Summer Sewing ~ More Fun With Machine Appliqué

on July 9 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 112 Comments

Now that you know your machine appliqué basics, get ready to branch out with layering techniques and more complex designs. Once again Elizabeth shares great tips, and you can also download her multi-page PDF with a coral reef, seaweed, octopus and more! Have fun, and share what you create in the photo pool!

Once you’ve mastered sewing around shapes with a buttonhole/satin stitch, there’s really no limit to what you can do with machine appliqué.


The appliqué patterns attached to this post are slightly more complex than the last ones and include one of my favorite appliqué techniques: layering.


The first part of planning a layered appliqué is establishing in what order the pieces should be added. The fish and seaweed appliqué on this patchwork tote is added in four layers.

The first or back layer is the seaweed. Next I added the main fish body, which slightly overlaps the seaweed. Then I added the second layer of the fish body and, finally, the fish’s eye. The process for adding each piece is the same, it’s just important to keep track of the order.

When I’m making layered appliqués, I try to start and stop my stitching on each layer in a place that will be covered up by the subsequent layer. As an example, I started stitching that seaweed in the spot where the fish was going to be covering it. Then I started stitching the orange part of the fish near the mouth, where the red piece would cover it.


This coral appliqué takes a while to sew, but provides a great effect, especially in vibrant red. I think it would look great on a skirt!

This sea turtle was built in five steps. First, I sewed the back and right front flippers. Then, I sewed the shell, then the lighter pieces that create the pattern on top of the shell. Next, I sewed on the head/left flipper piece, using a lighter green thread to set it off from the other flippers. Finally I added the eye.
The octopus has fewer pieces, but takes a little longer to sew because of all the curves. The “back” piece goes on first, followed by the “front” and then the eyes. (The octopus is a bigger pattern, so you’ll need to glue or tape a couple of the pieces along the dotted lines.)


I used the sea turtle and octopus to make this baby quilt using Cake Rock Beach fabric and Essex Cotton/Linen blend. The quilting only goes through the top and batting, which was done intentionally for two reasons. The first was so that I could use a fluffy cotton chenille back without having it messed up by quilting. The second was so that I could free-motion quilt over the entire surface before adding the appliqués.


The appliqués have a little more dimension when they’re sewn onto the batting and I prefer the look of the quilting being under, rather than around, them. (This quilt it small enough that I wasn’t concerned about the front and back separating but, if you were using this technique on a larger quilt, it would be easy to include some strategic tacking or tying.)

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112 Responses to Summer Sewing ~ More Fun With Machine Appliqué

  1. emily says:

    Oh, I especially love the octopus! I do a lot of machine applique too but it usually doesn’t come out as nice since I get lazy and don’t bother with the wonder-under.

  2. Morgan says:

    I LOVE the quilt with the octopus on it! So fun!! Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. Marcia Zimmermann says:

    I love the quilts and bags- beautiful applique!

  4. Haven’t visited for a long time. What a lovely lot of posts I’ve missed. Silly me. Wonderful appliques! I’ve never tried using the fusible web before when I’ve done appliques – it does seem to give a very nice, flat finish. And the quilts are quite splendid! Thank you for the tips.

  5. Jessica says:

    Can’t wait to try this! My little boy is going nuts over the turtle, he keeps saying “turtle” and laughing!

  6. mj says:

    Still drooling over this quilt 🙂

  7. Esther says:

    These are some gorgeous appliques

  8. Christine says:

    what a wonderful project by an absolutely talented person! thank you for sharing.

  9. BARBARA says:

    bravo!!!! FANTASTIK!!! thank you so mutch for the instrations!!

  10. Wannabecrafty says:

    Amazing work!

  11. Jennifer says:

    I think the octopus is my favorite. What a great shape to use for fusible applique. I think it would be too scary for me to try to do by hand.

  12. Those are all gorgeous. I’d love to get more creative with my appliques.

  13. Beth says:

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial and patterns. I have always backed away from machine applique’ because my efforts have never been very fruitful. Your color choices are so bright and sunny for the summer. As always, your sewing is so impeccable. Very inspiring. Thanks.

  14. Amanda says:

    What great tips!!! Can’t wait to get started.

  15. Adrea Shef says:

    wow! that’s awesome! It looks so sharp!

  16. Kim D. says:

    thanks for the tuts! I love to applique and you have lots of good tips!

  17. Kim says:

    You’ve just opened up a whole new world for me to explore — thank you! :)K

  18. Erin says:

    These are so fun!!! I can’t wait to make something with them!

  19. kerri says:

    this is AWESOME. come teach classes!

  20. Richelle F says:

    Those are so much fun. Love them!

  21. Georgia says:

    Very clever little octopus! I must back a quilt with chenille now. Love it!

  22. Amy L says:

    I read this blog religiously and find several inspirational pieces to fuel my need to sew.

  23. Heather W. says:

    So cute…I wish I was ambitious enough to try applique! This will help me be less scared to try!

