Slashin' Stitches

Applique Made Easy

Appliqué is an excellent way to cover a large surface area in a short amount of time. The artwork will determine whether appliqué or embroidery is more appropriate. Another determining factor can be whether the design would require more than 10,000 stitches for the segment. If so, appliqué is a good consideration.

Appliqué has a unique look and offers an easy way to obtain coverage of a large area versus trying to embroider large sections. If you have ever tried to embroider a large white fill on a black or dark fabric, you have noticed that the white embroidery isn’t a stark white anymore. The background fabric tends to show through even with correct underlays. This is when an appliqué should definitely be considered. By using a light-colored appliqué on a dark fabric, the appliqué really pops off the dark background making a recognizable difference in the end result.

Colleges and high schools are strong markets for appliqué, so consider making some designs using local mascots. Incorporating embroidery will create a unique niche market with this crowd. Plan a sales call to a local high school and realize the potential business that having just one school as a customer can land. Think of coaches, cheerleaders, clubs, band and sports teams, and the potential is obvious. Showing samples is important in this market. As for creating them…

Appliqué can be achieved with various methods. Those starting out in embroidery may not have the resources for expensive fabric cutting machines, nor the amount of orders to sustain such a purchase. Regardless of the size of shop or amount of equipment, appliqué can be achieved with very simple methods. The goal is to be accurate and understand the appliqué process. Follow these simple steps to achieve eye-catching appliqués.

Give me three steps

First, determine what is to be the appliquéd section of the design. Once the section has been determined, the actual stitching process for appliqué is created with three steps.

The first is the placement stitch/cut line. Second is the tack-down stitch and the third, the satin or decorative stitch. Set up the design with these stitches for a manual approach. Some software programs have an automatic feature that allows users to trace a shape and click it to an appliqué. If it is a stand alone section, using the automatic feature will be easy. If it has multiple pieces and/or several pieces overlapping, a manual approach will help to avoid a lot of editing.

Manual stitching starts with tracing the desired art section to be appliquéd with a run stitch just outside of the shape line. This becomes the placement/cut line. Next, using a run stitch or open satin/zigzag stitch, trace inside the cut line approximately an eighth of an inch. For the appliqué stitch, choose either a satin or decorative stitch to finish it off.

No matter if taking a manual or automatic approach, the distance you want the satin stitch to cover the fabric must be determined. Is a 50/50 setting—with half the satin on the appliqué and half the satin off—the right look? Or is more on the appliqué with a little off the way to go? I prefer an 80/20 setting, allowing the appliqué to be very secure with 80 percent of the satin on the fabric and only 20 percent off the appliqué.

Cutting edge

Once the design is plotted out with your stitches, it’s time for the crucial step of cutting the fabric. This can be done easily with a pair of scissors or with the use of cutting equipment. If appliqué orders are rare, using scissors is simple but time-consuming. If you are taking large-volume orders, an automatic cutter is a good and necessary purchase.

Whether using scissors or a cutting machine, the best results come from using a product for stabilizing appliqués that will be pressed onto the fabric being appliquéd. Once the fabric is stabilized, cutting will be more accurate. After the pieces are cut, peel off the paper side of the stabilizer, exposing the adhesive that will now hold the appliqué in place while it gets stitched down.

Save only the placement stitch/cut line portion of the design you created. This becomes the line for accurate cutting with scissors. Save this portion of the design as a .jpg in order to run the fabric through the printer if your printer will print on fabric. If not, print the line on a piece of paper and trace the design right-side up on the right side of the fabric. These methods make it possible to cut appliqués accurately.

Once they have been cut out, you are ready to produce orders. The first thing the design is going to stitch is the same outline/cut line that you pulled out for cutting your fabric pieces. The placement will be accurate because you have a sewn line to match the cut appliqué piece to.

Peel and stick products that expose the adhesive that holds the appliqué in place prevent slippage while the machine is stitching the tack-down portion of the appliqué. This is usually a narrow zig-zag or a run stitch. Its purpose is to hold the appliqué to the fabric to ensure all sections of the appliqué are being held securely before the final stitching. If not, this is the time to make corrections.

Using pressure-sensitive stabilizer is significant, especially if the fabric has any type of nap to it. The adhesive minimizes slippage. As it stitches, notice how well the appliqué stays in place, making it possible to stitch the third part of the appliqué process. 

The final phase of the appliqué process is the final decorative stitch. Most often this is a satin, but can be any decorative stitch. Keep in mind how well it is going to cover the edges of the fabric and hold the appliqué to the base fabric. Consider whether the garment is to be washed or not, how much handling the appliqués will have to endure, etc.

Keep appliqué as an option. It may be a bit more time-consuming but customers should agree it is worth the extra effort and cost to get the results that it can offer. Understanding the types of stitches, densities, coverage percentages and more will result in increased sales. 

Always strive to be the best at what you do, and offer other options when it comes to taking care of your customers needs. By setting yourself apart from the competition, you will increase sales and have customers singing your praises.