How to Hand Appliqué an EPP shape to a background fabric

Appliqué is the art of applying a decoration or trimming of fabric (sometimes called a motif) onto another piece of fabric.  In Hand Appliqué, the motif is attached using stitches which are made by hand. 

The aim of the appliqué stitch is therefore to secure the motif to the backing fabric.

Some methods of appliqué make a feature of the stitching by using embroidery stitches such as buttonhole or blanket stitch.  These stitches are often used in raw edge appliqué and fusible machine appliqué projects. 

In this tutorial, we will be learning how to take small stitches to secure turned edge motifs to the background fabric so that they are not immediately visible or apparent.

The main stitch used in hand appliqué is referred to by Jeanne Sullivan as the surface appliqué stitch.  It is perfect for motifs that have straight edges and gentle curves.  

The best surface stitches are small, evenly spaced and secure just a few threads on the stitched motif and background fabrics. 

  1. Cut a length of thread no longer than 18” (any longer and it tends to knot or tangle)
  2. Thread your needle and knot the end of your thread and insert into the back of your motif/ stem only so that the knot is on the back of the motif BETWEEN the motif and the background fabric and your needle is coming UP out of the motif (Point A). Pull until knot is secure against the motif.
  3. Insert your needle straight down into the background fabric only, right next to the appliqué motif at the same point it came out of the motif (B)
  4. Tilt your needle and aim to come back UP out of the motif approx. ⅛” away from the previous stitch (C)
  5. Pull gently until the thread has buried into the background securing the motif at point B. Do not pull the stitch too tightly as it can cause the background fabric to pucker.
  6. Take the tip of the needle and insert it into the background fabric again at the same point at which it came out at Point C in step 4 (D)
  7. Repeat taking stitches until you have only 3” or so of thread remaining (or you’ve reached the starting stitches again).
  8. Insert the needle straight down into the background fabric and turn your work over. Pull the thread through and take 2 small securing stitches and then bury the thread end underneath the motif approx. ½” away from where you took your securing stitches.
Your needle should always be coming UP inside the motif and going DOWN into the background fabric.

Watch how I hand applique a hexagon flower to a background fabric here