Applique Letters in Cotton - Tutorial

In my fun with fabric I also love to combine quilting with my love of words.  I have and will explore many methods to combine writing and fibers, but this is one of my current favorites for precision and ease of creation.

-Fabrics of choice
-paper backed double sided fusible web (like heat n' bond or wonder under)
-computer, printer, and thin white paper (the thinner the better)
-black pen
-sewing machine
-paper scissors
-small sharp scissors
-hot iron

I start with my letters.  In this case I am working words into my 368 block project.  I know I want 4 E so I will go ahead and make them using this method.  Since this project has 4 inch finished blocks I have a mental idea of the size of the letters I want to wind up with - 3 inches tall or so.

Now I go to the computer.  I am using the word program that came with my laptop - Word Starter 2010.  I believe the setting I will show will be available in most any word type program out there.  What I want to make are letters that are about 3 inches tall when printed, an outline if possible, and in a variety of fun fonts.  I am using all capitals for this run, but this is equally fun to do in lower case.

Some hints for using a word program.  You can make a font larger or smaller than the menu items for font size will show.  In this case I used 250, 300, and 350 depending on the font.  you can also download different fonts, many of which can be free.  I have used 1001 free fonts on several occasions.  You can search using your browser for free font sites, or pay if you will download a lot or want a super specific one.  In the word program there are often fun effects you can do with letters.  One of them may include options that will show an outline.  Word art might also be an option you prefer.  It does not really matter what way you use - you just want a black outline of your letters when you print them.  With that in mind it also doesn't matter if your word art is in color.  You can print it in a color, or change your printer settings to grayscale.  it will print anything not white in a shade of gray or black.

So now I have my letters in the fun fonts I wanted to use.  However, If i trace them as they are on the paper backed fusible, then when I iron the fused fabric to my background my letter will be backwards!  So, time to use some preventative reversible.  I printed the outline in grayscale/black so I could easily trace my letter on the backside of my white paper.  This is where cheaper white paper will come in handy.  Good quality printer paper has a higher fiber content and is reduced in translucence.  Poor quality paper will be much easier to see thru and trace.  As a quick tip - I use the screen on my laptop as a simple lighttable.  I flip it and lay my screen flat and put on something with a white foreground, like a new word document.  Then I can lay my paper on the screen and voila - lighttable!

Once I trace the reverse letter on the back of the paper in a black pen I am ready to trace onto the paper backing of the fusible.  The fusible is a lot more transparent than most printer paper so as long as you used a dark pen ink, it should trace easily.  This can be a good use of scrap fusible if you have some!

now I can use my paper scissors and cut out my letters in the fusible.  I just cut a rough square around my letter - I would rather be precise when I trim the fused fabric.  One I have my letters ready to fuse to the back of my fabric for the letter - a hot iron a steady hand will get me fabric ready to trim.  Once the fusible is on the back of my letter fabric I will use my small sharp scissors to trim carefully on my letter outline.  This is a raw edge applique method - so I will trim directly to the edge of the letter.

Now I have little fabric letters ready to fuse to a background.  Once I have placed them on my background exactly where I want them I will use my hot iron again to fuse them down.  I want a good fuse along the whole edge.  If needed I will use a glue stick along a lose edge prior to sewing.

Once I have my letter fused to my backing it is time to make some choices for finishing the edge.  It this is a wallhanging and you used a heavy weight fusible web, you may leave it with no sewing.  If you will use this project as a home decor item that will get touched and washed, you will want to sew the edge down in some way for long term fastness.

I prefer a sewn edge - this is fabric afterall and part of the fun is having that mix of fibers and the softlook a sewn edge will give.  My favorite stitch for raw edge applique is the blanket stitch on my machine, but as you will see you can use a variety of machine stitches - look to see what you have available.  I look for a stitch that will allow me to make corners, will cover the edge fairly completely, and will allow for a bit of a curve if needed.

Carefully sew your edge down, and voila!  you have a fun letter or word in your project!  Great for monograms, names, or entire quotes - use your imagination!  below are a few personal projects I have done or have in the works.

4 Es, 4 fonts, 4 stitches for finishing

You can even use cursive fonts!  This hangs in my living room.

My first play with this method and words - this hangs in my office.

You can even create effects with fabric choices - Here I have taken 2 fabrics of each letter and layered them for a fun shadow effect in a rambunctious font.  The bright fabrics is a fishy fabric - when used for something like this it has a bright circus effect.

Using 2 fabrics for a shadow again and 3 shades of the same blue fabric for movement.  This is a Mumford and Sons tribute project.


  1. thanks for the tutorial. I have done something similar when baking words to go on banners at church


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