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how to embroider applique designs

This FREE tutorial will show you step-by-step how to embroider an Applique design on your embroidery machine.

There are two ways to embroider an applique design on an embroidery machine:

  • stitch a placement line and cover with a piece of fabric and trim to the shape of the applique
  • precut the applique shapes – either tracing by hand or with a cutting machine such as a Cricut or Silhouette

This tutorial will show you how to stitch the placement line, add the fabric over top of the shape then trim and finish your applique design.

Before you get started, you will need to gather the following supplies:

  • embroidery applique design file – (in your machine format)
  • fabric pieces to cover the shapes of the design
  • embroidery threads – colors of your choice
  • embroidery hoop
  • embroidery stabilizer – hooped with your project fabric that you are stitching onto
  • fabric stabilizer – I like to use Heat n Bond
  • sharp scissors – I prefer to use the Gingher appliqué scissors for cutting around the shapes

Step One: Prepare fabric pieces with a fusible bond

Determine the size of the pieces of fabric you will need to cover each of the applique shapes and cut the fabric squares accordingly.

Iron a fusible bond to the back side of each of the small fabric pieces.

I recommend using Heat ‘n’ Bond Lite. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fusing to the backside of fabric.

Adding the fusible bond to your fabric pieces makes trimming easier. It also prevents fraying along the edges of the fabric.

When you are finished stitching you can do a final press to adhere the fabric applique to the base fabric to prevent wrinkles from washing.

applique fabric pieces

Step Two: Prepare embroidery hoop

  • place the bottom of your hoop onto a surface
  • add a layer of embroidery stabilizer (determined by the kind of fabric you are stitching the applique design onto)
  • add your project fabric item (towel, shirt, blanket, etc.)
  • add the top piece of your embroidery hoop and securely tighten as needed
  • attach the hoop to your embroidery machine

embroidery hoop with fabric

Step Three: Load Applique Embroidery Design

Load your applique embroidery design into your embroidery machine according to your machine directions.

Step Four: Stitch the applique design outline – Placement line

The machine will stitch an outline around the applique shape.

This outline shape is where you will place your applique shape when the machine stops.

You can use any thread color to stitch this shape. It will be covered with the fabric so it does not matter the color that you use.

stitch placement line-how to embroider an applique design

Step Five: Place the fabric square over Applique design

  • remove the paper backing from the prepared fabric square
  • lay the fabric over the placement line
  • you will hold this in place while the machine stitches the tack down stitch in the next step
  • TIP: if you are concerned about the fabric square moving during the next stitching process, you can add a couple of small pieces of blue painters tape to the edge to hold in place

remove fusible backing and place fabric

Step Six: Stitch the Tack-down line

Your machine will stitch a tack down stitch around the applique shape to hold this piece of fabric in place.

Note: you can use any thread color for this step. It will not show, as the final satin stitch will cover this stitching line.

Step Seven: Trim excess fabric around Applique design

Your machine will stop after stitching the above tack down stitch.

Carefully remove the hoop from the machine. Using the Gingher applique scissors (or any small scissors), cut around the tack down line to remove the excess fabric away from the stitching line.

IMPORTANT: You will want to trim the fabric as close to the tack down line as you can, without cutting any of the stitches.

trim excess fabric away-how to embroider an applique design

Step Eight: Stitch Satin Border of Applique design

Carefully, place the embroidery hoop back onto the machine.

Choose a thread color that you prefer. This thread color will show so make sure your machine is threaded with the appropriate thread color to match your fabric.

Your machine will stitch a satin stitch around the outside of the applique shape.

stitch satin stitch border-how to embroider an applique design

Step Nine: Stitch additional Applique design shapes

Follow the same steps for additional shapes within your applique design.

Step Ten: Remove hoop from the machine

Remove the hoop from your machine after you have completed all of the applique shapes and finish stitching any details on your embroidery design.

Trim any remaining stray threads using the applique scissors.

Remove the project from the hoop.

Pull off excess stabilizer from the back of the fabric. Trim areas as needed.

Press the applique design with an iron on medium heat. This will adhere the Heat n Bond to your project and help to avoid wrinkles when washing.

Enjoy your project!

appliqued pink flower

Tips for Appliques

  • make sure you are using the appropriate stabilizer for your project.
  • trim the excess fabric as close to the tack down line as possible (be careful not to cut the stitches).
  • use small pieces of blue painters tape to hold the fabric square in place while you stitch the tack down line.
  • if your project is stitching an applique design onto a terry cloth towel, you will need to add a water-soluble topping stabilizer before stitching the applique. this will keep the stitches from being buried in the nap of the terry cloth.
  • when stitching an applique design onto a shirt or a baby onesie, make sure you have only the single layer of fabric in your hoop. if you hoop both the front and the back your design will be stitched through both parts and your shirt will not open!

I hope you find this tutorial helpful when learning how to embroider an applique design.

If you would like a pdf copy of this tutorial, please fill out the form below and the pdf will be emailed to you.

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