How to Applique on an Embroidery Machine

I have always loved to applique. It's such a wonderful and creative sewing technique. I enjoy hand applique, but it is very slow and tedious. 

Using a regular sewing machine to make an applique stitch around the design is quicker, but nothing compares to machine embroidery applique.

The pretty satin stitch of the machine applique embroidery around the design is beautiful and looks so professional.

How to Applique on an Embroidery Machine - fb

What does applique mean in sewing?

Applique is done by layering fabric shapes onto a background fabric to make lovely designs.  The raw edges are then turned under and hand appliqued or covered and embellished with decorative stitching.

With a special embroidery machine, it is possible to machine applique embroidery, using many different thread colors, stitches and layers of fabrics!

The best thing about machine embroidery applique is that it provides the opportunity to mix fabrics and various threads in a fun and creative way to use your personal touches and produce a special, professional looking design.

For many, learning how to applique machine embroider seems to be a daunting task.  A lot of sewists are intimidated by the complexity that appears to be a big part of machine embroidery applique.

This tutorial is written especially for those who are anxiously waiting for clear directions to learn how to applique on an embroidery machine.  

Learn more about applique for machine embroidery by watching our video or keep reading this post for written directions.

COMPLETE VIDEO TUTORIAL AVAILABLE! The video below is a preview with no audio, to watch the whole video tutorial, click the link How to Applique on an Embroidery Machine to watch in Youtube.

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WHAT YOU NEED to machine embroidery applique

  • Embroidery machine
  • Embroidery machine pattern
  • Various fabrics selected for the design
  • Contrasting and complimentary embroidery thread
  • Stabilizer (Sulky Tear Easy Soft Light Weight Tear-Away Stabilizer)
  • Fabric scissors
  • Curved embroidery scissors
  • Spray adhesive 
  • Scrap paper or newspaper to catch adhesive overspray

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 1 Supplies

INSTRUCTIONS for machine embroidery applique

STEP 1: secure stabilizer and backing fabric

The machine embroidery applique pattern that is being used in this tutorial is by Lunch Box Quilts.  The block being used to show how to applique machine embroider is the ice cream cone block. 

You will need to load the pattern you will be using into your embroidery machine.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 2 Pattern

The first thing to do is decide on the background fabric for the machine embroidery applique.  It is helpful if the background fabric contrasts to the fabric that will be machine appliqued on top.

Cut the background fabric and stabilizer large enough to fit in the embroidery machine hoop with extra fabric to keep it secure. To learn more about stabilizer, there is detailed information on our machine embroidery stabilizer page.

Place the background fabric right side facing up on the top of the piece of stabilizer (we recommend Sulky Tear Easy Soft Light Weight Tear-Away Stabilizer).

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 3 Stabilizer

Use the embroidery machine directions to place the fabric and stabilizer into the hoop.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 4 Hooped Fabric and Stabilizer

step 2: Machine embroidery the placement stitch

Once the fabric-filled hoop is placed back in the machine, the placement stitch will be sewn for the machine embroidery applique. The placement stitch is a guide to show where to place the fabric to be machine appliqued. 

Be sure to use a contrasting thread for the placement stitch so it can be easily seen.  You may want to learn more about machine embroidery threads on our site.

The machine embroidery applique pattern that is used in this tutorial has the placement stitch.  

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 5 Stitch Placement Line

If the pattern that is being used doesn't have this stitch, simply use the cutting stitch for this purpose.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 7 Placement Line Stitched

Look closely at the picture above to see the completed placement stitch for the ice cream.

STEP 3: Cut and adhere first applique fabric

Once the placement stitching is complete, remove the hoop from the embroidery machine.

Choose a fabric for the design on the placement stitch.  This tutorial uses dark brown fabric for the ice cream that was sewn by the placement stitch.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 8 Cut Fabric

Using fabric scissors, cut the fabric to be appliqued with the embroidery machine. The fabric must be cut a bit larger than the placement stitch design.

