Fusible applique is so fast and easy and fun!
I’ve already got a video showing the basics of using fusible adhesive. In a nutshell. . .
- Trace the mirror image of the shape you want onto the paper side of the adhesive.
- Fuse to the back of the fabric.
- Cut out the piece.
- Peel off the paper.
- Fuse in in place.
- Secure the edges with stitching.
In that video I mentioned (repeatedly) that fusible adhesive can feel stiff.
I also talked about how the satin stitching that’s usually recommended around the raw edges often looks kind of clunky and heavy to me.
But then did a test of some new fusible adhesives I found – a test where I really liked the results! You can read that here.
Those results led me to give fusible adhesive another try in a real quilt – and I spent some time refining my technique (and the way I design my patterns) to suit these awesome new products.
So here are some much more detailed instructions showing how I applique with fusible adhesive. I’m so in love with this technique – especially when combined with Quilt As You Go – that I use it now for all my quilts.
All the images you see here are from the Cuddly Cats quilt pattern.
In 2020 I changed the way I design my templates, to make my patterns easier to use for people with electric cutting machines. That means a little change in how I do things.
I’m in the process of updating all my patterns to the new method, but right now there’s a mix.
If your pattern does NOT include an SVG file for use with cutting machines, use the method below. You can tell at a glance by looking at your reversed and exploded template pieces. If any of the exterior lines are dotted lines, that’s an older pattern. Use the method below.
If your pattern includes an SVG file, and all the pattern templates are bounded by solid lines, with dotted lines only inside a solid boundary – that’s a newer pattern format. Use the instructions here.
So here’s how to do it – in all the detail.
Step 1 – Trace (or Print)
Trace the pattern onto the paper side of the fusible adhesive. I use Heat & Bond Lite printable fusible adhesive so I just print out the page. Easy peasy.
Let me just pause here for a second and tell you how much this one thing – printable fusible adhesive – has changed the way I feel about my quilting. I despise tracing (I believe I’ve mentioned that here before – ahem) so being able to simply print out the page with all the pieces on it (and labelled, too!) is an absolute joy. I know the printable sheets are expensive and I just don’t care. I’ll never go back.
Make sure you’re tracing the mirror image of the pattern. It should be clearly stated on the pattern. If it hasn’t been reversed for you, you’ll need to put it face down in a window and trace off the back side so you get a mirror image.
All of my patterns are already reversed for fusible applique – and each page says that.
If you’re tracing, be sure to trace the face too. You’ll need that there for Step 5.
Step 2 – Rough Cut
Rough cut around each shape. Leave a little bit extra all the way around – with a little extra extra (at least 1/4 inch) where there’s a dotted line.
On my patterns I use a dotted line to show you where a piece tucks behind another piece (like the ears tucking behind the head on this cat). That’s why you leave a little extra there.
Step 3 – Fuse to Fabric
Fuse each pattern piece to the wrong side of the fabric. Follow the instructions on whatever brand adhesive you’re using – they all vary in temperature used, with or without steam, and how long it should take
Step 4 – Cut
Cut around each piece. Cut directly on the solid lines.
Leave a little seam allowance past the dotted lines – remember – those bits will tuck under another piece.
Here’s a close up of the cut ears so you can see better. The bit below the dotted line is the bit that will tuck behind the head.
Step 5 – Trace Details
Remember when I told you to make sure you traced the face in Step 1? Now you’re going to use that. Hold the face up to a window so the light shines through it. You’ll be able to see the facial features through all but the darkest fabrics, and the adhesive and backing will stabilize the fabric so you can trace on it without it crinkling up.
I trace just inside the eyes and nose, right on the lines for the mouth and whiskers.
If I were going to embroider the eyes and nose I’d trace right on those lines too.
Of course – you can trace the whole face in a good quality fabric marker and be done with it. It’s durable and easy and the quilt police will not come and arrest you if you “cheat” and draw on your quilt.
Step 6 – Quilt Block (optional)
If you’re doing Quilt As You Go (I did) then you can quilt your block before adding the applique. So easy!
Layer the block with a piece of 100% cotton batting. Quilt any pattern you like! Find all the Quilt As You Go tutorials here.
You can also find color-coordinated fabric squares with the quilting lines printed right on the fabric here.
If you’d rather do the quilting later, simply skip this step.
Step 7 – Fuse to Block
Peel off the paper backing and arrange the pieces on your background block. Tuck the ears behind the head. (Remember – all the dotted lines indicate where pieces tuck behind other pieces.)
