Entering the Kingdom of Machine Embroidery Appliqué

There are so many different types of machine embroidery appliqué (MEA) that I’m not sure I can list them all. Many embroidery designs use a tackdown stitch over the appliqué fabric and the shape is trimmed around those stitches, or a template is used to cut the appliqué shape. You have probably seen instructions for both of these methods. I have some tips and tricks that I hope will not only be helpful but make machine embroidery appliqué even more fun!

Today’s project is a child’s hooded towel design from Appliqué Corner.

Towels Featuring Machine Embroidery Applique

There are basic instructions on Applique Corner for constructing the hooded towel. The instructions below detail how to machine embroider on towels and offer helpful tips that apply to many other machine embroidery appliqué projects.

Supplies Needed:

  • Hand towel, cut in half lengthwise
  • Bath towel
  • Embroidery design
  • Medium weight tearaway stabilizer
  • Thread
  • Washaway topping

1. Print a full size template on tracing paper
2. Hoop washaway/tearaway stabilizer.
3. Use the printed template to determine design placement, marking the center of the design on the towel.
4. Attach the towel to the hooped stabilizer with pins, matching placement marks on the stabilizer and the towel. .
5. Add a washaway topping over the towel and secure with pins.


  • A washaway topping is very helpful for terry cloth, velour, velvet and other fabrics with a thick nap. The fabric nap can interfere with some of the stitches like a fill or a satin stitch and will show through. The topping prevents that.
  • I do not use spray adhesive ever, but have read and heard several times that it is best not to use spray adhesive or a sticky topping on the right side of the fabric as it can leave a shadow that will not wash out. This is especially true of velvet and velour.

6. Mount hoop into place on machine
7. Stitch the first appliqué placement line.

Machine Stitching on the Towel

8. Cover placement line with the first fabric. Secure this fabric with pins outside the design area or glue inside the placement line.
9. Stitch the tackdown stitch.

Tacking Down the Applique

10. Trim fabric around the tackdown stitch.


  • Trimming the fabric requires special care and the right tools. The fabric should be trimmed close enough so that threads do not peek out from under the outside of the satin stitch, but not so close that the inside of the satin stitch does not cover it securely.
  • Everyone has their own preference for scissor whether it is curved tip, flatbill or small straight tip scissors. It is important to find a pair of scissors that works for you to get the trim just right.
  • It’s always a good idea to stitch a sample design first, even without the appliqué fabric, so that you can see how the stitches will actually line up over the placement and tackdown stitch lines. Use this information to help with trimming the appliqué fabric.

Machine Embroidery - Stitching on the Terrycloth Towel

11. Complete the embroidery by following the steps in the design, repeating the addition of fabric in the correct order until the appliqué fabric is attached. After the fabric is attached, complete the embroidery with the decorative stitches.

Tip: Decorative appliqué stitches covering the fabric are often satin stitches, but sometimes you will have a blanket stitch around the appliqué fabric. This little frog project is a perfect example of blanket stitch appliqué.

Here are some additional helpful tips if the design has a blanket stitch.

  • For the placement line, use a water soluble thread in the bobbin for the tackdown stitch so that the tackdown stitch is easily removed after the appliqué is complete and the blanket stitch is the only stitch seen.
  • You may want to use prepare the fabric with a fusible web on the wrong side of the fabric and press it in place with an iron after all the stitching is complete. The fusible web will help assure that the raw edge is secure. Be sure to remove the paper backing from the fusible before stitching the placement line onto the fabric.
  • Another option for a smooth edge is to use a washable felt fabric for the appliqué.

Template appliqué is done exactly like the machine embroidery appliqué above, except that you will be cutting the appliqué shape with scissors (or a die cutting machine) before stitching the tackdown stitches.

Tips for cutting appliqué shapes with scissors:
The machine embroidery appliqué design will come with a file that has the outline of the shapes / templates that can be stitched on the embroidery machine. Rather than making a paper pattern from this file, the most efficient way to cut the appliqué fabric is as follows:

cut shape

  1. Prepare fabric by fusing a fusible web (such as WonderUnder, Steam-a-Seam, or Heat n Bond) onto the wrong side of the appliqué fabric. This should be slightly larger than your appliqué shape. Do NOT remove the paper.
  2. Work with an unthreaded needle in your embroidery machine.
  3. Hoop stabilizer.
  4. Stitch the shape outline.
  5. Lay the prepared fabric, right side up, over the stitch holes made in the stabilizer.
  6. Stitch the shape again onto this prepared fabric.
  7. Remove the fabric from the hoop and turn it over. On the paper side, you will see the stitch holes showing through the paper.
  8. Use this line for cutting your shape.
  9. Remember the tips above for trimming applique shapes. Trim just outside the stitching line so that the finished appliqué will be held securely without fabric threads showing on the outside of the decorative appliqué stitch.
  10. To remove the paper, use a straight pin to score the paper and peel.

[box type=”shadow”]Creating beautiful machine embroidery appliqué is as easy as can be. Here’s a wonderful example of appliqué on a Holiday Kitchen towel. If you want even more detailed instruction on machine embroidery appliqué, be sure to take a look at the class Machine Embroidery with Terrycloth and More.[/box]

You might also enjoy embellishing with continuous borders and tips for successful in the hoop projects. Come back to the Craftsy blog next Monday for more machine embroidery!

Have you done machine embroidery appliqué? Did it all go perfectly or do you have some helpful tips to share with our readers?

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