Appealing Appliqué: Feature Your Fabric With Fussy Cut Templates

Fussy cut your fabric to make it work wonders with machine embroidery appliqué designs. I will show you how easy it is to do by creating and using a template!

One of the fun uses of appliqué is that it is so versatile. Because numerous fabric options can be used, you can easily manipulate the fabric to enhance the embroidery design. Better yet, the fussy cut templates are easy to create with basic machine embroidery editing software.

How to create fussy cut templates for machine appliqué:

Birds of a Feather

Photo via Designs by JuJu

This happy little bird, part of the Birds of a Feather set from Designs by JuJu, is the inspiration for this tutorial. I love the way the fabric works with the design. The swirls on his head complement the scallops, frame the eye, and the paisley in the wing looks like it belongs there. You could eyeball the placement of fabric motifs in machine appliqué but you can get near-perfect alignment when you use fussy cut templates. Fortunately, the design itself has everything you need.

Original file via Designs by JuJu (left) and the isolated placement stitches (right).Photos via Debbie Henry

Printing templates

Most machine embroidery designers provide PDF templates in their design downloads. They often include crosshairs for helping with centering and design placement when hooping fabric. With appliqué designs, many also provide separate cutting templates that can be printed or even special files to use with electronic cutting machines.

At right, above, I created my own template using the appliqué placement stitches of the two pieces I wanted to fussy cut: the wing and the head. By eliminating all of the other design components using Embrilliance Essentials software, I was left with the fussy cut areas. I included the bird’s eye to help me see where it would be located on the appliqué.

For help with using editing software, check out these Craftsy classes: Embroidery Software Essentials with Cynthia Hogan and Elements of Design Editing with Marilyn York Reames.

Fabric cut out

Preparing fussy cut appliqué

After printing my placement stitch template on card stock, I carefully cut away inside the stitch line. That gave me a mask to move around on my fabric until I find just the right presentation of the fabric design within my appliqué pieces.

Cutting the stitch line

When satisfied with fabric placement, draw baselines on the appliqué shapes. These are used only for alignment, so an ultra-fine point pen or marking pen is best. Only mark one edge. For the head, I used the upper curve. For the wing, I used the point.

Wing stitching

Stitch out the design as desired, using special placement appliqués for the wing and head.

Cutting the template inside the placement stitch line actually makes the appliqué fabric somewhat smaller than it should be. If I cut the appliqué the exact shape of the template, it would be too small.

Because I want as much fabric as possible to be caught in the tack-down stitches, I used only one end of each appliqué as a cut-on-the-line guide. When it is time for the wing, trim the wing appliqué point and place it within the placement stitches. Leave the rest of the fabric untrimmed so the tack-down stitches will catch the appliqué fabric.

Wing and head

After running the tack-down sequence, trim away any excess fabric from the wing appliqué. Do the same for the bird’s head. I trimmed the appliqué around the top curve so I knew where to align the fussy-cut fabric and left extra fabric along the sides and bottom so they could be trimmed away after tack-down stitching.

Finished bird

Finish stitching

When stitching multiple fussy-cut appliqués, it is helpful to use quilter’s template plastic. Place the appliqué template under the plastic and carefully draw around the stitch lines with a fine-point, permanent marker. Then carefully cut around the outside of the drawn lines and use the clear plastic to draw appliqué shapes on the fabric where desired. Be sure to mark the top of the template with the word “top” so you do not accidentally trace the reverse side and make your appliqué not fit correctly within the placement stitches.

If you are fortunate enough to have an electronic cutter, scan in the placement stitch files and cut cardboard or template plastic in the shapes needed.

How do you fussy cut appliqué pieces?

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