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What are appliques and how to use appliques

Choose fabrics for shapes and background that are compatible in weight and care requirements-preferably smooth, firmly woven ones of a light to medium weight. Ideas for appliqué color schemes and designs abound in magazines, in collections of stencil shapes, in design publications, and in coloring, art, and needlework books.

To transfer designs most easily, cut a cardboard template (pattern) in the shape of each appliqué piece. Trace the shape onto the appliqué fabric. Before cutting, add a 1/4-inch seam allowance for hand appliqué, 1/8 inch for appliqués to be sewn by machine. Layer the design shapes so that you work from the background to the foreground. Shapes that do not stand by themselves should overlap slightly.

Hand-done appliqué

Cut out the appliqué, including the seam allowance. Staystitch it just outside the traced outline of the design. To reduce bulk and make it easier to turn raw edges, clip inside curves and notch outside curves. Trim outside corners and points, and notch angles.

Place each shape right side down, and position the template inside the staystitching. Press raw edges over the template. Remove the template.

Hand baste the folded edge. Pin or hand baste the appliqué to the fabric. Attach the appliqué with whipstitches.

Machine zigzag appliqué

Hold the appliqué in place for stitching with iron-on fusible web, a glue stick, or machine basting. If you decide on fusing or gluing, trim away the seam allowance beforehand. If you use machine basting, stitch along the design (traced) line and trim close to the stitching, taking care not to cut stitches or background fabric.

Use a short, narrow zigzag stitch and keep most of the stitches’ length on the appliqué rather than on the background. Stitch slowly around curves. Pivot at the corners.