Basics : Appliqué Tools, Tips and Techniques


Prewash your fabric to removes dye and chemicals and shrink it before sewing. It will fray less while you are sewing too. It also removes the finish that causes fabric to slide around.

Shapes are easier to see on a quiet background. They can get lost on a busy one.

Different Appliqué Methods

Needleturn – This turn Under method adds height at edge which gives depth as well as a softer look.

Fusible – Is faster but flatter looking with sharp edges and can look stiff. Outer edges tended to be harder than the middle.

Needles for Appliqué

Sharps are just regular household needles but they are good for appliqué and easier to use than Betweens. Small needles make finer stitches for hand appliqué:

Milliners Needles – are long needles with a round eye, frequently used for needle turn appliqué. Size 10 or 11 Milliners/Straw needle from Richard Hemming & Son, or Clover size 12 Black Gold Sharp needle. No. 11 sharps needles can be used for all hand appliqué. Or a size 9-11 Milliners. 9 is sturdier while 11 is very fine.

Jeana Kimball straw needles are recommended. Straw needles have long thin shanks that glides through any fabric . Use 10 or 11 size. Size10 straw needles for cotton but 11 for batik which has a higher fibre count.

Roxanne appliqué needles are slim but sturdy.

Use different pin cushions for different needles

Needle threaders – Clover Needle Threader or Sewline Needle Threader.

Threads for Appliqué

For hand appliqué DMC cotton 50 is durable , fine and comes in lots of colours.

Aurifil 50 weight cotton in soft green, grey or beige

Or try Aurofil Mako cotton thread 50 weight or Superior Masterpiece 50 weight 2 ply cotton available only on bobbins.

For basting – 100 cotton on cotton. Use white

Silk thread is good, fine with a reflective quality that easily blends with cotton fabric. It buries itself and is hardly seen. Use a fine weight thread which is a 2-ply 50-60 wight. The higher the thread number the finer the thread weight. YLI silk thread or Kimono Sil thread. Match colour to fabric

Mettler Metrosene silk finish cotton thread 60 weight (green label)

Wool thread that is a blend of wood and acrylic sold as Lana by Madeira, Genziana and Aurifil, fluffier than average sewing thread and good for sewing raw edge wool appliqué by hand.

Beeswax or silicone wax is available in a block form and is used to coat threads to help prevent tangling and knotting. You can also get silicone coated threads.


A large pair for cutting fabric.

Karen Kk Buckley Serrated large scissors are good for cutting out  – the serrated edge prevents raw edge from fraying. Their large handles are comfortable.

Gingher 4” hand embroidery scissors have a very fine point for clipping

Use 2 different pairs of embroidery scissors for applique paper and fabric to allow for precise cutting


Half inch appliqué or sequin pins. Foxglove Cottage 3/4 “ pins or clover appliqué pins.

Flower head pins are flat and don’t get in the way when holding an overlay in place

Glass headed pins don’t melt with heat of iron.

Ones with rounded eged prevent catching

A magnetic pin holder is useful but keep it away from electronic sewing machines. 


Finger Gloves can be used instead of thimbles to protect your finger. These are a light latex.

Clover  make a rubber thimble with metal tip. It doesn’t slip off when your hands get cold


Flexicurve – rubber tool to bend into curved shapes and for measuring curves

Plastic circle stencil

Needle grabbers stop rules from sliding


A clean steam iron and a padded surface (white towels on ironing board padded surface helps to keep it smooth) Press pieces from the back and do not hold the iron in place for long. Gentry press

A Table top ironing board or pressing mat made from non stick Teflon to protect delicate fabrics from the iron and the iron from sticky fusible web residue. A sheet of silicone based parchment paper can be used.

A Mini Iron with small pointed plates for precision pressing especially for bias strip applique. A Travel iron can be used but is much larger. 

A portable ironing surface

Press cloth – use muslin as you can see through it.

Non stick pressing sheet to protect iron and board if doing fusible appliqué

A Teflon or other non-stick pressing sheet for ironing. This protects your iron and ironing board from sticky residue, especially if you are doing fusible appliqué.

A stiletto is useful to hold pieces in place while you iron (or glue) them


Generals Pastel chalk pencil in dark grey or white is great for tracing onto background fabric A mechanical chalk pencil with a 9mm refill made by Sewline or Bohin also comes in white and grey. Use these to draw around templates onto fabric. Test on a scrap.

