Last Updated on March 30, 2018 by wendigratz
Want to learn the basics of hand embroidery with an easy online workshop – totally free?
Sign up for Embroidery 101 here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, the four most basic stitches, how to transfer your pattern and how to display your work.
If you already know the basics – sign up for Embroidery 201. It’s also free! You’ll learn how to stitch on specialty fabrics like felt and stretchy T-shirts. Plus you’ll learn lots and lots and LOTS more stitches – all my favorites!
I add a lot of these ideas to The List – but for someone who’s looking to make an owl crib quilt for a baby due next month, The List isn’t going to cut it.
So today I’m going to show you how you can turn any embroidery pattern into an applique pattern.
I have TONS of embroidery patterns – and a lot of those have multiple images that you could use as quilt blocks to make a full quilt.
So let’s jump in!
The specific instructions here are all for applique with fusible adhesive – my new favorite method now that I’ve discovered this stuff. You could easily adapt the idea to work with needle-turn applique or freezer paper applique or whatever your favorite method is.
Step 1: Size and Print Your Image
I chose to applique one of the Rainbow Girls. The embroidery patterns are about three inches tall – so my first step was to make that a LOT bigger.
Print your image out at exactly the size you want it to be. I enlarged my girl to be about ten inches tall.
I’m not going to use the big flowers – I’m just going to choose a pretty fabric that needs no fancification – but I’m not going to bother to erase them. I’ll just ignore them.
I did add a little line separating the legs from the feet. I want my applique girl to have striped tights and solid shoes, so those will be two separate pieces.
Step 2: Reverse, Explode and Trace
Next you need to get your image onto some fusible adhesive.
You’re going to trace the reverse of your image onto the paper side of your fusible adhesive, and you’re going to explode the pieces as you do it.
This is the part of the instructions most likely to make your head hurt – but it’s really not that hard. Just don’t think about it too much. 🙂
Tape your image face down in a window. The light will shine through so you’ll still be able to see the image clearly through the back of the paper – but now you’ll be tracing a mirror image. Easy!
Put your fusible adhesive up there so you’re tracing on the paper side. The adhesive side is usually kind of bumpy – it won’t be hard to tell the difference.
Now you’re going to trace an exploded view of your image. That sounds violent, but all it really means is that you’re going to trace each shape separately and leave a little space between them.
Click on the Step 2 image up there and you can see what I did. The dress is one shape. The face is one shape. The hair is one shape. Each pigtail is a separate shape.
This is also the stage where I start thinking about how I’m going to put it all together – what pieces will be tucked behind other pieces. I trace those tucked-behind edges with a dotted line: the top of the dress, the top of the head, and the tops and bottoms of the legs.
Step 3: Rough Cut the Adhesive
Now cut all those pieces out – but not right on your tracing lines!
This is a rough cut.
Cut a little bit outside all your lines.
You don’t have to be too fussy about it and it doesn’t have to be super even – just leave a little extra all the way around the edge.
Step 4: Fuse to the Fabric
Now comes the fun part.
Fuse all your pieces to your fabric.
Lay them paper side up (adhesive side down) on the back side of your fabric.
If your fabric has a print, make sure it’s running the way you want.
I made sure the stripes were running across the tights, and that I liked the way the birds were arranged on the dress.
Iron in place following the instructions on your fusible adhesive – every brand is different so you need to read the instructions.
Step 5: Cut Out the Pieces
Now is when you’re going to do your careful cutting.
Remember how you traced some edges of your pieces with a dotted line back in Step 2? That’s going to be useful now.
Cut each piece out right on your solid lines.
Leave a little extra overhang where you have dotted lines – that will give you a bit of fabric to tuck under the adjoining piece.
If you click on the Step 5 image you can see what I’m talking about. I left the dress piece flipped over so you can see the dotted line at the top. That bit of extra fabric extending past the dotted line will tuck behind the head.
One more thing to do on this step – trace any features that need embroidering. In this case that’s the eyes and mouth. I included them when I traced the head back in Step 2, so now all I need to do is put the face piece fabric side up in a window. With the light behind them, the eyes and mouth will show right through the fabric. Just trace them on the fabric with a fine marker. Make sure you do this before you peel off the paper backing in the next step!
Step 6: Arrange and Fuse
This is my favorite part – putting it all together!
Peel off the paper backs and arrange all the pieces on your background fabric.
(I went ahead and quilted my pink background block to some batting first – this might end up being a quilt block.)
Take the opportunity now – before it’s all stuck down – to play around with the arrangement of the pieces. Adjust the tilt of her head, the angles of her pigtails, etc. I decided to make one leg stick out a bit like she’s getting ready to dance. Have fun!
When you’re happy with how everything looks, carefully fuse it all into place with your iron. Again – read the instructions on your brand of fusible adhesive. And remember that the temperature and steam setting for the final fabric-to-fabric fuse are often different than for the initial paper-to-fabric fuse.
If you want to see all these steps in video form – watch this video showing how I use fusible adhesive for all my quilt blocks.
Step 7: Stitch the Edges
And now for the final step – stitch down all the edges. Some people like to use a heavy satin stitch. Some use a zigzag stitch. I like to use a simple straight stitch in black thread. It’s a cartoony outline effect that really suits the loose style of my designs.
I stitched over her eyes and mouth twice with the machine. I could have chosen a heavier thread instead – or done bit of hand embroidery – but I was already at the machine so I just did it there.
That’s it! Now go look at all your embroidery patterns with fresh eyes. 🙂