Fuse the pieces in place, following the instructions on whatever brand of fusible adhesive you’re using.
This is why they call it fusible applique. So easy!
Step 8 – Stitch
Stitch around all the pieces. Satin stitch is pretty common – and that’s what I demonstrated in this video. But I think it’s often too heavy and looks clunky. I much prefer the simple straight stitch I did here – nothing fancy.
I get a LOT of questions about how durable the simple straight stitch is. So many that I wrote a whole blog post about it, complete with photos of a quilt after it had been in constant use for over a year! You can read that here.
I especially like it in black thread. I love the cartoony effect. 🙂 I stitched around the eyes and nose too. I tried to edit the photo so you could see that black on black stitching more clearly – but you might need to click on the photo to see it bigger.
To get a slightly thicker line for the mouth and whiskers, I stitched over those lines three times. There’s a post here with tips for this kind of sketchy outlining.
You could opt to use thicker thread instead. I demonstrated sewing with different thread weights here.
Done! Now just make a bunch of them and you have a quilt. 🙂
Easy and playful and fun! That’s my kind of quilting! Fusible applique makes all the difference!
Are you worried that edges of the applique will become frayed over time?
I think that is one reason that satin stitch is often recommended. (Of course, it’s ok to “break” the rules in art, isn’t it? lol ) As long as all the hard work won’t get frayed away over time.
I was worried about it at first – but that’s one of the things I tested with the two brands of fusible I discovered at Quilt Market. The SoftFuse definitely frayed more than the printable – the printable frayed hardly at all. The Cats Quilt has been in constant use on the couch since I finished it (that Cuddle Fleece back is amazing) and I’ve washed it a few times – just to test. So far only the flannel has any noticeable fraying (as flannel often does) but even that is very minor. My gut says this is going to hold up really well – far better than the fusibles I’ve tried in the past.
Do you use a walking foot when stitching the black thread around the appliqué pieces?
Yes I do – but I use my walking foot all the time – for any sewing I do. I find it just helps everything feed better. 🙂
Hi Wendi – I received my printable fusible in the mail, so have printed the Cat patterns onto all of the sheets! You are so right, it’s the easiest ever – I can’t believe it! Awesome!
I’m at Step 5 now where I need to trace the face onto the fused fabric before removing the paper. Can you tell me what kind of marker you use? I was going to use a Frixon pen because it erases so easily with the iron, but of course that won’t work because it will be erased when I fuse the cat face onto the background. The only other marker I use is chalk, which does tend to rub off.
What do you use?
Thanks for the awesome pattern and all the video supports!
I just use a completely non-fancy fine-point black Sharpie. If I’m working with a very dark fabric I’ll use a chalk pencil instead.
Okay scrap that question – I just watched your Craftsy class on this step and have figured it out! Should have checked their first.
Love your patterns Wendi!
I’m glad you found what you needed! I went ahead and answered it here too in case other people have the same question. 🙂
Help! I am going to use your letter templates to put my granddaughter’s name on a drawstring canvas bag to keep her toys tidy. I need to hand sew the letters on. Ideally I want to use fabric rather than felt, as it will look so much prettier. I think it will be too difficult to needle turn, so how do I hand sew the letters on without the fabric fraying?
Love your patterns!
I would use running stitch, backstitch, or blanket stitch – choose based on the look you like best. 🙂 I have tutorials for all three in the embroidery section.
I bought the lightest weight fusible I could at a craft store . . . I’m wondering if I should skip fusing the large pieces and just use the fusible for the eyes, muzzles, etc.
The two things I want for the finished product: softness, rather than too stiff from layers fusible; and minimal fraying. If I don’t use fusible on the larger pieces, I expect they’ll fray . . .
I recommend fusing all the pieces. You’re right that unfused pieces will fray. Another possibility is to use another applique method for the larger pieces – something with a turned edge. You can find my freezer paper applique method here. https://www.shinyhappyworld.com/2013/07/machine-applique-lessons.html It’s what I used to do before I found a fusible I really liked.
Hello, I am wondering if you have any problems with the needle gumming up by using fusible adhesive? I had that problem a few years ago, and it kind of ruin my desire to applique, but I love the look of it so much.
The only time I’ve had my needle gum up was when I used Heat & Bond Ultrahold – which specifically says NOT to sew through it so that was totally my fault. Now I use Heat & Bond Lite and I’ve never had a problem with it.