The cropped car jacket in natural with ochre applique and Tony design.


Appliqué /ap·pli·qué/ 

decorative needlework in which pieces of fabric are sewn or attached onto the top of another piece of fabric to form patterns and/or pictures

the act of decorating a garment or fabric with pieces of fabric sewn or attached to form patterns and/or pictures

At The School of Making, we use the term appliqué for a variety of techniques used in combination with organic cotton jersey. In the majority of our DIY Kits, all of the techniques and embellishments are completed before the construction of the garment. 

Occasionally we construct our garments first and apply appliqué and other embellishments afterwards. Find instructions for applying appliqué after construction of the garment or project here.

Find instructions below for two variations for stitching appliqué along with The School of Making instructions for applying appliqué before construction. 

STITCHING APPLIQUÉ | Stitching on Top vs. Stitching Over the Edge

Note: Refer to The Geometry of Hand-Sewing for instructions on 120+ stitches and variations using our revolutionary method of employing a basic understanding of geometry and Stitching Cards to perfect even the most complicated stitches.

The Geometry of Hand-Sewing by Natalie Chanin, with instructions for applique.
The Geometry of Hand Sewing, pages 110-111.

Variation: Appliqué with Embroidery Stitch On Top

The same piece of cut appliqué fabric can be added to any project using a stitch that remains on the top of the cut appliqué piece. The Taupe and Black stripes in the fabric swatch above are applied with a Herringbone Stitch. This fabric also incorporates Couching applied with a Whipstitch.

See appliqué on top of a stripe with a Cretan Stitch in the photo below.

The Geometry of Hand-Sewing by Natalie Chanin, with instructions for the cretan stitch.
The Geometry of Hand Sewing, pages 82-83.

Variation: Appliqué with Embroidery Stitch Over Edge

Appliqué can be added to any project or garment using a stitch that goes over the edge of the cut appliqué piece as it enters the base. The photo below shows the appliqué stitched over the edge of the Tony stencil pattern.

Fabric swatch in ballet and navy with Tony design.

APPLIQUÉ INSTRUCTIONS | Before Garment Construction 

Find the instructions for appliqué on cut project pieces on pages 101 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, or continue reading below. This technique is used when appliqué is being added to cut garment pieces before garment construction.


Cotton jersey fabric for top layer
Cotton jersey fabric for appliqué pieces
Permanent marker or textile spray paint
Spray bottle or airbrush gun, depending on stencil-transfer method
Embroidery scissors
Button Craft thread

1. Stencil Pattern on Base Fabric

Stencil a pattern on the right side of your base fabric where you want to stitch the appliqué pieces, remove the stencil, and let the fabric and stencil dry thoroughly.

2. Cut Out Appliqué Pieces

To make your appliqué pieces, flip the dried stencil used in Step 1 to the wrong side, and transfer the stencil pattern to the wrong (back side) of the appliqué fabric. After letting the stenciled fabric dry, begin by cutting out one stenciled shape, 1⁄16″ around the outside of the stenciled edge. Once you cut out the shape, flip it over, right side up, and pin it to the corresponding shape in the stenciled pattern on the base fabric. Repeat for your entire stenciled design by cutting one piece at a time and pinning it into place.

3. Stitch Appliqué Pieces to Project

Position each cut appliqué shape, right side up, on top of the corresponding shape in the stenciled design on the base fabric. It’s important to match up each shape as you cut it—unless you’re fond of jigsaw puzzles. Align the edges of the appliqué and stenciled shape, pin the appliqué securely in place, and attach the appliqué’s raw cut edges using the stitch of your choice. The Straight Stitch is the easiest to use, while the Parallel Whipstitch is the stitch we use most often at The School of Making—as it creates a clean edge that lies flat and secures the fabric extremely well.

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