Appliqué on Velvet Tutorial

If you've ever worked with velvet, you've realized that velvet is a giant pain because of the pile-or fuzz. Because of the pile and the somewhat fragile nature of velvet, you cannot iron it. This means you can't use iron on binding to hold down an appliqué. And if you try to satin stitch, the bits of pile will come up through the thread and make it look very unclean.

This was an issue I tackled with my Zelda Cape. She had this amazing design on the back and I needed to get it settled. So with a little experimentation and some different tools, I was able to come up with a nice method of doing clean and easy appliqué on velvet!

To learn more about applique in general, see my Satin Stitched Applique tutorial.

Materials You'll Need

  • Paper pattern for appliqué (or vector!)
  • Spray on adhesive
  • Velvet choice (Mine is Joann's Premier Velvet)
  • Appliqué Fabric choice (Mine is Crepe Back Satin)
  • A rayon thread choice
  • Medium weight fusible interfacing
  • Size 70/10 Microtex/Sharp Needle OR Denim/Jean Needle (this is the best size for working with velvet, period)
    • Make sure the needle is fresh as well for the satin stitching or you'll have problems!
  • Stabilizers:
    • Light/Medium weight tear-away stabilizer
      OR Ironed out coffee filters!
    • Light/Medium weight water-soluble stabilizer
  • Length of cardboard OR cardboard cutting board
  • Tacky/Fabric Glue
  • Pins:
    • Long pins (like pearlized pins)
    • Small pins (like bridal/lace pins)

Let's get started!

Make a Paper Pattern

You'll want to have either 1-2 patterns of what you intend to put on your project to play with sizes. The method to use is your own, but be sure it is on paper so you can see a stiff form of what and where you want to put it. The first pattern will be used to actually cut out the fabric pieces, but the second one will be used as a guide to help you remember how you want the item set up on your fabric. Remember that your pattern pieces that you'll actually use are mirror imaged to your original design!

OPTIONAL: Make a vector in Photoshop! I prefer in many cases to make my patterns on photoshop and then print them out and put them together. This makes it really easy if I already have the image I want, but I just have to size out. With your ruler measure out your area on your dress-form/yourself/a friend to figure out how wide or tall max you want it. Make a document in that size with a resolution of 300 pixels/inch. If you already have an image you want to use already, you can set that into your desired area and scale it larger. If it pixelates that is alright, as you can follow those lines as you want.

With that done, you'll want to set printing guidelines to make sure your computer doesn't scale the image. Make another document that is 8" x 10.5" with a resolution of 300 pixels/inch, and fill that in with a random color. Copy that entire box and then paste it into a new layer over your vector and use the snap guide to line it up with the edges and drag guide lines to that exact size. Use those guides to crop a box one at a time and print that without scaling. Take the print outs, align the edges, and tape them together to make a full image you can look against your project.

When patterning, you can more easily set up your pieces by moving them about on your canvas into the printable areas, ensuring you have solid pieces to work with instead of anything that's been taped. Be sure as well to flip your canvas horizontally to make them into a mirror image. Then when you print that out, all you have to do is cut out chunk areas of the pieces for later!

Warning! - Make sure any pattern pieces you use are MIRROR IMAGED!!

Find your needed amount and iron on interfacing

Since interfacing comes in a limited width, you'll need to figure out how much space you'll need to position all of your pieces easily for cutting. This also becomes the size you'll need for your appliqué fabric. Set your chunk areas down and guesstimate a size, then cut out both. Follow the directions to fuse the interfacing to your fabric and get it nice and smooth!

Spray and glue your pattern pieces

Take your pattern pieces and set them wrong-side up on a safe area to spray, such as the inside of a cardboard box, or on expansive newspaper. If you've never worked with spray on adhesive, you must realize that it's like hairspray and it does get EVERYWHERE so make sure you have a nice and covered area to work with!

You'll only need one nice light coat of adhesive, so give each piece one swift spritz and move them up to your fabric. With the interfacing up, put the wrong-side of each piece down on the interfacing and give them a little bit of pressure to get them to adhere. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to get them stuck enough to handle.

Cut out your pieces

If you have more than one pair of cutting sheers for fabric, I'd advise that you use the older set to cut out the pieces. Paper is technically bad for fabric scissors, so you'll not want to use your best to get each piece off.

Follow your pattern as a guide and cut away all the empty unneeded space. Make sure you also get inside the pattern and cut small holes/spaces as well if your pattern calls for it. The adhesive should hold the paper fine to the interfacing, so you wont have to worry about it falling apart. And if it does fall off? That's totally fine so don't panic, as long as you're getting your exact pattern out.

See how useful the second pattern printout is? It really helped me to remember what went where.

Optional: Do a mini test of your pattern

Use some thin pins to put the pattern on your intended area. This gives you a nice visual guide of where you want to place it, and gives you a chance to view it as a semi-whole and guess if you like the size/where it is. When I did my Zelda cape I thought it was a little low, and decided to raise it up a tiny bit. The large pearlized pin at the top marks where I wanted my top center to build off of.

Peel away the paper

The adhesive doesn't fully bind the paper to the interfacing, allowing you to peel it away. It may take a couple tries but you'll eventually get it free. What you'll want to try hard to avoid is peeling away the interfacing! If you happen to do so, it isn't the end of the world, but you'll have to be much more careful with attaching the pieces in the future. So please be very careful NOT to peal away the interfacing!

