of applique fabric


Remove the Backing Paper
Once it has cooled down, be sure to remove the backing paper!

remove paper backing


Refer to the included color chart for your design.
In general, our applique designs start with all the placement and tack down stitches for the fabric portions of the design:

color chart for butterfly applique design

  • The pink steps are single running placement stitches showing where the fabric should go.
  • The green steps are double running tack down stitches that attach the fabric to the hooped item.

Please note: often our applique fabric steps are pink/green, but depending on the design it may instead be two shades of pink, or red/black. In any case, it is important that these steps alternate colors in the design file so that your machine stops between steps. However, you do NOT need to use pink and green threads for these steps! Instead pick a neutral color and use it for all placement/tack down stitches. (Once all fabric is tacked down and trimmed, then use different thread colors for the remaining color steps to coordinate with your fabric choices.)

use a neutral thread color for placement and tack down steps


Stitch Design Step 1: A single running stitch to show fabric placement for the outer wings.

first design step is placement stitch for first fabric


Place the First Fabric
Lay your first fabric down, making sure the entire placement stitch is covered. (You may wish to use a spritz of spray adhesive to help hold it in place.)

lay first fabric over the placement lines


Stitch Design Step 2: A double running stitch to attach the first fabric to the item.

stitch tack down step to secure fabric to base item


Trim the First Fabric
Remove the hoop from the machine but do NOT unhoop your item. Lay your hoop on a flat surface to support the hooped fabric so it remains taut.Trim around the tack down stitches as close as you can without snipping them.

Trim around shape as close to stitching line as possible


Stitch Design Step 3: Return the hoop to the machine and stitch the placement stitches for the inner wings.

placement stitch for second fabric

Place the Second Fabric
Lay your second fabric down, making sure the entire placement stitch is covered.

lay second fabric down over the placement lines


Stitch Design Step 4: This tacks down the second fabric. Then carefully trim around the shapes as before. 

tack down and trim the second fabric


Stitch Design Step 5: Return hoop to machine and stitch the placement stitches for the body of the butterfly.

placement stitch for third fabric

Place the Third Fabric
Lay your third fabric down, making sure the entire placement stitch is covered.

lay third fabric down over the placement lines


Stitch Design Step 6: This tacks down the third fabric.Then carefully trim around the shapes as before. 

tack down and trim the third fabric

At this point with all fabric trimmed out, it is good to fuse the fabric in place before moving forward. Depending on the size of your hoop, you may need to use a small travel or craft iron.

NOW thread color matters! Pick threads that coordinate with the fabrics you have chosen and what you want for the remaining details. You may follow our color chart for inspiration or do your own thing.

Please note that our satin stitch steps start with a zig-zag underlay to provide a nice foundation for the satin stitches which follow.

Stitch Design Step 7: Satin stitches for the antenna

stitch the antenna


Stitch Design Step 8: Satin stitches for the outside wings

satin stitches around outer wings


Stitch Design Step 9: Satin stitches for the inside wings

satin stitches around inner wings


Stitch Design Step 10: Satin stitches for the body

satin stitches around body and head


Stitch Design Step 11: Face details

stitch the eyes and mouth

Depending on what model embroidery machine you have, you may need to trim the jump stitches between design elements yourself when the design is completed.

trim jump stitches if necessary

All Done! Sit back and admire your work!

design is now complete

Now it is your turn!

Baby Butterfly DesignOur FREE Baby Butterfly applique can be found here. It comes in 3 sizes for the following hoops: 4x4, 5x7, 6x10.
The design files are available in 11 machine formats: ART, DST, EXP, HUS, JEF, PCS, PES, VIP, VP3, SEW, XXX (please note that PCS and SEW formats will only include 4x4 files when available for the design).
Also included are the following documents:
- a color chart
- thumbnails, which provides exact dimensions and stitch counts for each size
- PDF version of this tutorial

All of these items are packaged together in an easy-to-download zipped file. You will need to extract the files from the zip first before transferring the file you want to stitch to your embroidery machine. Full directions for downloading from your account and extracting files from the zip can be found here.

We would love to see pictures of your Baby Butterfly applique! Please email them to support@designsbyjuju.com or post in our Facebook Blessings Group!


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