By Brandi M. Seals
Applique is an age-old way of decorating quilts, clothes, towels and much more. For the most part, applique is primarily done by quilters. The quilters that applique will place one layer of fabric over another and is sewn in place. Applique often depicts flowers and people but there are many other designs available.
Before deciding what kind of design you will want to use, it is wise to learn about the applique process. With the process in mind, you will be able to better determine how long a selected design may take to complete and how much working you are willing to put into the final piece.
The art of applique is fairly easy to master even for a beginner crafter. It can be, however, time consuming.
To start the applique process you will need to select a design. There are hundreds, even thousands of applique patterns available. The most memorable is probably the Sunbonnet Sue. Sunbonnet Sue refers pretty much to any applique piece that showcases a girl with an oversized hat or bonnet. Often times, the Sunbonnet Sue is reminiscent of the way women dressed around the time that the "Little House on the Prairie"books are set. The male counterpart of the Sunbonnet is known as Farmer Boy. As the name shows he is usually depicted doing farm work. Farmer boys are also often shown with a fishing pole in hand.
If you are having trouble finding an applique pattern simply google the words "free applique patterns" and you are bound to find plenty. With your applique pattern in hand you may begin.
Start by tracing your pattern onto a piece of firm cardboard. The cardboard will hold its shape much better than a piece a paper, especially if you will be using the template more than once.
Cut out the cardboard pieces. You will use these as guides for cutting out your fabric. Choose whatever fabric you like. You can really make an applique pattern your own with unique color choices. It can be easy to become turned around in the world of applique so always mark your cardboard pieces with numbers or names. On your master pattern mark the corresponding pieces so that you can identify where they go later. And also note what side is supposed to go up.
Using a water-soluble pencil designed to be used on fabric go ahead and trace your cardboard pieces onto the appropriate fabric. Use a white fabric pencil on dark colors and blue or other darker colored pencil on lights. When tracing the designs, be sure to leave at least 1/8 inch of fabric around the traced shape.
Cut the fabric out once all the shapes have been traced. Do not cut directly along the traced outline. Leave the 1/8 inch boarder around the shapes when you cut them out. This extra material is necessary because you do not want your applique pieces to have an unfinished edge. If they did, the piece would easily fray.
Using your sewing machine or a needle and thread, sew under the 1/8 inch boarder so there is a nice rounded edge to all of your pieces. On rounded pieces it can be difficult to get a smooth edge. Using a pair of scissors carefully cut short slits in the fabric boarder so that they are almost up to the line where ever the piece curves. When you wrap the fabric under it can now give a little and better conform to the shape you are trying to make.
Once all of your pieces have gone through these steps, you can begin to put your pieces together. Lay out your pattern on the fabric it will go on and begin sewing around the pieces. Be sure to note what pieces will need to go down first. For example, if I am appliqueing a Sunbonnet Sue the dress clearly needs to be sewn on before her arms are added on top.
These steps are all very simple but if you opt to do the sewing by hand, the project may take awhile. There are, of course, other ways of doing applique. It can be done with the use of freezer paper or fusible web. Tips on how to applique using these methods can be found on the Web. However, many people find these methods to be trickier and harder to execute then the method described to you.