Set up your velvet and position your pieces

Put out your cardboard area and set the velvet over where you plan to start. Use your long pins to help stretch out the velvet to make it nice and flat instead of lumpy, which would cause problems while sewing.

You're going to want to work in small sections, rather than setting everything and going at once. It allows you to adjust the pattern the way you may need to depending on how it sews. Go from top middle to bottom middle, and then expand outward part by part. I only did a max of maybe four pieces on every take, depending on the size. Since this was mirror imaged it made it much easier to balance it out as well. Small areas also help when setting up your tearaway so you don't have to double up if you don't need to.

Glue down your pieces and leave them to dry

Using something heavy helps with this part, unless you want to glue the entire piece in one go. First add some very, very light glue dots all along the length of your pattern, making sure to get the tips of the pieces. The glue will help hold the pieces to the velvet in a non-iron on method, but isn't perfect! Be sure as well to make sure those glue dots are very light, especially if you removed the interfacing. Glue will darken your fabric and 'spot' it. Once you've set it into the places you want it, use a book to help flatten it out while it drys.

Warning! Beware of the glue going anywhere other than on the back of the pieces! Velvet will stick and darken in the presence of glue, and even clear stuff wont be very clear on it. You also don't want to get it on the surface of the pieces as it will darken it

Warning! Once you set the pieces, you will NOT be able to move them! The glue will stick and clump the velvet, and even shifting it a small bit will still make it visible. So once you put it down, leave it there.

Add your stabilizer front and back

First take your tear-away stabilizer and extend it to cover your pattern with some excess on the sides. With that sectioned off slide it beneath your pattern and double check that it still covers your pieces from the underside. The tear-away in the back helps support the fabric as its being fed through the machine.

Next, take your water-soluble stabilizer and put it overtop the pattern, again making sure there is excess on the edges. Use some long pins to stretch out the stabilizer on top and lock down the bottom and top. If you don't catch all of the tear-away, that's fine. You just need enough to make sure it doesn't roll up under your machine as you work. If you have any excess of either like corners or large edges, cut that away as it'll just make it trickier to work with.

Note! If you're unsure of how your machine is going to handle the stabilizer and what setting you should have it at, take some scraps and do a test. This also helps you figure out what sort of length, depth, and tension you'll need with anything else. For example – the water soluble stabilizer didn't like my satin stitching foot, but was fine with my monograming foot.

Sew those patterns down

After replacing your needle with a fresh one, set your thread and begin! Your satin stitch will want to be tight, but only as wide as you'll want it. For my project I did a depth of 0.03 and a width of 3.5- but each machine is different. Start at longer tips/points, and follow the right hand side of the pattern (or left, if that is easier for you to follow on your machine.) You'll want the stitches to catch the pattern fabric, but besure you are still catching the velvet so you don't get 'fuzzies' of your pattern fabric through the outside of your stitches. Most of all, be sure to take your time!

Tip! Corners can sometimes be really tricky working with a machine, but during this project I found a really nice way to make nice smooth corners. When you reach the edge of a corner (either inside or out) while following the right side of your pattern, have your needle finish on the left side of the stitch (the needle should be in the left position). Keep your needle down as you lift your foot and turn the pattern towards you. Set your foot down and lift the needle back out of the fabric and then land back in the the hole of the previous stitch (the needle should now be in the right position.) Then continue!

Tip! I had an issue part way through sewing that my hands were getting sweaty, and therefore sticking to the water-soluble tearaway as I was working. To avoid this I actually just put on gloves, leaving me stick free and keeping my tearaway

Tear away your tear-away

Use your fingers or carefully with the tip of something pointed but not sharp (like a knitting needle tip) tear away the back stabilizer. Depending on the weight of it it should be pretty easy to just pull up and rip apart. It probably fell apart a bit during sewing, which don't worry that's pretty normal. With outer edges you'll want to be careful to tear it like you would a perforated page from a school notebook by ripping away at the side, and not straight up. If you plan to cover the pattern from the back with lining, you won't really need to worry about it being perfectly clean.

The water-soluble stabilizer on the top is a mixture of tear and wash, depending on how large your pattern is. The outer edges using the excess is pretty easy to get rid of, and again use the same method as 'ripping a perforated page from a notebook' and pull side to side. If you pull straight up you might pull stitches in a weird direction. A finger or a semi-sharp tip on the velvet is good for getting those areas up. The difficult part is the pattern, which depends on the fabric. If it feels like you're not getting some pieces up properly, use a wet (but not dripping wet) corner of a towel and use a circular motion to dissolve the soluble interfacing. It'll make it sticky like the stuff they put on the back of gift cards to hold them to the paper. You can also use the water to make it disappear completely, but be weary not to get the velvet wet and blot it with a paper towel to soak up the water from your pattern as well.

And you're done!

Congrats, you have successfully done an appliqué to velvet! Look at that sexy thing in shock and awe. Doesn't it just look stunning? Be super proud of all of your work! Make sure to hang your velvet somewhere safe, as folding it tends to make it wrinkle up.

If you have any questions about this tutorial, be sure to bug me at or contact me on my Facebook or Tumblr accounts.