Tutorial: Precision Applique Technique

I learned a lot from my flag-making journey these past few weeks, figuring out how to cut nylon without egregious fraying and also making up my own technique for appliqueing with nylon. I honestly made it up as I went along, which also entailed removing and redoing about two days’ worth of work. So that future flag-makers won’t have the same problem, I humbly present to you my guide to applique for nylon flags.

Materials

The flag I made had eight stars that were 45 degrees apart from each other, but 22.5 degrees off of the straight horizontal and vertical axes. So I treated myself to a 22.5 degree ruler. Getting a special angled ruler is entirely dependent on what your design is, but it sure did help me.

You will also need:

  • Templates of your applique shapes, printed on thin paper (I used notebook paper)
  • Fabric for the applique shape, larger than the shape in all dimensions
  • Pins (very sharp pins if you’re using nylon, to minimize holes)
  • Tailor’s chalk or fabric-marking pen
  • A yardstick/long ruler
  • Washable glue stick
  • A T-square

Instructions

First, wash your kitchen floor because it’s the only space in your apartment large enough to lay out a giant flag.

But seriously, first mark out where the applique shape is going to go. For this design, that entailed a few steps.

Measure out a 22.5 degree angle and mark it on the fabric (I had to add a point to my ruler with an index card).

angle-ruler

Then, pin the piece of the fabric you’re using for the applique (in this case, white) over the spot where the shape is going to go. Use a ruler and T-square to make some crosshair guides for placing the template. The first line is just retracing over the guideline on the background fabric; the second line is at a 90 degree angle to the first. The two lines should meet where the center of your shape will go.

When that’s done you’ll have two perpendicular marks like this.

guidelines

Then, line up your template. The template includes lines that mark the center. I just had to align the guides on the template with the guides I had marked on the fabric. Glue the template down around the edges with a gluestick. Try to avoid gluing over where you will be stitching, though it isn’t the end of the world if you do. Just make sure to let the glue dry before you run it through the sewing machine.

template-glued-down

Now it’s sewing time! Sew around the outline of the shape with a fairly short straight stitch. When you get back to where you started, sew over the beginning stitches for a few inches, so that your stitches don’t get pulled out when you pull off the paper. When you’re happy with your straight stitch outline, go ahead and rip that paper off!

You can see that some of the paper stuck to the fabric where it was glued down. That’s okay because you’ll be cutting that fabric off soon anyway. Just make sure that there isn’t any paper stuck under the stitching. You can now remove those pointy pins that were holding your fabric to the background.

Now you’ll want to stitch over your straight stitching with a short, somewhat wide zigzag stitch. In this picture, you can see the stitching on one of the green stars on a white background.

star-close-up

When that’s complete, you can go right to trimming off the excess fabric close to the zigzag stitching. If you want the applique shape to be visible on both sides, turn to the wrong side and carefully cut away the background fabric. I was worried about how much this nylon fabric frays, so before I trimmed, I ran a bead of Fray Check along the stitching and let it dry. The Fray Check also made the fabric a little stiffer and easier to cut away.

Repeat as needed for all your applique shapes!

photograph of green, blue, and white flag with eight four-pointed stars arranged in a circle in the center

 

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