3 ways with appliqué: a complete guide

Whether you like a quick finish or enjoy slow-stitching, appliqué is a relaxing and enjoyable technique that opens up a huge scope of design possibilities for your quilts. Here are 3 ways to try it.

There are myriad ways to appliqué. Whether you’re already hooked and looking to try a new method or  you’ve tried one in the past that you didn’t get on with and it stopped you attempting appliqué again, we’re here to help.

In this post we’ll walk through our three favourite appliqué techniques:

  1. Raw edge fusible appliqué
  2. “Inside out” method
  3. Needle turn appliqué

There’s something for everyone here so it’s worth trying a couple to see which suits you best. Read on for our tutorials plus a few block ideas

1. Raw edge fusible appliqué

  • Great for complex shapes
  • Creates a flat, clean look
  • Quick and easy method
  • Stitching can be done by hand or machine
  • Iron required
  • You will need a fusible web product.

Step one: Take your chosen template shape and roughly cut a piece of fusible web large enough to cover it.

Step two: On the paper side of your fusible web, draw around the template edge.

Step three: With paper side up, fuse the web to the wrong side of your chosen scrap of fabric. Usually this will take a few seconds, but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step four: Allow the piece to cool. You can now cut out the shape along the marked line.

Step five: Peel away the paper on the reverse of the shape. If it’s hard to get hold of at the edges, you can score the paper with a pin.

Step six: Position the shape on your background fabric as per your design. When you are happy with it’s location, use the iron to fuse in place as before.

Step seven: Stitch around the edge of the shape to secure in place. This can be done with free-hand machine embroidery, top stitching close to the edge, or blanket stitching by hand or machine, depending on your preferred look.

2. “Inside out” method

  • Creates a turned edge
  • Has the same look as needle-turn. Slightly three-dimensional.
  • Stitching can be by hand or machine
  • Iron required
  • You will need a lightweight interfacing or fabric.

Step one: From each of the choseen fabric and the interfacing, cut a piece larger than your shape template, plus at least 14in around all edges.

Step two: Place right sides together, with the interfacing uppermost. Position the template on top and draw around the edge.

Step three: Pin the two sides together and then stitch all around the edge following the marked line. This can be done by machine or hand.

Step four: Cut out with an approximate 18in-14in seam. The smaller the piece and the more acute the curves, the smaller you will want your seam to be.

Step five: Clip all around the edge taking care not to cut through your stitching.


Step six: Carefully cut a slit through the interfacing side only. Turn the shape right side out through this hole. Roll out the edges and push out the curves of the shape until you get a smooth edge. You will not need to stitch the gap closed.

Step seven: Press well with the iron. Make sure there is a slight margin of the appliqué fabric showing on the wrong side – this will ensure the interfacing won’t protrude out of the edges of the shape and be seen from the front.

Step eight: Position the shape on your background fabric as per your design. You can use the markings on the template to help position it centrally.

Step nine: Slip stitch in place by hand or top stitch close to the edge of the shape by machine.

Making stems and vines

Read on if you’d like to add stems to flowers, create curving vines, or tackle Celtic knot appliqué designs. Note: If you are doing raw edge appliqué, these can be created in the same fusible way described above.

Step one: Cut a strip along the bias of your fabric, twice the width of the finished stem plus 14in. So, if you want a 14in finished stem, cut your strip 1in wide. You can use a piece of string curved around the pattern and then measured, to work out the length.

Step two: Fold the strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and stitch into a tube with a scant 14in seam.

Step three: Roll the tube with your fingers so that the seam will sit on the back of the strip. If you have a narrow stem, you may need to trim the seam allowance back to 18in or less, so that the raw edges will not be seen from the front. Press well with the iron.

Step four: Position the stem as desired on the background fabric. You can coax it around curves using pins or tacking stitches to secure it temporarily. The heat of the iron will help encourage the fabric around tight curves.

Step five: Slip stitch in place along both edges with matching thread.

Visit our Essential Guide post for more tips on bias strip appliqué.

3. Needle-turn appliqué

  • Traditional method
  • Stitching is by hand
  • Great for sewing on the go
  • No additional products or tools necessary.

Step one: Mark the shape position on the wrong side of the background. This can be drawn on directly using the template or traced from a pattern.

Step two: Cut a piece of scrap fabric roughly 1/4in larger than the shape on all sides. Place this right side up on the right side of the fabric. Hold it up to the light to make sure it covers the whole of the marked shape on the reverse, plus 14in all round. An alternate step is described in step four.

Step three: Optional: If you want to fussy cut your fabric, you can draw around the shape template on the wrong side of the fabric and then cut it out wth a roughtly 316in seam allowance. Place over the marked shape as in step 2.

Step four: Tack the fabric in place with running stitch using a cheap/old thread, thicker needle and following the marked line on the reverse.

Step five: Tie a knot in a length of thread that tones with the appliqué fabric and secure your thread under the appliqué shape.

Step six: Unpick the first stitch or two of tacking thread and fold under the raw edge and hold in place with your thumb. Bring the needle and thread up through this fold, and then down into the background fabric beside it, angling the needle in towards the appliqué piece slightly.

Step seven: Come up approx. 18in away, again through the fold, and then back down into the background fabric. Continue around the shape in this way – removing a couple of tacking stitches, sweeping the raw edge under with the side of the needle, holding with your thumb and securing with an invisible stitch.

There you have our three favourite appliqué methods. We hope you will find one you like and are encouraged to get sewing. After all that stitching it looks like we have the beginnings of an appliqué sampler quilt! Now for a cup of tea and a slice of something sweet…