Machine applique is a technique that involves attaching a fabric design onto a separate piece of material using a sewing machine. This type of motif can be applied to any sewing project, whether a crafter is making a quilt, a clothing garment, or a shoulder bag. Traditional applique is attached using hand sewn stitches hidden around all raw edges of the design. Machine applique adapts this method so that it can be performed using any standard sewing machine, and may be completed in a shorter amount of time. Crafters often choose to stabilize their materials before sewing with this type of technique, using an additional product, and can finish their projects using any type of stitch setting they prefer.
When attaching a design using traditional applique methods, the outer edge of the design is tucked beneath the project, and the stitches are buried and hidden between the layers of fabric. The appliqued material appears to pop out of the project and float seamlessly on its surface. Machine applique differs from this in that the stitches are often visible and the outer edges of the design are allowed to remain flat and raw. The technique can be completed quickly, and is ideal for projects that require the applique of multiple designs. Though the finished results are somewhat dissimilar, they are both attractive and create a finished look in any project.
The material used to create the top design that will be sewn onto the background fabric of the project is often stabilized first when using machine applique. Hand stitching techniques allow the seamstress to flatten and smooth her applique constantly as she sews around the edges. This type of course correction is not possible when using a sewing machine, which works much faster than human hands and can occasionally catch on floppy, raw edges of material.
Fusible web is a product commonly used with machine applique that helps seamstresses to avoid this problem. The fusible web should be attached to the wrong side, or unprinted side, of the fabric before the applique design has been cut out. The web is smooth on one side and rough on the other. The rough side is designed to stick to fabric when applied with the heat of an iron. Once the web has been fused into place, and the design has been cut out, the back can then be peeled away and fused to the right side, or printed material side, of the final project before sewing.
The sewing machine may be set to use virtually any type of stitch when completing machine applique. Many quilters and seamstresses prefer to use a decorative stitch setting that compliments the overall design of the pattern. Common choices include a flat satin stitch and the zig zag stitch, set to any width or length. Crafters can benefit from practicing a few stitches on a sample piece of background fabric before appliqueing their final project to gauge the appearance of the stitches together with their design. When the final stitch setting has been chosen, the seamstress can stitch along all raw edges of the design, permanently fixing it into place on her project.