Creative articles about embroidery

Use applique techniques to create amazing embroidery with Bernina Embroidery Software. Lesson 1. Free Designs to practise with.

Looking through my teaching samples, and projects, that I have created over the last 15 years for the groups to which I teach Embroidery Sotware, or the articles I have written, made me realise how often the use of applique techniques has been part of a sucessful project.  For example the small bag in the image incorporated applique with some unusual embroidery techniques. (I will provide the design for this bag in future classes.)

Within our Embroidery software we have a number of applique features  and this is the first in a series of lessons to help you understand these options and use them to create your own designs. Applique techniques are the base technique for many in the hoop projects.

I will start with basic techniques so that this is suitable for people who are just starting to learn how to digitise, but will also include tips and tricks for more the experienced or for those, like me, who love being experimental and pushing limits! Hopefully these lessons will give you some new and exciting ideas. 

Here are some very simple designs for you to practice with and to help follow my instructions. I have included not only the embroidery formats of EXP and ART but also the Design format EMB so that you can load that directly into the embroidery canvas of your Bernina Embroidery software and use the colour Film  to see the different steps. This is a zipped file so remember to unzip it!

embroidery files

PDF file of instructions to create a basic applique design in Bernina Embroidery software to download 

Basic Applique instructions for Bernina Embroidery Software  click on this link

Basic steps and vocabulary of applique. 

Applique embroidery is defined as stitching pieces of fabric to another piece of fabric to create a design.

The pieces of fabric may be cut to shape prior to applying to the fabric, this is called Precut Applique.

The technique that is use most often with Embroidery software and Embroidery machines is called Cut in Place Applique. 

The following steps explain Cut in Place Appique

Step 1

To correctly place the pieces of fabric on the base fabric to create the design a Placement line is created and stitched on the background fabric. This is just a stright stitch line. 

Step 2

The applique fabric is placed over the placement line and a second line of stitching, normally on top of the placement line, stitches it in place. This is called the Cutting Line. 

Tip  I always stitch this line twice as it enables closer cutting of the fabric with less risk of the fabric fraying through the stitching.

Step 3.

After trimming the applqie fabric back to the cutting line a Tackdown Line is stitched to firmly hold the applique fabric in place.


Step 4.

The raw edges of the applique fabric are covered with a satin, blanket or decorative stitch.


Instructions to manually create an appliqe design in embroidery software.

Although we have a digitising feature called ‘Applique’ which will automatically create all the necessary steps of an applique embroidery the best way to make the most of these automatic features within the software is to first learn how to create all the stages of an applique manually. This will also ensure suceesful applique with different amd more challenging fabrics.

Tip Changing thread colours for the different lines is used simply a way to stop the embroidery machine allowing you to place or cut the apllique fabric. In practice you do not change the thread colour on your embroidery machine.

  1. Within the embroidery software go to the ‘Digitise Toolbox> Closed Object’.
  2. Select ‘Single outline stitch in the outline toolbar’ and draw a simple shape. I drew a square.
  3. This is the placement line.
  4. Select the stitched outline shape.
  5. Go to the ‘Edit Menu and duplicate this outline.
  6. Select this new outline and change the thread colour.
  7. With it still selected go to ‘Edit Toolbox>Double Run’. This creates a strong stitching line to cut the applique fabric back to.
  8. This is the cutting line.
  9. Select the stitched outline and duplicate as in step 2. including changing thread colour.
  10. This line needs to be change to a zigzag stitch. To do this  go to the ‘Properties’ in the toolbar or ‘right click’ on the stitched outline to open the ‘Object Properties box’.
  11. In ouline stitch type select ‘ Zipzag’ stitch width 2 stitch  spacing 4.   
  12. Select ‘Effects’ at the bottom of the object propeties box ‘Underlay’ and uncheck the underlay to remove the underlay. Alternatively you have an ‘underlay icon’ on the bottom toolbar which you can click off.
  13. This  is  the  tackdown  line.
  14. Duplicate the zigzag line and in ‘Object properties’  change it to a ‘Satin outline stitch’. 
  15. This  is  the  Cover  Line

Try experimenting with different shapes.

Practical embroidery tips for applique.

1 Prepare the appliqe fabric by ironing with some spray starch on the wrong side. This makes it stiffer and easier to hold in place for the stiching down.

2. Beware of using temporay adhesive spray to hold the applique fabric in place as it can mark the fabric. If you wish to use it spray very sparringly the background fabric.

3. Alternative ways to hold aplique fabric in place. a) scotch tape, or single sided quilters tape. This works well on most background fabrics,  b) fabric glue pen again sparingly,          c) double sided sticky tape outside of edge of applique area        d) pointer tool such as tailors stilleto but reduce the speed of stitching,          e) pins but be very careful not to displace deign within the hoop.

4. Scissors! There a number of differnt versions of applique scissors and it really is worth using these specialist scissors to cut the appiqued fabric back to the cutting line. Also take time when cutting as the neater the cut the better the finished applique. If you are not sure of what I mean by applique scissors this a photo of a pair  which I use that have a double curve.

In the next lesson I will show you show to add embroidery to the applique and how this affects the stitching order.




Difficulty level: Beginner
Used Material: Bernina Embroidery Machine, embroidery software, fabric, thread

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