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How to Applique Eyes – Easy Options

applique brown puppy with a spot on one eye - title image for a post explaining several different options for how to applique eyes

Ugh! How on earth do you applique eyes? They’re so small!

The eyes are definitely the trickiest part of any of my applique patterns, but I have several posts that show you easy ways to deal with them!


I usually applique eyes using solid black fabric. I like the look of it, and (after some practice) I don’t think it’s too tricky to outline those eyes. Plus I use black thread on black fabric so if my line gets wonky, nobody really sees it. 🙂

applique smiling sloth face in peach on a green quilted background

For tips on outlining those small eyes, watch this video.

If you want to applique the eyes but you don’t want to do the outline stitching, use Heat & Bond Ultrahold fusible adhesive.

Heat & Bond Ultrahold

The Heat & Bond Ultrahold is too stiff for the main applique, but you’ll never notice the stiffness on such small pieces as the eyes.

Careful! If you choose this option, you need to be sure to dry your quilts on a less hot setting. If your dryer gets as hot as the wool setting on your iron, that’s hot enough to re-melt the adhesive and the eyes could come loose.

Machine Embroidery

I’ve got two different posts showing how you can embroider eye shapes by machine.

applique doll head and shoulders with close-up of her face

This one shows a “cheater” way to do it using a regular sewing machine. It only works for small eyes, like those on the Paper Dolls and Dinosaurs quilt patterns.

close up of blond paper doll applique from waist up

If you want to satin stitch larger eyes and you have an embroidery machine, this post includes a file for embroidery machines to embroider eyes in a wide range of sizes.

Hand Embroidery

Of course, you can also embroider the eyes by hand. If you go with that option I recommend using satin stitch for larger eyes.

partially satin stitched heart showing needle and thread

Here’s a tutorial showing how.

For smaller eyes, I recommend this stitch.

needle and thread embroidering an eye

It gives a nice, rounded oval.

Markers or Paint

You don’t have to sew the eyes at all! You can use fabric markers or fabric paint for them!

detail of dinosaur head with shiny black eye

I tested a bunch of different markers and paints and in this post I shared my favorites.

See? Lots and lots of options for those pesky eyes. 🙂

Here are links to all the posts showing how to applique with fusible adhesive – my favorite method. It’s fast and easy and (with the right materials) it holds up beautifully to rough use and repeated washing.

Here are links to special posts about eyes.

Here are links to some extra fun things you can do with your applique.

Other Applique Methods

Finished with this topic?

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

Move on to the lessons about outline stitching.

Happy stitching! Or not-stitching – depending on the method you choose. 🙂