Applique without an Embroidery Machine

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(Applique’d Overalls were all the rage in the late 90s!)

Back in the day, when my kiddos were small, I had a very basic Kenmore sewing machine. It was not their least expensive model, but it also wasn’t computerized and did not have embroidery capabilities like my machines today do.  However, I loved that machine so much and made my three children many, many clothes with it for over ten years! One of my favorite ways to make their clothing unique was to add applique.  Applique can be added to any outfit with just fabric scraps, an iron on adhesive, and thread! It’s like drawing with your sewing machine!

Heat’n Bond Lite 2 Pack


There are a couple of different adhesives on the market, but my favorite is Heat’n Bond Lite.  I’ve found it very easy to use and in my opinion it doesn’t “overheat” as quickly as other brands.  I also like the lite option as compared to the Ultra. I just feel like it does the job easily without adding a lot of stiffness to your project.

Heat’n Bond Lite

I have a scrap bin that is overflowing just for future applique projects. I’ve appliqued with cotton wovens, knits and even minkys and furry fabrics. Appliques can even be made 3D like the flower petals on Sarah’s overalls below.


I’ve added a simple fishie applique download below as well as a simple pictorial to help get you started if you’ve never tried your hand at applique.


Fishie Fishie Applique Pictorial Download the Fishie Fishie Applique sheet:

1.  Download the Fishie Fishie Applique Sheet.


Print the sheet out on your computer. When printing applique sheets, it is important to print all pages to the same scale (100%, 75%, etc.) so the pieces match up!  This is one very simple applique and is just one sheet so scale does not matter. For a fish the size of mine on the little tshirt, simpy print at 100% scale.

2.  Lay your Heat’n Bond (or other favorite adehsive) on top of your applique sheet that you printed out.  You want the rough side down and the “paper” side facing up. I like to tape my applique sheet onto a sunny window and then tape my Heat’n Bond on top.

Next, trace all of the pieces onto your Heat’n Bond with a pencil.  For this design we have the fish body, the fin, the eye and the top fin.  If you’ll notice, the top fin individual piece is slightly longer than the fin in the finished picture, This is to allow those two pieces to overlap slightly for continuity. App1.JPG

3.  Cut out the individual pieces leaving a BORDER around each one. This will make it easier to cut out the individual pieces after ironing than if you cut directly on the outline.


4. Iron each Heat’n Bond piece to the BACK of your colored fabric scraps according to package directions.  Note how I have left a small outline around each paper piece.App3

5. Now cut each piece directly on the outline and peel away the Heat’n Bond paper.


6. You will now iron the pieces onto your garment according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Be sure to place bottom pieces first, when they overlap!

For this very simple design, I layered all of my pieces and ironed them on one layer at a time before sewing any. For more complicated designs, I will iron one layer, stitch, iron a second layer, etc.



7. You’re ready to stitch! I begin with the smallest details first, like the eye and the fin so they do not fall off during the process (I use as little heat as possible to apply during the ironing process so as not to overheat or scorch the fabric.)

For the white eye, I began at one edge and zigzagged around the entire circle using a very close zigzag stitch. I stop and turn my fabric every couple of stitches for a small piece like this to keep it lined up.  For the black “pupil” portion, I did not use a fabric piece. Instead I just zigzagged directly over the white circle, constantly turning my fabric piece until the zigzag pieces formed a dense black “circle”.


8. For the rest of the pieces, just stitch them down one by one matching your thread color to the fabric. You can also use a constrasting thread if desired.  My Fishie Fishie applique pieces were all knit fabrics so I had no need to guard against fraying. Therefore I just used a very loose tiny zigzag stitch to stitch them in place. You can also use a straight stitch or decorative stitch for knit pieces that will not fray.  For woven fabrics which tend to fray in the wash, I recommend a tight, wider satin stitch that entirely covers the fabric edge, encasing it in the satin stitching. This will hold up to many, many washings.


9. And that is it! If you wish you can go back and stitch straight or zig zag lines or decorative stitching lines to add additional details to your applique!

Happy Stitching!

Heat’n Bond Lite

Heat’n Bond Lite 2 Pack


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