How do you appliqué? One thing’s for sure—there are oodles of appliqué techniques to choose from! Last month we shared a hand-appliqué tutorial with you, courtesy of Mimi Dietrich. This month, we’re continuing the appliqué play with a special tutorial on how to appliqué by machine.
There are a lot of variations on how to appliqué by machine. Many methods use interfacing, which acts as a stabilizer for the appliqué fabric. But you may not be familiar with a unique approach from designer Lori Buhler. Her sew-on-the-line technique is particularly helpful when it comes to sewing curves—smooth, flowing lines become a cinch. Plus, there are no raw edges to hide! And all you have to do, quite literally, is sew on the lines.
From simple circles to twining vines, curvy petals, and even skinny curlicues, Lori’s tutorial on how to machine appliqué can be adapted to most any appliqué project—you’ve gotta try it! Let Lori show you how it’s done.
How to Appliqué by Machine
From Fuss-Free Machine Appliqué: Sew on the Line for Great Results by Lori Buhler
I’ve always admired beautiful appliqué quilts but was always a little overwhelmed by the thought of all the work that went into making them. When I was introduced to a new interfacing method of appliqué, I knew that with this technique I could enjoy the process and not get bogged down by all the fuss that can go into making appliqué quilts. So, with a lot less effort, I could make beautiful quilts to share.
Any lightweight non-fusible interfacing can be used for this machine-appliqué technique. However, I use a product called Pattern-Ease (visit your local quilt shop or find it online) from Handler Textile Corp., which is similar to interfacing but is classified by the manufacturer as a pattern-tracing material. Like interfacing, it’s lightweight and non-fusible, but what I really like about it is that it’s 45″ wide; most interfacings are only about 22″ wide.
Below you’ll learn how to prepare multiple pieces for machine appliqué; then you’ll learn my technique for how to machine appliqué those pieces to a background fabric. As you read about the technique, you’ll see how you can adapt it to any appliqué motif.
1. Cut interfacing strips and fabric strips of the same width.
2. Using a pen, trace the appliqué pattern onto template plastic. Cut out the template exactly on the drawn lines.
3. Place the template on the interfacing strip and trace around the shape with a pencil. If your template has a straight edge, place that straight edge along the cut edge of the strip. Trace the number of shapes needed, leaving approximately ½" of space between each shape.
Note: The interfacing strips are often longer than the fabric strips, so check the lengths against each other to make sure you don’t trace more than will fit onto the fabric strip when the strips are layered together.
4. Lay the interfacing strip, marked side up, on the right side of the fabric strip of the same width. Be sure that none of the traced shapes are in the selvage area of the fabric strip. Pin the strips together in the areas between the shapes.
5. Sew on the marked lines, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam.
6. Cut out each shape, leaving a scant ⅛" to ¼" for the seam allowance. Turn each piece right side out. For shapes that have been completely stitched around, you’ll need to cut a slit in the interfacing only, and then turn the shape right side out. I use a turning tool called That Purple Thang from Little Foot Ltd. to help me push out the stitched edges completely. When turning, roll the fabric slightly to the interfacing side to prevent the interfacing from showing on the front of the quilt. Use an iron to press each shape from the interfacing side, making sure you can see a slight amount of fabric all around the edge.
7. Position the turned shape on the background fabric and machine appliqué it in place along the edges using a blanket stitch or blind hemstitch. You can also use a narrow zigzag stitch, but I don’t like it as well, because it tends to flatten the edges of the shape and doesn’t look as much like a hand stitch as the blanket stitch or blind hem stitch. This is purely a personal preference. Experiment with the stitches on your sewing machine to find the right stitch for you.
All my quilts are appliquéd using clear monofilament. You may prefer to use a thread that matches the appliqué piece or even a contrasting thread. I find that using an open-toe foot is helpful for seeing as you sew. Although I machine appliqué my pieces, the interfacing technique may also be used for hand appliqué or the appliqué method of your choice.
8. If the appliqué piece will be part of a seam, such as on the edge of a block, I trim away the fabric and interfacing under the appliqué, leaving approximately a ¼" seam allowance. If the piece is not in a seam, trimming is a personal choice. It’s not necessary if you’ll be machine quilting, but if you’re quilting by hand, you may want to cut out the extra layers to reduce the bulk you’ll be quilting through.
Thanks for sharing your clever technique with us, Lori! You can see more of Lori’s quilts from Fuss-Free Machine Appliqué in the slideshow below.
Find more ways to machine appliqué in these books—all 40% off this week only:
Learn Kim Diehl’s invisible machine-appliqué technique in Simple Traditions
Find techniques for invisible, reversible, fusible, and padded appliqué in Machine Appliqué for the Terrified Quilter by Sharon Pederson
Learn a freezer-paper machine-appliqué technique from Cyndi Walker in Pretty Patchwork Quilts
How do you machine appliqué? Share your story—and any helpful tips—in the comments!