What is Applique? An Introduction to Applique Sewing

Find out what applique is and how to use it in your sewing projects.

Updated June 08, 2018
What is Applique An Introduction to Applique Sewing
What is Applique An Introduction to Applique Sewing

Applique is a technique by which pieces of a material are attached to another larger piece of material, often in a decorative pattern. These patterns can include lettering, geometric shapes, or images. Oftentimes, the two materials used will contrast in type, color, and/or texture so that they can be easily differentiated. Common applique fabrics include felt, fleece, and quilting cotton, but applique can be accomplished with almost any material! Applique is often used to add color, texture, or embellishment to a piece, and it is frequently used in quilting projects.

How to Attach Applique

There are several ways appliques can be applied to fabric:

  1. Sewing them on by hand or machine. This method holds potential for extra adornment, since you can sew them on using decorative embroidery stitches, like a blanket, split, satin, stem, zig-zag, or chain stitch. 

  2. Attaching them with fabric glue. Though this is not always the most durable of application methods, it's definitely the easiest! Just put glue onto your applique, stick it in place, and voila! You have a seamless (literally) applique pattern.

  3. Ironing on your applique using fusible webbing. According to GourmetQuilter's Susan-Claire Mayfield in her YouTube tutorial, How to use paper-backed fusible web for applique, webbing generally has two sides: a side with bumps of glue and a smooth paper side. First, draw the mirror image of your design onto the paper side of the webbing with a pencil. Then, iron the piece of webbing to the backside of the applique with the bumps of glue touching the fabric. Once the webbing is fused to the applique, you can cut out your drawn-on pattern. Peel the webbing from the applique, and then iron the applique to the main fabric with its shiny side facing down. This method could also be combined with sewing for a decorative, ultra-safe attachment.

Applique Patterns to Try

Now that you know what an applique is, it's time to put your knowledge into action! Below is a stellar assortment of applique projects, from dish towels to summer dresses. You'll never run out of applique sewing ideas with this clever list.

Mason jars are all the rage for hipster home decor. Get a rustic and homey aesthetic with this simple and rustic applique.

Personalized, plush, and precious, this Applique Baby Blanket is just the thing for a last-minute baby shower gift! Any baby would be snug as a bug while swathed in this smooth design.

This Reversible Placemat Sewing Pattern is ideal for anyone who appreciates value! Now you can get two dining table looks with one sweet design.

Feminine, floral, and fabulous, this Marc Jacobs-inspired applique project is a godsend for any lackluster jumper. Turn your closet into a cutesy homage to your favorite fashion designer with this simple pattern!

Applique lettering is ideal for anyone looking to insert personality into his/her home decor. Broadcast your cozy, couch-friendly vibes with this hilarious Let's Stay Home Pillow Sewing Pattern!

These shorts may be sewn from scraps, but they're as durable as can be! Pairing a medium-weight linen with a delicate pant applique is just the contrast your little one needs to look like a star this summer.

Add a mandala-like applique to your duster-trimmed dress for an iconic Bohemian look this summer. Looking chic has never been so easy!

Everyone loves the Muppets, and now your kids can bring their favorite characters with them wherever they go! Use this character-making skill to make any T.V. icon into a wearable applique.

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