An appliqué design is kind of like the cherry on top of a sundae: a tasty add-on that makes your project extra special. The trouble is (we're not gonna lie here), some forms of appliqué take quite a bit of skill and practice to master. But not this one! The raw-edge appliqué method is incredibly beginner-friendly, and the perfect way to try your hand and this decorative technique.
What is raw edge appliqué?
Simply put, it's a method for applying fabric shapes on top of fabric, often a pre-existing sewing or quilting project. The technique involves three main steps: cutting out a shape, gluing it to your project, and then sewing it into place. (That last bit is actually optional.)
To give it a try, you'll need some sort of fusible adhesive, such as double-sided fusible web or fabric glue.
Why is it called raw edge appliqué?
While other methods like needle-turn appliqué produce smooth edges on the decorative shape, raw-edge appliqué leaves the edges "raw" or rough. That doesn't mean your project will look unfinished, though. The shape can be finished later with some stitching to cover up those raw edges, if you like.
When to choose raw edge appliqué
- If you're in a hurry. Since raw edge appliqué requires no hand stitching, you can get those shapes in place super fast.
- If you have small shapes. The raw edge method is perfect for shapes that would be difficult to appliqué with a seam allowance turned under on each side.
- If you dread hand sewing. If you pick machine stitching over hand stitching every time, go with the raw-edge method.
- If you need curvy shapes. Appliqué is your go-to method when you need more flexibility and freedom than piecing allows. Think curves, letters, flowers, etc. The sky's the limit!
Raw edge appliqué, step by step
For the project below I used a paper-backed fusible web, such as Pellon Wonder-Under (pictured) or HeatnBond® Ultra.
If you don't have fusible web, you can use fabric glue, a glue stick or appliqué pins to secure your fabric cut-out to the project.
Cut a shape from fabric, leaving a ¼" or wider border around the design. You can use a design that's already in your fabric (as I did here with that adorable camel), use a printable template, or go freehand.
Cut a piece of fusible web that's about the same size and shape (but don't worry if it's not perfect — you'll trim it down in a later step).
Follow the manufacturer's directions to adhere the paper-backed fusible to the wrong side of the fabric.
With the paper backing still attached, use scissors to trim closely around the appliqué, leaving about 1/8" of fabric all around, or cut right up to the design — you're the boss.
Peel off the paper backing and the lightly stick the appliqué to a fabric surface. Fuse following the manufacturer's directions.
Finish the edges using the method of your choice (see below for a few ideas)
Finishing options for raw edge appliqué
After applying raw edge appliqué to your project, you can finish it with a satin stitch around the edge of each shape for a thick border. If you like the look of machine appliqué, this is a good choice.
Zig-zag or blanket stitch
Alternatively, you can use a wider zigzag stitch or a decorative blanket stitch for a craftier look.
For an edge that blends into the project, try a straight stitch just inside the shape.
There's actually NO law that says you have to finish the edges of an appliqué shape when using fusible web. Yes, many people prefer the look of some stitching around the edges and feel it holds up better over time, but if it's a decorative pillow you don't plan to wash, or a piece of wall art, you may just choose to leave it as it is.