Projects and Tutorials

When to Zig and When to Zag: Top Tips for Machine Applique

Update: You’ll now find a video showing these machine applique techniques on the Sew Jewish YouTube channel: How to Finish Machine Appliques – Beautifully!

There’s a new applique pattern headed your way in our next post, and we wanted to give you our top tips for getting top notch results.

Are you new to machine applique? You might also want to read our post on machine applique basics.

How to Turn an Inside Corner

Let’s start with how to work your way through an inside corner.

Take a look at the pivot point we’ve marked in photo. It’s a bit past the end of the corner, about as far away from each edge as the width of the zigzag stitches. Sew all the way to that point and stop with the needle in the left-hand position. Lift the presser foot, pivot the fabric, lower the presser foot, and continue sewing along the next edge.

how to machine applique inside corner
How to Turn an Especially Tight Inside Corner

If you find yourself in an especially tight corner, you’ll need to refine the technique. Unlike the first situation, the pivot point lies even with the second line of the corner. Sew all the way up to that point, stopping with the needle in the left-hand position. Lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric. Lower the presser foot. Use the hand wheel on the machine to take one stitch –the needle will move to the right– but just before the needle goes into the fabric, raise the presser foot and reposition the fabric so that the needle goes back down into the same spot. Continue sewing.

machine applique tight inner corner

How to Turn an Outside Corner

Sew all the way to the tip of the corner. With your needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and pivot the fabric. Lower your presser foot and continue sewing.

how to machine applique corner

Turning an Especially Sharp Outside Corner

You won’t see this tip in many places, but it will come in handy for the applique pattern we’ll post next. I learned the technique while doing a stint selling computerized embroidery machines.

As you approach an especially sharp corner, shorten the stitch width. Stitch slowly, using the manual wheel if you need to. After you pivot at the corner, continue stitching, increasing the stitch width again as the applique point widens.

machine applique sharp corner

Navigating Curves

As you move around the curve, stop as needed, and with the needle in the fabric, pivot the fabric. The tighter the curve, the more often you’ll need to stop and adjust. The key to getting a smooth line of stitches is to pivot only when the needle is on the outer edge of the curve of stitches rather than on the inner edge.

Now get out there and take on those corners and curves with confidence.

mark pivot points on curves for machine applique

Update: Here’s the video tutorial on the Sew Jewish YouTube channel: How to Finish Machine Appliques – Beautifully!

Maria BywaterMaria Bywater is the author of Sew Jewish: The 18 Projects You Need for Jewish Holidays, Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations, and Home. She teaches hands-on Judaica sewing workshops.

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4 thoughts on “When to Zig and When to Zag: Top Tips for Machine Applique

  1. Great tutorial with your photos .. thank you! I’m trying to learn how to applique, and finding the corner / point business pretty tough right now. Please tell me it gets better with practice!

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