How to Use Appliqués to Decorate Clothing

Kate Miller-Wilson
Decorating baby onesies and clothing from Chick Chick Sewing
Decorating Baby Onesies

Appliqués are a fun way to turn basic clothing staples into creative works of art. Whether you make your own appliqués using patterns or you purchase ready-made patches to use in your project, you'll find this is a great method for adding visual interest to apparel for kids and adults.

Simple Appliqué Baby Onesie

Because baby onesies are so tiny, they are a great place to showcase a favorite fabric motif. This is an easy project to make on your sewing machine, and it will take you about half an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Baby onesie
  • Scrap of cute cotton fabric
  • Fusible interfacing
  • Sharp scissors
  • Sewing machine and matching thread
  • Iron
  • Pins

What to Do

  1. Start by pre-washing the fabric and the onesie. It's very important to do this, because if one or both fabrics shrink, your appliqué will have a wrinkled appearance.
  2. Iron the fabric to eliminate any wrinkles. Choose a motif from the design printed on the fabric, and cut out a square section of the fabric surrounding the motif.
  3. Cut a piece of fusible interfacing to match the square of fabric. Following the instructions for your specific type of interfacing, use your iron to apply the interfacing to the fabric.
  4. After the fabric has cooled, pin it to the onesie in the desired location.
  5. Set your sewing machine to a satin stitch or very narrow zig-zag stitch. Starting at one corner of the fabric, sew the patch on the front of the onesie. Trim all threads when you are finished.

Funky Appliqué Pockets for Jeans

Floral Appliqued Jean Pockets
Floral Appliqued Jean Pockets

The pockets are one of the places where you can really express your style with a pair of jeans, and they make a great location for an appliqué or two. Using purchased iron-on patches makes this project easy. Although ironing on the patches will hold them temporarily, you'll also hand sew them to your jeans for a more durable result. Expect to spend about an hour giving your jeans a brand new look.

Things You'll Need

  • Old pair of jeans
  • Two or more purchased iron-on appliqué patches
  • Iron
  • Hand sewing needle and thread

What to Do

  1. Using the appropriate heat setting, follow the instructions on the patches to iron them on to the back pockets of your jeans. Allow the patches to cool after they have adhered to the fabric.
  2. Thread your hand sewing needle with the appropriate color of thread and tie a knot in the end. Choose a thread that matches the stitching around the edge of the patches.
  3. Starting inside the pocket, bring the needle up through the fabric right at the edge of the appliqué. Slip the needle through a few of the stitches at the edge of the patch, and then bring the needle back down through the fabric and into the pocket. Continue this process to sew all the way around the patch.
  4. Repeat with the other patch. Trim all threads when you're finished.

Raw-Edge Leaf Appliqué Top

Green Maple Leaf Art-Plique Shirt by Gisou Fashions
Green Maple Leaf Shirt

This fun appliqué project allows you to embellish a favorite top with falling leaves. Leaving the edges of the appliqués raw gives your top a casual, Bohemian look that makes it perfect for wearing with jeans or maxi skirts. Expect to spend about two hours on this project.

Things You'll Need

  • Knit top
  • ½ yard mid-weight fabric with a large leaf print
  • Sewing machine and matching thread
  • Pins
  • Scissors

What to Do

  1. Start by pre-washing the top and the leaf fabric so you don't have to worry about uneven shrinking.
  2. Cut out leaves from the print fabric. Cut about ¼ inch away from the edge of each leaf. You'll need at least five leaves for this project, but you can use as many as you like.
  3. Spread the top out on your work surface and decide on the placement of the leaves. You can arrange them so they seem to be falling down one shoulder or blowing across the front or back. Pin the leaves in place.
  4. Set your sewing machine to a standard straight stitch. Top stitch all the way around each leaf about ¼ inch from the raw edge. Trim all threads.
  5. Wash your top to give the leaf appliqués a frayed appearance.

Easy Applique Felt Elbow Patches

Heart-shaped felt patches by staklenebombone.blogspot.com
Heart-shaped Felt Patches

You can embellish any top or jacket by adding elbow patches to the sleeves. This is an easy project to do by hand, and it looks equally adorable on kids and adults. Adding the patches will take you about an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Top or jacket
  • Washable felt sheets, available at your craft store
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Embroidery floss and needle
  • Small embroidery hoop

What to Do

  1. Cut the felt into your desired shape. You can stick with a standard oval or choose to make your patches in the shape of hearts, birds, or animals.
  2. Slip the embroidery hoop over one elbow of the garment to give yourself a flat spot to work.
  3. Pin the felt shape onto the fabric in the position you want.
  4. Thread your needle with embroidery floss. Starting from inside the garment, bring the needle up through both the felt and the garment fabric, about ¼ inch from the edge of the felt piece. Then bring the needle back down through only the garment fabric.
  5. Continue sewing the appliqué on in this way until you've gone all the way around the shape. Trim your thread and repeat this process with the other elbow.

Lace-Embellished Tank Top

Dance Art Lace Embellished Tank Top
Lace Embellished Tank Top

You can purchase a plain tank top for only a few dollars and then use your imagination and a little lace to give it a one-of-a-kind appliqué. The process is simple, and this project will take about an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Tank top
  • ½ yard lace fabric
  • Sharp scissors
  • Fray Check
  • Pins
  • Needle and thread

What to Do

  1. Pre-wash the tank top and the lace fabric to minimize shrinking later.
  2. Spread the lace fabric out on your work surface and identify the motifs you'd like to include on your tank top. These may be flowers, flourishes, or other pretty designs. Using the scissors, carefully cut out these portions of the lace, snipping right along the edge.
  3. Paint the edges of the lace motifs with Fray Check and allow them to dry.
  4. Pin the lace pieces on the neckline and shoulders of the tank top, arranging them any way you like.
  5. Thread your needle and sew the lace pieces on to the tank top, using a slip stitch to hide your sewing as much as possible. Trim all threads when you're done.

Reimagine Your Wardrobe

If you're tired of wearing the same old clothing, appliqués offer endless options for creatively embellishing tops, jeans, and other apparel. From simple hand-sewn patches to purchased appliqués and delicate lace decorations, there are lots of amazing ways to reimagine your wardrobe.

How to Use Appliqués to Decorate Clothing