  24. Anne says:

    Thank you so much for the instructions on applying applique! I’ve always wanted to try it, and now I have no excuses 🙂

  25. Bridget Macfarlane says:

    they are so cute! I’m just learning to machine applique, haven’t quite tamed my sewing machine to do anything that cool yet!

  26. Calee Lee says:

    I love this baby quilt!! I’ve never thought to use the cotton chenille, but it’s perfect!

  27. Ursa says:

    Thank you for your explanation. It is so detailed and looks easy to do.

  28. Jessica says:

    I love the layered applique on top of patchwork. It gives me so many ideas for a wall hanging I promised to make a friend =) …

  29. Tamera says:

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to applique! Thank you!

  30. Ms. Cleaver says:

    I must make a tote like these!

  31. Christina says:

    I am so excited by this! I especially love the octopus!

  32. mojoandco says:

    Thank you for sharing your applique tips. I’ve recently completed my first simple one, and am now keen to do more. Your fish and seaweed are especially cute.

  33. Heather says:

    I love appliquing and these patterns are so cute. I’m ready to do some!!

  34. Jes says:

    OOOO it´s lovley!!! The applications are fantastic!!!

  35. Linda says:

    I too love the chenille on the back of the quilt. Thank you so much for showing us how to do these advanced techniques. I am loving your summer sewing series. linda

  36. Elizabeth says:

    Yes. I always back baby quilts after quilting them so that I can use soft fabrics like chenille and Minky without quilting through them. It’s also nice because I can do the quilting and applique in layers, rather than quilting around the appliques.

  37. Jen Burn says:

    This is really wonderful. Now I just wish I had a better sewing machine!

  38. Brittney says:

    I love these appliques! They are so cute and the colors are just perfect. I especially love the animals on the quilt, imagine a whole ocean themed quilt covered in these cute creatures!

  39. Shelley says:

    The octo – the turtle – the fish… I now want to drop everything and find something to applique with sealife… What an inspiring post!

  40. ellen says:

    just gorgeous! and perfect for feeding my cephalopod obsession!

  41. janet says:

    thank you for the great tutorial! I always wondered how to applique!

  42. Sarah says:

    These are beautiful. I want to make totes like that for all the little ones in my life! Thanks for the inspiration!

  43. Sandy says:

    I really want to try applique, thank you for the patterns too! I think trying it on a bag would be a good start for me. Thanks

  44. Emily says:

    I’m almost ready to be brave and try something like this. Almost.

  45. Lynn says:

    Ack this is amazing! Thank you for the tutorial!

  46. Angie says:

    Thank you for this post and patterns! These are so cute and I’m sure my daughter will love the designs.

  47. Brooke says:

    These patterns would be so cute on towels. I am going to have to try appliques. It does look a little frightening though :).

  48. Sara R. says:

    Amazing! I’ve never thought to layer the appliques. Oooh, now my creative juices are flowing!

  49. Anne says:

    What great instuctions! Thanks!

  50. Susan says:

    Thanks so much for the applique tutorials–I’m going to try it!

  51. Erin says:

    Love the coral – a timeless touch to any piece.

  52. Rachel says:

    I love that quilt!
    I’ve been wanting to learn more about applique but didn’t know where to start. Thanks for the tutorial and inspiration!

  53. Cara says:

    Great appliques. Thanks. I’ve been looking for something more modern and fun so I can try adding applique to projects, and these are perfect.

  54. Michelle says:

    These are so cute and fun! Thanks so much for the patterns and tips!

  55. Ellen B says:

    Love the sea life on the Cake Rock fabric with chenille….Now I’m inspired to take the leap into doing applique! Thanks for the great posts!

  56. Rebecca says:

    I am SO excited. I have wanted to learn to applique. These posts are so full of great instructions. Thank You!

  57. mandy says:


  58. Vanessa says:

    I love the octopus and turtle quilt— octopi are so hot right now.

  59. Melanie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your techniques! I could never figure out how to applique, now I know what to do! I’ll try it this weekend! Thanks!

  60. Kristin says:

    wow! These are amazing!

  61. Trisha says:

    I love this post. I’ve been wanting to do applique for a long time. I love the dress with the seahorse on it.

  62. méri says:

    I love that fish! And the octopus! In fact all are so cute!

  63. Kim says:

    Love all this applique stuff!

  64. Nancy says:

    I have never used the botton hole stich on anything except buttonholes (and only a few of those). I’ll have to practice a lot before I’ll be able to do anything so cute as the above- but hopefully someday.

  65. these are amazing, thanks!

  66. Kathryn says:

    These are just great. I love the layering appliques and sea theme. 🙂

  67. Shannon says:

    These are so cute I can’t stand it! I LOVE the little fish.

  68. Maggie says:

    The bag is so inspiring. All the craftsmanship is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  69. bec says:

    how exquisite! i need to practice now…

  70. Meredith says:

    The colors in this are amazing! From the pictures it looks like the backing was added after the top was already quilted…is that right?

  71. Alissa says:

    I am in love with quilting but am yet to try applique… Now I have no excuse and will have to try it!!! Thanks so much for the wonderful tutorial!

