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The sewing art of stitching cut out shapes to background fabric for decoration is known as appliqué. Appliqués are used on all manner of clothing, bath towels, napkins, pillowcases and many other items made of fabric.

To begin to appliqué you will need to choose fabrics and patterns for the shapes you wish to use. You will also need to pick out a good background fabric that the appliqué will compliment. Be sure that the weights of the fabric and care requirements will work well together before you start. It is preferable to use smooth, firmly woven fabrics of a light to medium weight. There are hundreds of ideas for appliqué color schemes and designs. The first place you should check is in magazines, collections of stencil shapes at your local craft stores, design magazines, coloring books, art books and needlework books. Any shape you like can be used including flowers, angels, insects, animals, plants and even pictures of your children or grandchildren that have been transferred to fabric. Be sure when choosing the shape you will use that you make a note of any special lines, curves, or other parts of the design that you might desire to off set in your appliqué. These can be traced onto the fabric inside your shape and artistically stitched to add to the appeal of your appliqué.

The easiest way to transfer the design you have chosen is to cut a cardboard pattern in the shape of each appliqué piece. Then trace the shape onto the appliqué fabric. Before you begin to cut, add a 1\4 inch seam allowance to the entire outside of the shape for hand appliqués and
1\2 inch seam allowance for any appliqué to be sewn with your sewing machine. As you cut the shapes, layer them from the background layer up to be sure you keep them in order. Any shape that does not stand by itself should be slightly overlapped. If you are hand stitching your appliqué you will need to stay stitch it just outside the traced outline of the design on the fabric. Then trim the outside corner of the appliqué to reduce the bulk and make it easier to turn in the raw edges. You will also need to notch all the angles. With the cardboard pattern inside the appliqué, place the shape right side down, positioned inside the stay stitching and using an iron press the raw edges over the pattern. Remove the cardboard pattern and hand baste the folded edge. Pin the appliqué to the fabric and attach it using a whipstitch.

If you are attaching your appliqué with a sewing machine you will need to follow the steps above for preparing the appliqué. Using your cardboard pattern cut the same shape from a piece of iron on fusible webbing and trim it back until it 1\4 inch smaller than your appliqué. Place the fusible webbing inside the stay stitching on your fabric and hold the appliqué in place for stitching by pressing it down with your iron. You can also use a glue stick to hold the appliqué or if you prefer it can be machine basted to the fabric. When you use a machine baste stitch to hold the appliqué in place you will need to stitch along the traced line of your design and trim close to the stitching. Be very careful when doing this not to cut the stitches or background fabric. To attach the appliqué to the background fabric use a short, narrow zigzag stitch taking care to keep most of the stitches length on the appliqué rather than on the background fabric. As you stitch, work slowly around the curves and pivot at the corners.