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Zero Waste Sewing: Applique

zero waste week applique monogram letter set and Mirabelle skirt

The smallest pieces of fabric can be used to applique anything! Once you get into it, you can’t stop. I love adding monograms to bags, cushions, children’s clothing. Applique just means adding a piece of fabric on top of another piece of fabric.

monogram applique letters iron on patch

How to applique

Minimal amount of equipment is required to try applique. I like to use paper backed fusible interfacing to stick the design down before I sew. Fabric glue works just as well. You will need an iron, paper and fabric scissors, pen and fabric. Only use fabric that will take a hot iron. Nothing too synthetic. Poly-cotton will be OK but 100% cotton, silk or linen is best. I’ve used silk for the above letter.

monogram applique letters iron on patch


  • Sketch your design on paper, when you are happy with it draw around the edge with a thicker pen.
  • Cut a piece paper backed fusible interfacing to fit the design and place on top of your drawing with the glue side facing up.
  • When designs are transferred they are in reverse so it is best to reverse them first before sticking.
  • If you can’t see through the layers, stick together with blue tack and place on a window (or light box if you have one).
  • Find a piece of fabric for your design. Cotton works best, poplin or even barkcloth.
  • Place the glue side down onto the fabric and press firmly with a hot iron. No steam!
  • Leave flat for 30 seconds (without the iron).
  • You should see the design through the paper. Cut with fabric scissors including through the paper.
  • Peel off the paper and place onto the item you want to applique to.
  • Repeat the iron instructions
  • Ta da! your design is done.
  • I like to embroider around my applique to keep it in place and add to the design.

Design ideas

I’ve designed a set of monogram letters purposely for applique. Aptly named Isabelle after my Mirabelle skirt niece (see below). The set is available as a pdf download and includes full instructions. Or buy as a kit including paper backed fusible interfacing, 50g of cotton poplin fabric pieces, three embroidery skein and a full set of instructions.

I created a ‘Mirabelle’ from Encanto skirt and top for my niece’s birthday. I had lots of fun appliqueing printed fabric onto a plain skirt I made from cotton sheeting. I went through my stash of vintage scrap fabrics. I cut around large florals, animals and geo designs. I stitched around each piece with hand embroidery. When I ran out of time, I added some embroidery stitches from my machine (some of them for the first time since I bought my machine 10 years ago!). Maven Patterns deadstock haberdashery also came in handy for the tassels at the bottom and extra patches. My niece was very pleased with the skirt and we enjoyed singing along to the film together whilst she swished around in her Mirabelle skirt. (photo of Isabelle wearing the skirt is a bit blurry as it is a screen shot of a video – the fluffy slippers don’t really go but Isabelle does live in Scotland and not Columbia like Mirabelle).