  72. Dawn says:

    Awesome!!!!! This gives me so many ideas! I love how you approach the quilting for the last project. It makes it look so professional! Just wonderful!!!!!!!

  73. Maggie says:

    I really love this quilt. I have been doing applique for years but have never done it one layer at a time. I really love the totally finished appearance your method provides. Your baby quilt is absolutely delightful.

  74. Lauren says:

    I love applique, and you certainly have mastered it. That octopus is incredible! Thanks for sharing.

  75. Lisa says:

    Awesome applique! Fun too.

  76. Ruth says:

    I am in awe, it is serious skill to be able to applique round that octopus.

  77. Mary Fielder says:

    These designs are delightful. Thank you for sharing.

  78. Angela says:

    Elizabeth-Thank you so much! That does make more sense than the way I was doing it. I love your blog and finished works, by the way. Thanks again for helping!

  79. Michele C says:

    Beautiful! I love how the applique is incorporated into the quilts. Thanks for the instructions and patterns.

  80. Elizabeth says:

    Whenever I’m appliqueing on a finished item, I do the work with the item turned inside out. You’ll have to hold the extra fabric away from your work area as you go (and with a onesie, this may be tedious) but you’ll have complete freedom of motion when it comes to turning it. Does that make sense?

  81. Angela says:

    Elizabeth – in reference to my question about onesies: I am putting the platform of the sewing machine inside the onesie (so the machine is “wearing” the onesie, and I am only sewing through the top layer). However, this makes it hard to turn the onesie to follow the lines of the applique. How would you applique onto a onesie?

  82. I love these! Especially the octopus.

  83. Andi says:

    This is awesome! I love applique but have never tried anything that complicated – I am definitely inspired! And I love the quilt too – what a great idea!

  84. Amy says:

    Ooohh! These are so cute! I love the turtle!

  85. Elaine says:

    I LOVE this post. I’ve been wanting to try machine applique but have shied away. I’m definitely going to try it now. Thanks for the inspiration.

  86. Amy says:

    ooh! Very cool!

  87. Michele says:

    I’m inspired. Thanks for the great post and the pdf’s!

  88. Amy says:

    I love these! Wonderful Post!

  89. Carolyn says:

    Wow, has me rethinking a baby blanket project I had sort of planned out. Really beautiful work–really adds dimension and texture. Love it!

  90. Kelli says:

    I thank you again for the beautiful examples. You have definitely inspired me. I said last time that I’d give my old machine another try, but I don’t have to…For our anniversary, my husband just surprised me with a new machine that embroiders too! I am in heaven. He is such a good listener! Now, I wonder how big the learning curve is on using it…wish me luck!!!

  91. irene says:

    Holy Sea Turtles is right! Man, these are incredible and thank you for the patterns. I’m imagining all sorts of combinations to put on my totes.

  92. Kim says:

    That is a beautiful quilt! Im so inpired to try some applique work!

  93. Tracey says:

    Absolutely amazing! Just so so gorgeous. I hope you are making a zillion dollars on those! They’d be worth it! 🙂

  94. Mellissa says:

    Those are beautiful applique projects. Thanks so much for sharing all of your knowledge with us. Your tips really help!

  95. Elizabeth says:

    I’d be happy to try, but I’m not sure I understand your question. What is getting stuck, and what is it getting stuck to? 🙂

  96. meg says:

    These projects are just excellent. I love the splash of blue patchwork behind the bright appliques. Very very summery and inspiring — thanks for sharing!

  97. Amber says:

    Wow – these are amazing!!

  98. Kerry says:

    These appliques are just amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing them, and for sharing your techniques!

  99. beki says:

    these are fabulous!!

  100. Angela says:

    Wonderful tips, and gorgeous designs. I have a question…I have been doing applique on onesies for a while now, but every time I do it I get frustrated because the onesie gets “stuck” as I try to turn the design in the machine to do the stitching. Any suggestions????

  101. Amy says:

    These are great! I especially love the octopus.

  102. Alisha says:

    I love the sea creatures! I can’t wait to try these techniques.

  103. Melissa says:

    These look great. I cant wait to try this technique.

  104. Teresa says:

    Wow…I am so impressed and inspired. I love these projects and can’t wait to try them!

  105. Tina says:

    Love the layering, it give it so much dimension. I’ll be trying this!

  106. Liz says:

    That is so beautiful.

  107. Amy says:

    awwww….I am loving these little creatures! Such inspiration!

  108. Molly says:

    I wonder if I can fit one of these fun summer projects in before the leaves start falling?

  109. Amy Hodge says:

    These are really lovely. Giving me ideas for a baby gift I’m going to need to make soon….

  110. tanaya says:

    Holy sea turtles, batman….this is amazing! It may just be my favorite quilt ever.

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  111. Trisha says:

    I love the turtle! And the fish! It’s all so fun and summery.

  112. Regina says:

    Just wonderful – I love the idea about using the chenille on the back and FMQ on the front – never thought to do that. Can’t wait to try a turtle to add to my turtle collection!!!

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