Applique letters: 3 best techniques for perfect applique alphabets

Do you want to add decorative letters or text onto fabric, clothing, quilts, or other craft projects ? Here are different methods to create and apply applique letters neatly.

This post gives you different easy ways to applique letters. These DIY applique letters can be used to embellish your clothes, accessories and other fabrics for home decor projects. You can sew the applique letters with zig zag stitches along the border as it is, or make a standalone letter with fusible webbing as lining, which is then stitched on to the base fabric.

When I sew, I hoard all the leftover fabric scraps, meaning for them to be used for applique at some point. Once you start to do applique, you will reach a stage when all your wardrobe space is taken up by scraps for applique.

And what to applique is never a dilemma with letters always available in many different fonts and styles – so many words to applique on so many projects.

Applique letters are always in fashion. They are favorites for decorating Tshirts, bags, quilts, Bed linen, pillowcases, kids clothes etc. Here are the easiest and the best methods to make the perfect applique letters

applique letters

How to easily design the letter for your applique letter.

Get a printout of your letter shape. Open your MS paint – almost every computer has this program.

If you want the letter shape in an A4 paper dimension open a page with a pixel size of 794 x 1123 px; write your alphabet to a size of about 800+ size in the font you want and you can then print it to the full size (210×297 mm is A4 size) on a piece of A4 sized paper; For small sizes make changes accordingly.

using the word software to make cut outs of letters


What materials can be used to make the applique letters?

You can make your applique letters with all types of fabrics but my favourites are cotton (quilting cotton and all other types like canvas or denim), craft or wool felt, heat transfer vinyl sheets, and sequin fabrics. Your material should be chosen keeping in mind the base fabric’s weight, texture, and compatibility with your chosen applique technique. Remember to prewash the material to remove the sizing.

Method 1 for Applique letters -with zig zag stitches

sewing the letters on the fabric with satin stitches

This first method to create fabric applique letters is by the standard method of machine appliqueing – making zig zag stitches all along the fabric edge of the letter shape.

Instead of painstakingly doing it by hand, you can do it easily with your sewing machine.

Step 1

Iron all wrinkles out of your applique fabric . Ensure that the fabric is without any starch or sizing; if it is a newly bought fabric do prewash fabric, otherwise your applique will shrink horribly on the main fabric.

Step 2

interface the back of the fabric for stiff looking letters

Iron a fusible interfacing piece to the back of the fabric piece for applique. The interfacing is added so that your fabric has some weight. If you do not want this, skip the interfacing part.

Step 3

using stencil to cut out letters for sewing applique

Cut out the letter shape by keeping the cut out letter printout on the fabric you mean to cut the applique from and tracing around it ; alternatively, you can use the carbon paper to trace the letter outline.

Step 4

the ketter cut out as it is

Now keep this letter shape on fabric and pin or tack stitch in place so that it would not shift when sewing.

Step 5

how to make applique letters with zig zag stitch along the edge

Attach an open toe embroidery presser foot on your sewing machine. It is alright if you do not have this foot. But it does make your sewing easy. If you do not have the foot keep your zigzag foot on the machine.

Turn the stitch knob from straight stitch to zig zag stitching.

zig zag stitch for applique letters - stitch length 1.5 and stitch width -2

Start stitching along the outline carefully. For a loose zig zag stitch, use a stitching length of 1.5 but for dense satin stitches change the stitch length to 1. The stitch width I am using is 2, but this is dependent on your applique shape and or your preference.

sew the letter on the fabric with zig zag stitch

Related post : Satin stitch ; Zig zag stitch

Method 2 for Applique letters -with lining

This involves making a sort of facing or lining for the letters with thin fusible interfacing. The advantage of this method is that you can make the final applique look as if it is floating on your main fabric with some nice invisible stitching.

the letter turned inside out

When designing your letter for this method you will have to ensure that the parts of the letter are not interconnected. If they are, you will have to disjoint them and design them that way.

You will be turning the alphabet inside out, so you need a continuous line. For eg, the line connecting the alphabet H will not turn properly.

