Machine Applique Raw Edge, 101

First, and above all, I am not a pro nor am I an expert!! But I have been asked to share the very basics of preparing my fabrics for raw edge applique and I am happy to share my tips for doing raw edge applique.

  1. Use GOOD quality fabrics! My favorite combo is a Moda grunge background with batiks. Batiks also make a good background. You want a good thread count and weight to support your applique pieces. Batik is the best medium for applique, IMO, because of the higher thread count and a lower tendency to shred. When you are doing raw edge, you don’t want shredding edges on your curved pieces.
  2. Starch your fabrics. I always spray starch my background and stem fabrics. Stem fabrics are heavily sprayed. Starching your fabric adds to the stability and reduces fraying. If you are fussy cutting shapes, heavy starching is critical.
  3. Pick a light weight but effective fusing product. I use Heat n Bond lite which can be bought in sheets or rolls. Be sure to get the LITE as their other weights will result in a stiffer application that is difficult to sew through. I also tried Steam a Seam and do not like the results of any of their products. Head N Bond Lite bonds quickly and securely and is easy to stitch through and will not gum up your needle.
  4. Pick a good needle! I use a size 12 Schmetz or Superior Threads Top Stitch needle. Don’t forget to change your needle after 8-10 hours of sewing.
  5. Pick a good tear away stabilizer. I have tried many stabilizers and while it is not cheap, for raw edge I much prefer Sulky Sticky Tear-away stabilizer. It is easy to use, tears beautifully and can be washed and ironed after use. Some of the others I tried SHRANK and/or melted when I ironed the top or melted in the dryer. Yuck. I put the stabilizer on the back, pinning at the 4 corners, prior to using my fusible media.
  6. Pick good threads! 90% of my thread is Superior Threads (Manifico, Fantastico and metallic). I occasionally use a Sulky or Madeira poly (rayon will not take iron heat well) that I have in my thread stash. I also use ST MonoPoly for appliquéing my tiny birds and other fussy cut shapes. I like Bottom Line in the bobbin as it does not add weight and thickness.
  7. Your iron should be hot, but not TOO hot. A too hot iron used too long can vaporize your media glue! Let your iron heat up all the way, press firmly for about three seconds. Then I do a quick “once over” of my pieces. Don’t over iron!
  8. Cool your pieces before cutting. (I am so guilty of not always taking my own advice on this!)
  9. Adhere like pieces in sections. I find that if I adhere an entire block at once, some smaller pies or corners may lift up as I stitch other areas. I tend to adhere a group of stems, then stitch them. Then the next group, then leaves, then petals, etc. If I have a color group using the same thread, I do them as a sewing batch. On the SG Robin Block, for example, I added 5 bluebells on the left of the block, and then stitched. And then 5 more towards the middle, etc.
  10. I use my machine lock stitch to start applique stitching. If you do not have a lock stitch, you will need to pull your long threads to the back and knot after stitching. I did this for two years before getting my current machine.
  11. Use a blanket stitch for main applique if at all possible. If you don’t have a blanket stitch, a small, tight zig zag or satin stitch can be used. If your satin stitch is too tight, you will get tunneling. Starch and stabilizer can reduce tunneling, but test with your actual fabrics FIRST to make sure you like the results.
  12. HAVE FUN! It is fabric and thread; it should be fun.
My primary “tool box” items.
Starching well!
Tracing the applique components. For Esther’s patterns, you want to follow the dark “finish” line when doing raw edge.
For raw edge, you are cutting the finish line and need a margin around your shapes when you iron your media. This assures that adhesive reaches the very edges of your cut applique shapes.
My iron is set on the low end of the HOT setting. The high end of hot can vaporize your adhesive.
For my demo I took a stray piece of bias stem and started by gluing it to my background. I love Roxanne glue!
Applying the Sulky Sticky stabilizer to the back of the demo background.
Cutting out my applique shapes.

When I start an applique session, I preset all my commonly used stitches – straight, satin and blanket.

Before we start stitching, I am going to talk about the satin stitch. If you don’t have a blanket stitch on your machine, you will likely use a satin stitch.

This is my machine’s standard satin stitch setting.
This is what I set my satin stitch for applique. It is narrower and longer than the default.
This is a leaf shape appliquéd onto a piece of batik without stabilizer. The top edge is the machine default for the sating stitch. It covers a wide of the leaf, but it is not very elegant. It is more suited to crafting and applying patches. Tunneling and gathering can also occur. The bottom part of the leaf is my adjusted satin stitch.
Without a good stabilizer, you can see that the stitching gathers and bunches fabric. Repeated over dozens or hundreds of applique pieces, your block would be wonky.

Back to my pre-sets for our project! I like to set a short straight stitch for traveling between sections (like around a portion of a leaf).

Reduced strait stifch length for traveling between stitch areas.
The blanket stitch. A frequently used setting for bias stems and leaves and medium flower petals.
You can tuck your leaf under your stem, or put it on top. I do both, adding texture and variety. Gold thread on the stem and leaf in bottom of the this photo; variegate metallic on the top stem edge and leaf. I like a vein down my leaves.
Satin stitch setting for MonoPoly (invisible thread) applique.
Gold blanket stitch on the stem edge. MonoPoly on the fish, which give it the look of being suspended in water. MonoPoly around the burgundy leaf.
The leaf has a blanket stitch on the left and a blind hem type stitch on the right. I plan to add additional applique to the right side, but the MonoPoly secures the leaf edge first.

Here we go, adding stitching to burgundy leaf.

Setting for leaf edge deco stitch.
Deco stitch for leaf veins. You must start at the top of the leaf to have the “veins” stretching upward.
Varigated metallic thread with the two deco stitches. Shown below. It’s fun to try different effects!
Here it is! And lying nice and flat. The lower right edge of the stem has a double blanket stitch.

Wait a minute, let’s embellish a bit! This little deco stitch is great for adding trailing foliage. I added some bubbles to the fish mouth as well.

Bubbles and foliage! Embellishing is fun and turns your pretty work into a story.
Here is Bubbles, swimming happily along.

I hope this helps! Raw edge is a nice option that finishes quicker than turned edge. I use turned edge on a bed quilt that will need to washed occasionally and is used frequently. Raw edge is efficient way to make a wall hanging and it is much quicker when working with lots of small pieces. A lot of us have arthritis in our hands and machine raw edge helps keep us productive as we have these physical changes over time.

Above all else, have fun and play and make beautiful things!

Happy applique to all!



  1. Hi, what a great way for applique I learnt a few more things from your blog Stabilizing I use tissue paper and have to tear away will look at this method 😀
    Thankyou will keep this blog to rever back to
    Happy sewing and blogging

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As all ways Lennea I forget time when reading your blogs. Loved how you showed us how you do your rawedge applique in the wee story of Bubbles. Adding the trailing foliage and bubbles turned it in to a beautiful 3D piece of art. I think most people forget all their fancy stitches they paid big money for LOL. Many thanks for sharing the basics with us like needle size and threads!? A real puzzle for a beginner. Cheers Glenda

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lennea, when you say you use a short straight stitch to stitch around portions of a leaf, what do you mean?
    I’ll have to see what kind of fusible I have when I get back home.


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