Machine Applique


I don't do a lot of machine applique. I'm a lover of hand applique but in consideration of all the quilts I'd like to make before my quilting days are over, I've done a fair amount of research on the topic, taken a few classes and tried quite a bit of what I learned. Machine applique definitely has it's place and I think everyone should have some knowledge of it in your list of quilting skills. When sewing machines became available for home use in the mid 1800s, you were "quilte the quilter" if your quilt showed machine stitching. I'm not a big fan of raw edge machine applique so the technique I've used most is what I'll describe here.

Freezer Paper / Starch Applique -

  • Trace your applique shape on the freezer paper and cut out on the drawn line. Iron on reverse side of your fabric.
  • Cut out adding almost a 1/4" seam allowance all around the shape to turn under.
  • I use spray starch and spray into a small dish. With a paintbrush paint the starch round the edge of the applique in the seam allowance beyond the freezer paper.
  • Iron the edge of the fabric over the edge of the freezer paper.
  • When dry you can take out the paper and there you have your applique ready.
  • Thread: For invisible stitching, I use a .004 nylon monofilament thread. YLI, which comes in clear and smoke is my favorite. Otherwise, a 50 wt. cotton thread in a matching color will be just fine.

YLI Clear & Smoke Thread

  • Needle: I usually use a 70/10 universal needle for this type of applique but you should test the thread in your machine and adjust the needle size as needed for your machine and the thread you've chosen.

  • If your machine has an open-toe embroidery foot now's the time to try it. It allows a good view of the stitching as you sew. There are generic feet available for most sewing machines so you should be able to find one that works for you.
  • Check your machine manual for a stitch that give you 3 to 5 straight stitches followed by a zigzag stitch. It may be called a blind hem or an overlock stitch and will look something like this. _ _ _^_ _ _^ _
  • You'll want to have a practice piece the first time you set up this stitch combination. Once you have it the way you like, make note of it in a journal or in your machine manual because if you're like me in a couple of weeks you might not remember your machine settings.
  • The stitch width should be just wide enough to catch a couple of threads of the applique patch and short enough to leave about 1/8" between zigzags. If you have the invisible applique stitch on your machine it may be set up like this or you may need to manually override the preset stitch measurements and save the new settings as one of your favorite stitches
  • .

  • You want to stitch in the background fabric next to the patch with the zipzag going over and just grabbing your applique piece. The goal is to keep your straight stitches in the background and your zigzag going over to the applique piece.
  • It's best to make sure you have a zigzag at any corner. If you see one coming and don't think the zigzag where fall where you want it, you can usually hold the fabric back a little with your hands to make the stitch where you'd like.
    • I've given you just the basic information here. Invest in a great book or take a class at your local quilt shop on invisible machine applique. One of my favorite instructors has written a great book on the subject. Here's a link to her online store where you can purchase - Machine Applique: A Sampler of Techniques by Sue Nickels.

      Machine Applique - Sue Nickels


      • If you've run out of your usual stabilizer for machine applique, you can use a paper coffee filter. Press it flat, it's acid-free so it worn't hurt your fabric and easy to tear away.
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