Sewing designs using appliques is a fun way to spice up everyday embroideries. While not all that difficult to do, there are a few tips to help insure that your applique designs look their best and to minimize frustration in the process.
First off, the usual caveats to proper machine set up apply. These include having the tensions set properly on your embroidery machine and making sure your thread is coming off the spool correctly as to avoid twisting and looping.
Second, when sewing appliques it is important to hoop the fabric or garment you are sewing on. Avoid using sticky spray or tape because too many errors in registration can occur lending itself to less than stellar results and adding to frustration. Another tip is to use a hoop that is significantly bigger than the design you are sewing. This will give you plenty of room to trim away the applique fabric crisply without the hoop getting in the way.
When choosing a fabric to use for your applique, be sure to choose one where fraying will be at a minimum after trimming. The thinner the satin stitch border, the more important this will be. Using a fabric such as terry for appliques is generally a poor choice unless the border stitching is very wide.
After hooping the fabric or garment you are sewing the design on, secure the applique fabric using either light spray adhesive or pins. Under no circumstances do you want to hoop both the garment and the applique fabric together. This will make trimming away the applique fabric much more difficult.
When securing the applique fabric to the garment, try to get the applique fabric as flat as possible to insure the best look. If using a patterned applique fabric with straight lines (plaids, checkers), it will be very difficult to get the pattern to line up parallel or perpendicular to the border stitching, so it may be best to purposely skew the applique fabric so it looks like it was done on purpose.
Sewing and Trimming
If using a single needle machine the design should stop sewing after the outline stitch because there is a color change. If using a multi-needle machine, be sure that color change is set to stop, or else the machine will just change needles and keep sewing.
After the outline stitch sews, remove the hoop from the embroidery machine for trimming. Remove the pins or gently life the fabric if stuck down to be trimmed. It is important to distress the fabric in the hoop as little as possible to maintain registration.
When trimming the fabric away, it is best to use applique scissors or small, curved scissors. Optimally you would have both as part of your embroidery gear as applique scissors are best to use on longer, straight/slightly curved edges and the smaller curved scissors are best for getting into nooks and crannies and navigating around trickier parts.
Regardless of the scissors you are using, make sure they are sharp for the best results. When trimming, use the very tips of the scissors and make small cuts. This will insure accurate results and little mistakes will not be devastating. In fact, it is acceptable to nip some of the outline stitches when getting a close cut, versus erring on the side of not being close enough and trying to trim away extraneous fabric after the border has sewn.
Another tip when cutting away the excess applique fabric is to rotate the hoop while trimming to give you the easiest angle to work with. A useful bit of advice here is to place the hoop on a sewing mat or piece of cardboard or other such material. Then, while trimming, pick up the cardboard with the hoop on it to rotate that to minimize distress to the hooped material and to make sure registration stays in place.
After trimming away the excess applique material, re-insert the hoop in the embroidery machine and finish sewing the design. Using the steps and tips listed above, the end result should be crisp, good looking appliques.