Permanent markers

Sharpie ultrafine works on clear or frosted vinyl

Faber Castell quilters pen Set from  C&T publishing are erasable on vinyl.

For Tracing

Scotch removable magic tape to tape fabric to pattern while you trace design on to background fabric. It will not rip the paper or fray your fabric.

Pattern Ease is lightweight transparent interfacing material that works well for tracing the pattern.

Light box – useful if you are appliquing without templates as it makes tracing and design marking easier.  Or you could use a window on a bright day or a glass table with a small lamp underit. Globox makes inexpensive light boxes


Make templates from clear single sided heavyweight self -laminating sheets for office supply sores. Not the pocket type.

Perfect Circles made of Mylar (Karen Kay Buckley)

Circle templates by creative Grids

A compass is useful for making your own circles

Freezer paper is useful for stabilising fabric and for creating templates and stencils.  Waxy side down it will adhere to fabric when lightly ironed. Available in a roll as well as in 8 1/2 x 11″ sheets that can be run through the printer which eliminates hand tracing.

Tweezers to remove freezer paper after it has been appliqued to a background.


Clear vinyl, or frosted, flexible medium weight from Upholstery fabric stores online or Quilters vinyl for positioning overlay. Frosted is transparent on fabric. If it comes with tissue make sure you keep it.

Interfacing for Applique

Fine Vilene stitch no tear can be put underneath a foundation fabric to stabilise and prevent puckering.

Wash away appliqué sheets are transparent enough to appliqué designs onto – washes out or can be left in for dimensional look.

Stabilisers for Appliqué

Vilene Bondaweb/Wonder Under – double sided, iron-on, adhesive.

A very light web which has a fine layer of heat activated adhesive on both sides so you can fuse two fabrics together. Great for applique It’s very easy to use, one side is paper backed so you can design your shape and then cut out easily. This can then be ironed over on to your applique fabric, the backing paper can be removed and the applique can be ironed on to the base fabric.

Suitable for most fabrics and even cardboard at low temperatures. Available in various sizes

Instructions for use:

1. Draw the motif on the paper side of Bondaweb®. Cut out roughly. Place Bondaweb® with the rough side on the wrong side of the fabric. Iron dry, wool setting for 5 seconds.

2. Cut the motif out precisely, remove paper backing. With the coated side down place on the fabric.

3. Cover with a damp cloth and lightly iron each area for about 10 seconds, iron wool-cotton setting. Allow to cool flat for about 20 minutes, so that the adhesive can set properly. You can stitch the application with a zig-zag stitch to finish.

Washable in temperatures up to 60 °C or dry cleanable.

Vilene H250

Medium weight fusible interfacing. Popular for Appliquik method of appliqué.

Heat and Bond Lite

Paper backed, heat activated adhesive.

For appliqué shapes on quilts or wall hangings. Draw onto paper back to design appliqué pies.   Short pressing time.

Heat and Bond Ultra

Fusible web designed to b used on its own without sewing down the appliqué after fusing.

Wash Away appliqué sheets 

Printable, water soluble, single sided, fusible. Draw appliqué design on, fuse paper to fabric , sew down, and wash away after stitching.

Freezer paper  – can be used as a support for appliquéd motifs.


Use a fabric glue stick for glue basting seam allowances. Or Mary Ellens Best press spray starch can be used as an alternative

Use a liquid glue with an applicator for double thick appliqué such as bias stems.

A Mini tack gun will hold applique pieces.

Most useful is a water soluble glue stick from Sewline or Lapel Stick, a temporaray fabric adhesive in stick form

Spray and Fix adhesive for fabric,to stabilise and prevent fraying  and to allow repositioning of motifs. 


Mary Ellens Best Press spray starch to firm fabric and make cutting easier

Other Useful Tools

12 inches Sandpaper Board  to grip your fabric and stop it moving while you trace onto it – Essential Sandboard from Piece O’Cake Designs. You can make your own by using a sheet of very fine weight sandpaper glued to a board

Bias maker in various sizes to make stems and vines – it makes great bias strips as the edges emerge turned under.

Wooden toothpick for turn under at points and curves. The texture of wood holds fabric.

Fray stop spray

A seam ripper

Bohn fabric eraser

Zip top bags for keeping pieces organised and clean.

A Notebook for your ideas and designs

Small pillow to put in your lap under your work.

Portable table light -portable table top Ott-Lite also comes as floor lamp