Step 1

applique letter cut out with some extra edges

Take your letter printout. Mark 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch all around the letter. Make an outline along these new markings. This is what you will transfer to your applique fabric.

Step 2

Keep the printout on top of the applique fabric right side up. Mark the letter outline using a carbon sheet. Alternatively, You can cut out the letter and make outline on the fabric as well

Cut out the new letter shape from the fabric

Pin a safety pin inside.

Take a small safety pin and attach it to one end of the alphabet, on the right side.This will help you to turn the applique right side out easily.

Step 3

Take a piece of fusible interfacing, big enough for the letter. Place it in front of you the sticky (shiny) side up


 applique letters with sewing machine by cutting out the alphabet letter from fabric and keeping it on top of interfacing.

Place the new letter cut out, reversed, on the interfacing (sticky side up)as in the picture below. Applique letter cut out  is Reversed,  right side down

The interfacing is placed under the cut out aplhabet.
Keep the aphabet cut out on interfacing and sew

Now using a regular sewing machine foot sew the two pieces together with the 1/8 or 1/4 inch seam allowance

the applique alphabet sewn with interfacing- make a small slit.

If you had cut 1/4 inch seam allowance, trim outside the stitching line leaving only  a 1/8 inch seam allowance; clip generously every 1 inch ; you will be turning the piece inside out and you want smooth edges

Step 5

Now make a small hole in the back of the piece ( on the interfacing). See picture above. It should be on the opposite side of where you attached the pin.

Through this hole turn the applique inside (right side) out

Make all the turns smooth. Tadaa You have your easy applique piece which can float on the fabric; No raw edges to deal with. Use a mildly hot iron to straighten the wrinkles. Keep a paper under it so that it wouldnot stick to the ironing board.

the applique letter turned right side out.

Step 6

Which are the Stitches you can use to sew the applique letters?

If you want to hand sew the applique, use the ever-favorite blanket stitches or buttonhole stitches. If you want to machine sew, the most favorite stitch is the closed zig zag stitch which makes a mean satin stitch along the periphery.

Place the applique where you want it to be. With a moderately hot iron press the fusible interfacing fixing it onto the main piece.

sew along the edge with zig zag foot and close zig zag stitching

There are many ways of stitching this applique letter to your fabric –Hand applique stitch,  blind stitch hand, blind stitch sewing machine, or just simple straight stitch or narrow satin stitch along the edge as I have done.

Check out the post on Hand Applique for more details on how to do the hand applique stitch; Or the post on needle turn applique

how to do hand applique

If stitching on the sewing machine, use the open toe presser foot which is clear and you can see exactly where you are stitching.
Start stitching

sew over the applique letter with satin stitching along the edge or inside

Method 3 for applique letters – No sew

If you are wary of all these steps for some simple letter shapes, and you are not worried about the fabric fraying around the edges the easiest method is to attach a fusible adhesive to the applique letters you have cut up. No need to sew a thing here. Just peel and stick- easy peasy!

The fusible adhesive is available as sheets which you can cut out as per your size. It has stickiness on both sides. One side will have a paper backing which is peelable.

You can trace the letter to the shiny side ( letter as it is) or to the paper side (reversed). Some of them are printable – just reverse the letter and print.

The backside of the applique fabric piece and the shiny side of the fusible adhesive is attached together by ironing as you would do with fusible interfacing. Now when you have to apply the applique, simply peel off the back of the applique piece and stick it. The fastest and easiest applique letters, right?

One word of warning about this method – though the manufacturer may claim the fusible adhesive can go through some mild washing and drying (on low heat) without it peeling off – some brands may not survive washing. So beware of using this method on things you mean to wash.

Related posts : Reverse applique : 4 techniques ; Sewing machine applique tips; Broderie perse applique ; Embellish fabric surface

Subscribe to get weekly notifications of posts in your email

Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Applique letters: 3 best techniques for perfect applique alphabets”

    • Hi M Dybeck
      If you are talking about the second method, with closed end letters like e d etc you will have to design it so that it is open-ended on both sides : only then you can turn it inside out. Hope this is ok

Your opinion is important. Leave a comment