Fabric fusing: the easiest appliqué method?

In January, appliqué master Mimi Dietrich shared her hand-appliqué tips with you. In February, popular author Lori Buhler showed you how to appliqué by machine. This month, we wrap up our appliqué tutorials with a primer on fusible appliqué—arguably the easiest appliqué method around.

Orange Marmalade quiltFusible appliqué requires two components: fabric and fusible web. So, what is fusible web? Below, superstar designer Nancy Mahoney gives us the lowdown on exactly what this magic fabric-fusing medium is, what it does, and how you can use fusible web for appliqué to create quilts that mimic a hand-appliquéd look.

A little about Nancy: she’s written 12 books, had her quilts featured in more than 100 national and international magazine issues, created close to 100 quilt patterns for fabric companies, and designed a dozen fabric lines. And she devoted an entire book to her fusible-appliqué method: Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts (which includes the “Prairie Picnic” quilt, above.). Nancy, tell us how you used fabric fusing to make your beautiful flower quilts!

How to Use Fusible Web for Appliqué
Excerpt from Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts by Nancy Mahoney

Night Blooms quiltFusible appliqué is extra fast and easy. With this technique, there are no seam allowances to turn under.

Fusible web is available with smooth paper on one side and an adhesive on the reverse, or with paper on both sides and an adhesive in the middle. (There are also a few paperless fusible webs.) There are many brands on the market, but I prefer Lite Steam-A-Seam 2, which has paper on both sides. When you purchase a fusible-web product, take time to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Different products call for different heat settings and handling instructions. Be careful not to allow your hot iron to directly touch fusible web that is not covered by paper or fabric. I recommend using an appliqué pressing sheet or parchment paper to protect your iron.

1. Make a plastic template for each appliqué shape. Place each template on the paper side of the fusible web, right side up, and trace around it. Use a pencil or permanent marker to trace each shape the number of times indicated on the pattern, leaving about ½" between shapes.

Fusible web paper side up

2. Roughly cut out the fusible-web shape, leaving a margin of about ¼" all around the marked line. For larger pieces, or where pieces will be layered, cut out the center of the fusible-web shapes. Leave at least ¼" inside the line. This trimming allows the piece to adhere to the background while eliminating the stiffness within the shape.

Cut out the fusible-web shapes

3. Place the shape, fusible-web side down, on the wrong side of the appropriate appliqué fabric. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fuse the shape to the fabric; let cool before handling.

Fuse the applique shapes to the fabric

4. Cut out the fabric shape on the drawn line and remove the paper backing.

Cut out the fabric shapes

5. Using your pattern as a guide, position the appliqué shapes, adhesive side down, on the right side of the background fabric in numerical order and press.

Position and press applique shapes

6. When all the pieces have been fused in place, finish the edges with a decorative stitch, such as a machine blanket stitch. Sew so that the straight stitches are in the background fabric, very close to the appliqué edge, and the swing stitch is in the appliqué piece. You can also use a narrow zigzag stitch on the edges of the appliqués.

I like to use a decorative stitch, such as a machine blanket stitch or zigzag stitch, to secure the edges of the appliqué pieces. The decorative stitch adds texture, depth, and color to the project. If I don’t want the stitches to show, I use a 60-weight, 100% cotton thread that matches the appliqué pieces. However, when I want the stitches to add texture to the appliquéd shape, I use a 30-weight thread in a color that either matches the appliqué pieces or provides contrast. Always make a test piece to check the size of the stitches, the thread tension, and the thread color. Make any necessary adjustments before stitching the actual appliqué pieces. I also use an open-toe embroidery foot so I can see the stitching line clearly.

Finish the applique edges

Thanks for the fabric-fusing tutorial, Nancy! You can visit Nancy’s website here.

Find more fusible-appliqué quilts in the following books, where each designer plays with variations of the fabric-fusing techniques above. This week only, you can save 40% on Nancy’s book, as well as the books below.

More from Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts by Nancy Mahoney

Projects from Fast Fusible Flower Quilts

From ¡Quilt Fiesta!: Surprising Designs from Mexican Tiles by Cheryl Lynch

Projects from Quilt Fiesta!

From Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes by Kay Mackenzie (includes bonus online content from the original CD-ROM)

Block patterns from Easy Applique Blocks

From Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs  by Beth Ann Williams

Projects from Celtic Quilts

Remember, for more appliqué tutorials, see our posts on hand appliqué and machine appliqué.

What’s your all-time favorite way to appliqué? Share your appliqué secrets in the comments!

15 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I prefer fusible applique as it is the fastest medium and I’m all about easy!

    However, please note that the e-mail description that was sent with the excerpt from Ms. Mahoney’s book used the terms fusible interfacing and fusible applique interchangeably and they are two totally different mediums. I have used both for applique.

