Bake Shop Basics: Turned-Edge Machine Applique


Welcome to Bake Shop Basics on turned edge applique!

I count myself among those who’d like to give a big hug, and maybe even a NOBEL PRIZE, to the person who invented fusible webbing! Fusible webbing has given us the ability to quickly embellish quilts, clothing, and innumerable other objects. In her Sept. 16th Bake Shop post, Angela Yosten explained the basics of machine applique using fusible webbing.


But some projects simply beg for turned-edge applique, which creates a smooth edge, and doesn’t reveal the underlying seams that you see with fused applique.

So. . .if you’re not in a hurry, and you prefer the tidier look of turned-edge applique, try the technique that follows. It’s the method I prefer (when it’s feasible) for turning the edges under and then macine appliqueing. The size and complexity of the applique element are what determine whether this technique is feasible or not.

I’m currently working on a pattern for party goods, using Moda’s “Honeysweet” fabric by Fig Tree. The placemats have a circle appliqued to the center. Here are the simple steps for preparing it for applique.

Trace the design–in this case an 8″ circle–onto lightweight SEW-IN (not fusible) interfacing. Use an air-erase marker or trace lightly with a pencil. As you see in the picture, I found a lid that is 8″ in diameter and used it as a template. Cut the interfacing about 1/2″ from the traced line. Pin the interfacing, marked side up, to the right (top) side of your fabric, pointing the pins toward the outside of the circle. This will cause it to lay flatter than if you pin it from the outside edge toward the center.


Sew on the drawn line with thread that matches the circle fabric, with the stitch length set where you usually have it set for piecing (2.5 on my machine). Sew all the way around the drawn line.

If you have pinking shears, use them to trim the seam allowance to about 1/8″. I LOVE using pinking shears to “clip” curves in this way. If you don’t have access to pinks,  carefully clip it every 1/4″ almost to the seam line.


Make a clip in the middle of the interfacing, being careful not to cut the circle fabric. Gently–so as not to tear the interfacing–turn the circle right side out. Use a Purple Thang or a plasticware knife to push the seam to the edges of the circle. Iron the edges using a pressing sheet to protect your iron and to prevent the interfacing from distorting.


With the fabric side up, press the circle flat, being sure the interfacing isn’t showing at the edges. Pin it in place on the background fabric, pinning toward the outside edge. 


In Angela’s blog post, she showed a variety of fund and pretty decorative stitches that can be used with fused OR turned-edge applique. For invisible machine applique there are a couple different types of stitches usually recommended. They’re shown in the picture below. One is a narrow, long zizag stitch and the other a blind stitch. The zigzag is my personal favorite, but I encourage you to experiment with each of them. With either, you should use clear polyester or lightweight thread that matches your applique fabric. 

The inside point of the zigzag stitch should pierce the applique piece and the background, with the outer point piercing only the background fabric. The blind stitch is made up of a few straight stitches followed by a single zigzag. The straight stitches pierce only the background.

Here’s a close-up of the circle appliqued to the placemat with a narrow, long zigzag stitch.
Perhaps you’re wondering if this method is limited to extremely simple shapes, and, happily, the answer is no. Here’s a little bird that’s going to be part of the party goods pattern.

 After turning the edges under using the method described above, I simply (and I DO MEAN simply!) straight-stitched near her edge with the same thread I planned to use for quilting. 
The example shown uses Moda’s “Daydream” fabric by Kate Spain.


Here are a few more things to consider for turned-edge applique:
  • You’re free to cut away the extra fabric and interfacing under the appliqued piece.
  • Substitute FabriSolvy for the interfacing, and rinse it away after appliqueing your design to the background. The art quilt in the top photo was done this way.
  • Decorative stitches may be used instead of hidden ones.
  • If the applique design has a direction (as with the little bird), the way it points as you look at the interfacing is the direction it will point after sewing. So if desired, you can reverse the direction by simply flipping the interfacing before sewing, since the drawn line will be visible on either side of the interfacing.
  • The applique piece doesn’t have to be closed on all sides. In fact, this technique is even easier if at least one edge of the design is open (where it will be overlapped by another piece or where it lays at the quilt edge), as was the case with the quilt in the top photo.
  • If you’re having trouble getting the edge to press nicely, cut a piece of heat-resistant template plastic a “hair” smaller than the shape, insert it through the slit in the interfacing and press. Remove the template and press again.
  • Forgive me for stating the obvious, but this method works nicely for hand-applique projects, too!

May your projects be many and your frustrations few,


Kara Peterson

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