If the fabric is even a bit too small, it will not be machine embroidery appliqued. The fabric must completely cover the placement stitch and extend beyond. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Place the piece of fabric to be appliqued right side down on a piece of scrap paper or newspaper.  Lightly cover the back of the fabric with the spray adhesive.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 9 Spray Adhesive

Remove the fabric from the paper 

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 10 Back of Fabric Sprayed with Adhesive

and lay it over the placement design.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 11 Place Fabric

step 4: sew the cutting line for the machine embroidery applique and cut the fabric

Once the smaller piece of fabric is adhered to the background fabric, place the hoop back into the embroidery machine.

Next, sew the cutting line for the pattern. Use any thread color to sew the cutting line. It will be covered with the satin embroidery stitch later. We simply used the same thread that was used for the placement stitching.

When the embroidery machine has completed the cutting line, remove the hoop from the machine.  The adhesive is light, and the fabric will easily lift to be cut away. 

Use the curved embroidery scissors to remove the extra fabric that is just outside of the cutting line. Cut very closely, but be very careful not to cut into the stitching.

Curved embroidery scissors are very helpful because they keep the point of the scissors away from the underlying fabric.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 13 Curved Embroidery Scissors

The curved embroidery scissors also work well for cutting into small corners. Just remember to turn the scissor point back up and away from the background fabric after cutting into corners.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 15 Curved Scissors Good for corners

Keep the curved point of the scissors up and away from the background fabric.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 14 Trim Close to Cutting Line

Cut close to the cutting line all around the design until the extra fabric is removed.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 16 Fabric Trimmed


Place the hoop back in the machine to continue the machine embroidery applique.  For this tutorial, brown thread was used to match the ice cream fabric.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 17 Stitch Satin Stitch Step

Remove the hoop from the machine once the entire satin stitch has been sewn to finish the ice cream applique machine embroidery.

step 6: sew placement stitch for next fabric

The cone will be made with a lovely patterned yellow fabric, but the thread can be any color since the placement stitching will not show.  For this tutorial, we continued using the brown thread.

Place the hoop back in the machine and sew the placement stitch for the cone portion of the machine embroidery applique.

step 7: cut and adhere the second fabric

The cone portion of the ice cream cone is done in a pretty yellow patterned fabric.  As before, use the fabric scissors to cut the second applique piece larger than the placement stitching.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 18 Next Fabric

Use the spray adhesive as before on the back on the second applique fabric and adhere it over top of the placement stitch. Place the hoop back into the machine.

step 8: sew, cut and finish with satin stitch

The thread color is changed to a yellow-gold to match the color of the yellow fabric before stitching. 

Follow the directions above that were used for sewing the cutting line, cutting the yellow fabric, and finishing with satin stitch.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 19 Stitch Cutting Line

Sew the cutting line,

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 20 Trim Fabric

and cut off the extra fabric with the curved embroidery scissors.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 21 Pattern Complete

The satin stitch on the cone completes the machine applique embroidery for this pattern!

Use scissors to clip any loose threads.

step 9: remove stabilizer from the machine embroidery applique

Once the satin stitch is complete, remove the hoop from the machine.  Next, remove the fabric from the hoop.

For this particular pattern, the machine embroidery applique is complete.  If your pattern has more fabrics to applique, just continue with the steps above until all of the fabrics have been appliqued with the embroidery machine.

Machine Applique Embroidery Tutorial 22 Back of Block

The stabilizer can now be removed from the back of the fabric. Simply tear away the stabilizer around the design, as well as any larger stabilizer pieces within the embroidery.

It is not necessary to remove all of the stabilizer.

You have just completed machine embroidery applique!  It's not nearly as daunting as it appears!!

We sincerely hope that you enjoyed this tutorial showing how to machine embroider applique.

Scroll down to see other machine embroidery projects and check out our machine embroidery projects and patterns page  as well!


If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.

More projects to do!

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