Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sewing for Belegrim: How to Applique

Short of owning an embroidery machine, applique is one of the easiest ways to add more professional-looking interest to any part of your kit. If you don't know anything about it, it's the process of tacking down an attractive design made of fabric to other fabric to create intricate and beautiful things.

The master of applique in Belegarth right now is definitely Ellie Apland (who also supplies many wonderful pictures for this blog) of Lady Armstrong Designs. If you've never seen it, this is an example her work:
Lotus Tree Tunic for Sit Peter the Quick. Photo © Lady Armstrong Designs.
This short tutorial doesn't cover that level of sophistication, so I highly recommend commissioning her if you're looking for truly impressive garb. We're just going to be applying a bit of heraldry to a squire's tabard.

First off, get the piece you want to applique ready. Thin, non-slippery fabrics like cotton are great for this. In this case, we've done a little quilting to make Sir Torrence's heraldry (author of A Knight's View), and just turned the corners of the crest under to make sure it is the exact size we want. This will also make it easier to avoid stray threads during the applique process.

This isn't completely necessary, but double-sided fusible web like Steam-A-Seam makes applique much easier. It will stiffen the fabric you are appliqueing and help tack it down, so there's less room for air bubbles or slippage.

Trace and cut the fusible web, making it just slightly smaller than whatever you're appliqueing. You want to be sure the sticky web doesn't bleed out onto your iron later.

We'll be applying the web to the back side of the crest. Peel off one of the protective paper layers...

And iron the webbing in place, sticky side down, per the package instructions. Make sure everything is as flat and neat as possible.

Flip your applique piece over, remove the other protective paper from the sticky web, and place it where you'd like it to be tacked down. Iron per the package instructions - it should be attached fairly firmly by the time you're done.

Even though the web should keep the crest in place, I will often add a few pins just to be safe, especially if there are corners that didn't fuse well.

Now, just sew around the edges and you're done! A "satin stitch" is the most traditional method to finishing applique, but you can use almost anything depending on the look you're going for. My machine doesn't have a good satin stitch, so I just tightened up my zig-zag stitch until it looked about right. It isn't as perfect as it would be if my machine was designed for this, but that's hard to tell out on the field.


  1. Although a satin stitch is the most common technique for sewing down applique, it would not necessarily be needed for this particular example. I will normally use a satin stitch if the edges of the applique are unfinished to prevent the fabric from fraying (which the fusible webbing also helps with). Because the edges of the applique are already folded under, you can also sew it down using a regular straight stitch. I would shorten the stitch length just a touch and go very slowly taking care to get the corners crisp and making sure that the folded-over fabric is sewn down completely.

    1. That is very true. The only reason I tried to mimic a satin-stitch in this case is because it was the look desired by my husband (this is his tabard).

      Under normal circumstances, I would have just treated the stitch around the edges like a hem, using a straight stitch to catch the folded fabric as you've described. My machine is much better at that, and the finished look would be cleaner. I'd probably even use contrasting thread so it stands out further.


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