Use the discount code SILLY to get your first month of the Funny Faces Quilt Block of the Month Club for free!


Creating an Applique Pattern from a Drawing or Clip Art

how to turn a drawing into an applique pattern

I’ve received a few questions lately about whether it’s possible to create an applique pattern from a drawing or clip art.


You can create an applique pattern from just about any drawing – but you may have to do a bit of tweaking to the drawing.

Let’s take a look at this appliqué I did of a pattern from Mollie Johanson’s fabulous embroidery book Stitch Love.

Applique dinsoaurs from an embroidery pattern in the book Stitch Love by Mollie Johanson

This dinosaur was perfect because all the shapes that make up the image are already enclosed shapes. There are no “dead end lines.”

What’s a dead end line?

That’s what I call lines that end in the middle of nowhere – not making an enclosed shape.

See this sweet bear from Mollie’s book? Lots of dead end lines! I circled them all in red.

how to turn a drawing into an applique pattern

Mollie designed him for embroidery where dead end lines don’t matter. But let’s imagine the second you saw him you knew he would be perfect appliquéd on a pillow for your son (who you call Buddy Bear).

You can do it!

Just because it was designed for embroidery doesn’t mean you can’t appliqué this adorable bear. It just means it’s going to require that tweaking I mentioned. 🙂

I chose this bear because he needs a lot of different kinds of tweaks. Let’s start with the easiest – the dead end lines at his ears.

how to turn a drawing into an applique pattern

You can see where I “erased” the lines that extend into his head. The ears stick out enough to still be clearly ears, so that works. But what about those cute inner ears?

how to turn a drawing into an applique pattern

No erasing for them – I added the red lines to enclose them into cut-outable shapes. Also not hard – and I don’t feel like it interferes with the integrity of the drawing, so I’m ok with it.

Things start getting a little trickier with the arms. We’ll start with the bent arm. . .

how to turn a drawing into an applique pattern

For that one I re-drew the lines to extend them both to the edge of the body, making that arm a separate piece that would lay over the body piece. (I’d do it neater in real life because I wouldn’t be trying to draw with my mouse.)

Finally – that waving arm. That’s definitely the hardest bit. I experimented with erasing and drawing, but so much of the arm overlaps the body that erasing that top line really blurs/distorts the shape. It made it look like that arm was growing out of the side of his head!

What I finally did was actually cut that arm out and move it farther outside the body so that there’s less overlap.

how to turn a drawing into an applique pattern

See? I had to do a little erasing/adding to clean things up, but I think works well – again without messing up the look too much of the original drawing. He’s still immediately recognizable as a Wild Olive creation. That face!

Read my review of Mollie’s Stitch Love. It’s packed full of seriously adorable critter patterns and you could make a super cute quilt out of them!

Let’s look at one more example – this one of a child’s drawing.

When I stitched up my daughter Jo’s drawing of a dragon and a princess, it required very little tweaking.

Here’s the original drawing.

Jo's dragon and princess

I would have been tempted to turn the head/neck/body/tail into one piece, but she had broken it into three pieces in her drawing, so I left it that way to keep the look the same. All I really did was “flesh out” the feet a little bit so there was green fabric behind the toes.

how to turn a drawing into an applique pattern

I also made all the back ridges one loooong piece. They’re all connected at the bottom, where the piece tucks behind the neck/body/tail. That didn’t change the look of the drawing, but it sure made the assembly of the appliqué a lot easier. 🙂

So there you go! A few tips to help you convert just about any drawing into an appliqué pattern.

Here’s a list of links all about choosing a quilt pattern – and even designing your own!

Return to the Let’s Make a Quilt main Table of Contents.

Happy stitching!


  1. Guylaine SAYS...

    I love the idea. I’ve got a young girl drawing right beside my computer… will look at it differently now! Thanks for this tutorial.

  2. Tammy SAYS...

    Thanks for the tips, it is easier than I would have thought. I like your tips because it makes it all seem doable. I’m starting with the Happy Houses quilt and then the Woodland Animals. Thanks for sharing your talent and tips with us.

  3. Pingback: Everything You Need to Know About How to Applique | Shiny Happy World

  4. Michelle SAYS...

    My mom taught me how to use coloring pages as patterns for applique.

    On the child’s drawing, did you use a fabric marker/pen for the words and outline of the princess? Or is it stitched?

    I love applique and have learned a lot from your tutorials of how to make the process go more smoothly.

    • The outline and the words are all stitched – just a simple straight stitch in black thread.

  5. Cathy SAYS...

    Is there any way to enlarge an image if it’s smaller than you need?

    • Yes! You can either using any photo editing software on your computer, or enlarge it at a copy shop. I’ve got some more info here. It’s only that simple for an embroidery or applique pattern. If t’s a sewing pattern you have to think about what’s happening with your seam allowances – which is a whole different thing. And if you want to enlarge an applique REALLY big, that introduces its own set of complications, which I’m covering in a new class releasing in the next week or so. But to enlarge a small image to a “normal” applique size is no problem. 🙂

  6. Dottie SAYS...

    You are the best! Thank you so much for sharing so many helpful tips. They make all the difference.

  7. Dee Skinner SAYS...

    LOVE seeing this because I just did exactly that! I’m making the Puppy Quilt for my adult daughter, so I was trying to find clip art images of dogs that were a part of our family, past and present (particularly her dog that literally saved her life). I looked at clip art differently after doing some of your patterns and was able to convert some into “special” dogs for my quilt. I started to see bodies and heads differently, and the result was awesome! A little tricky at times, but I’m so happy that I was able to incorporate some “special” pups into her quilt. You’re amazing and so inspiring! I have enjoyed this process more than I can tell you–but it was YOU that made it possible! I looked at a LOT of patterns and videos online,, but when I found you, I found HOME. I get so excited at every stage of this process and you are such a good teacher–no stone unturned!

  8. Pingback: Working with Clip Art - Shiny Happy World