    Peggy, thank you for letting us know about our oversight–you are absolutely correct. We have corrected the post and regret making the error. ~Jenny

    —Peggy Forbes on March 11, 2013
  • Needle turn is my favorite applique method using freezerpaper. My first quilt was a Baltimore Album…….took twelve lessons doing a new square each month. The twelfth square was the middle square…a large clippership. The teacher had unexpectedly moved. That is when I joined a quilt guild and found help with the ship and putting quilt together. Now I am working with wool applique and using fusible web. Using fusible web is certainly easy.

    —Darlene on March 11, 2013
  • Fabric fusing is my favorite applique’ method. My hands shake and needle turn under quickly becomes needle turn out with me. After fusing my desired item on a quilt; I pin it and take to various places as a hand sewing project. It works for me!

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on March 11, 2013
  • The terms "fusible web" and "fusible interfacing" should not be used interchangeably. Fusible web is what is described in the tutorial: a glue in web form, sometimes attached to paper for ease of use. Fusible interfacing, on the other hand, is usually a fabric, woven or knit, that has a fusible finish on one side. With fusible web, the paper, if any, is removed after the glue is attached to another fabric. With fusible interfacing, the fabric remains attached when the interfacing is attached to another fabric. Web is usually used for its glue feature while interfacing is generally used for its support feature i.e. the additional stiffness it adds to a fabric. Interfacing is sold in many weights and comes in both fusible and non-fusible form. Enjoy the blog very much!

    Audrey, you are absolutely right–the terms "fusible web" and "fusible interfacing" should not be used interchangeably. We regret the error and have made corrections to the post. Thank you for your attention to detail, and for notifying us about the oversight! ~Jenny

    —Audrey on March 11, 2013
  • I once did a class which included all kinds of applique methods. The one I found the easiest, and therefore the one I use the most, is fusible applique. However, the one that was the most fun was reverse applique. There’s something magical about cutting away the top layer to reveal the ‘surprise’ fabric underneath.

    —Kayt on March 11, 2013
  • I’ve always wanted to be a stellar hand applique-r, but alas it is not to be. I’ve also tried freezer paper applique with similar results. It turns out that fusible web is the best medium for me and actually I’m very happy with it.

    I’d also like to thank you folks at Martingale for "Stitch This". I’ve learned so much from your articles and I keep every one of them on my computer quilt journal for future reference.

    Sharon, thank YOU for your kind words! Happy Quilting! ~Cornelia

    —Sharon Roberts on March 11, 2013
  • I do a lot of hand quilting, don’t own an iron… so fusings out for me…I do my appliques the old "that was last century" way…I draw my picture on paper, and then graph size them for my wallhangings and quilts…I try and make a sample block to match each quilt as well…I try not to do words, but just create the picture…and as "layered" as little as possible…because layering can cause bulk. Old technique but just recycled for this millenium…Have a great day…

    —Darlene Krystal on March 12, 2013
  • love all the applique methods, and i have to agree, fusible is faster.

    ritainalaska on March 12, 2013
  • I love to applique !! I’m doing a Hawiian Quilt now.I do it by hand. I have not tryed it by machine.

    —Chris Ash on March 12, 2013
  • Yes indeed. thanks so much for your "Stitch this" Love it and sorry I did not save all previous offerings in a file.

    I just went to buy some fusable, did not know how to use it. Had to buy the Steam-a Seam as they were out of the lite as instructor told us to buy Steam A Seam Lite. Voila opened this newsletter from you explaining to me how to use it. Thank you and thanks to Nancy Mahoney too. Gues I will be returning the SAS and wait for the lite. haha Patricia G

    PAtricia G Hayes on March 16, 2013
  • I enjoy making a pile of appliques that are on hand for when I want to do a sewing project. I go though my stash, find images, drawings that are large, and colorful on the material.Like a large flower. I iron on the fusing on the back, cut out the design like the flower and then when ready, iron it down to a background fabric. I like using sewing machine and using a zig zag stitch for final touch.

    Judy on June 22, 2013

    susan Bass on May 1, 2014
  • I hate fusible applique. It feels like cheating. So tired of going to quilt shows and seeing nothing but fusible. I do love the patterns though. Needle turn applique at least makes you feel that you have accomplished something.

    —kathie frailey on May 2, 2014
  • Different horses for different courses say I. This is just another option on how to do applique – personally I love it.

    —helenay on July 27, 2014
  • I’ve been watching Edyta Sitar and how she appliques. She buys silhouette appliques which are already cut out, have the fusible web on the back and a paper and when you remove the paper the fusible material on the back is sticky and when you stick the appliques to the background, they adhere to the fabric and then you stitch them down. Can you tell me where I might get this kind of pre-cut appliques?

    Hi C. Strelow – this may be one resource for you: https://www.quiltingcreations.com/store/category.asp?CategoryID=202
    Thanks for your question! –Jenny

    C. Strelow on February 4, 2017

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