Tips for Applique by Machine

In Issue #21 of Modern Quilts Unlimted, Gail Pan’s quilt “Dresden in Bloom” has some applique as part of the quilt making process.  We covered how to do Needle Turn applique by hand in an earlier blog post. Today, we’re going to cover some tips on doing applique by machine.

First, you need to secure your applique piece to your background in some way.  You can turn under raw edges for your applique pieces, like the way the Dresden center of this quilt has been created. Those you would pin in place and stitch.  We will be covering a full range of fusible tips in a later blog post, but many quilters use a fusible of some kind for applique by machine. For this tutorial, a very light fusible web on the back of the applique has been used.

Top to bottom, the stitches are the blanket stitch, the blind hem stitch, and the zig zag stitch which was worked in various stitch lengths.

You will want to select a stitch that works for your applique piece.  Essentially your machine stitching will need to secure your applique piece to your background fabric without the chance of the applique coming off, especially if it’s laundered.  Some quilters are concerned about the edges of the applique fraying so they choose stitches that are going to cover the raw edges of the applique.

You have lots of stitches on your machine, but the zig zag and the blanket stitch are two of the most popular. A blind hem stitch, used in garment sewing, can also be useful.  For our project, we are using the blanket stitch.  Some of the additional tips for this stitch are to loosen the top thread tension so that the stitches do not bunch up your fabric as you can see in this thread test sample.


Next is the stitching of our blanket stitch on our applique.  The stitches here are just along the outside of the applique, with the blanket stitch taking a “bite” into the applique to secure it.  Longer stitch lengths mean it’s more likely to see your stitches.  The blanket stitch has a hand sewn look if worked in a thread color that didn’t match as closely.  To make them “invisible”, use a very closely matched thread or use monofilament thread.

Notice that an open toe foot is being used on the machine so you can see where your stitches are.  Sewing slowly also helps you turn the work.  If your presser foot has the ability to loosen the pressure it puts ont he foot, you can adjust that so you can turn curves more easily.

Here’s our finished sample.  It went much faster than by hand.  Now you are armed with an additional applique technique to give Gail Pan’s quilt “Dresden in Bloom” a try!




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