Applique a baby blanket
for a one-of-a-kind gift!

Have you seen the cutesy applique baby blankets? Think you could never do that? Well, if I can, you certainly can! I just appliqued my first baby blanket with the initials of my soon-to-be-born granddaughter, and I will show you how I did it step-by-step.

Remember the blanket from "mystery fabric?"

After preparing the mystery fabric from my craft cupboard for a reversible baby blanket (Directions for making this basic baby blanket pattern are here), I had a little bit of both fabrics left over. Then the light bulb appeared over my head because I had a delightful idea! I could use the scraps to personalize this baby blanket with the baby's initials! That would make it extra special!

Since I was using a top and bottom fabric, I knew I had to do the personalizing before I stitched the sides together. That way the back side of each applique would be inside the blanket, unseen. But I had never actually made a machine applique baby blanket before. So I did some research. Then I tried it myself.

Here is how I did it...

What I used

  • scrap of complementary fabric
  • template of your design
  • paper/pencil/small scissors
  • Pellon (iron-on backing for crafts)
  • Heat-n-Bond (iron-on adhesive)
  • iron and ironing surface
  • sewing machine
  • thread in complementary color

First, make a design template on paper

I looked in some of my cross-stitch books for an attractive, easy alphabet to inspire a sketch. After finding one, I spent a little time drawing and erasing it out on paper, simplifying it. (I made granddaughter Bellany's first and last initial~one for the front side and one for the back side of the applique baby blanket.)

Instead of making your own as I did, you could also find a super-cute simple stencil to use. It could be an initial, an animal, or some other easy- peasy graphic. 

HINT: Try to make/choose a design that is kind of “fat.” If your design is skinny, then the stitching you use to attach it to the fabric will overpower the design and not leave enough of your pretty contrasting fabric showing.

Then I cut the designs out of the paper to make my template. If you use stencils, just use that for your template. My templates are 3 ½ inches high x 2 ¼ inches wide. Yours can be however big you want, but here's a CAUTION: If you make it too small or too complex, it will be more difficult to sew it to the fabric. Keep it a good size and keep it simple.

Next, trace and cut the design from the fabric 

I lay the template on the BACK SIDE of the fabric so my pencil marks wouldn't show on the front. Since it was an alphabet letter, I also had to turn my template BACKWARD so that it would would face the right direction on the front side when I cut it out of the fabric. Then I drew lightly around it with a pencil. Using sharp scissors, I cut out my applique design. Since I had to get in the middle of the B, I had to use tiny thread-snipping scissors.

Paper templates backwards on fabric
Cut appliques before stitching

Apply the Pellon backing to the blanket fabric

Follow the directions on the Pellon package to cut a piece somewhat larger than your design. Then place it on the BACK of the fabric where you want the applique, and then iron it on. This will stabilize just this area so that you can more easily sew the applique to the baby blanket. (A variety of products are available for this step. Some allow the excess to be easily removed after applique. This one doesn't, however, it won't matter because it will be on the inside of the baby blanket, and it's not extremely stiff.)

Apply Heat-n-Bond to the cut-out design

The purpose of the iron-on adhesive is to make your design stay in place while you stitch it on your machine. The Heat-n-Bond I have in my craft cupboard is skinny, so I had to use it in strips. However, it is available in different sizes, so get what will cover the back of your design.

Applying HeatBondApplying HeatBond
Applique ironed-onIroned-on

If your adhesive is a sheet-type, then draw your template on it and cut it out. Follow the package directions to iron it on. It will be between your design and the FRONT side of the blanket. Be sure to place it over the Pellon that you put on the back side (you can feel its location even though you can't see it). Iron it on.

Now it's time to sew!

Prepare your machine with the bobbin and thread. Set your zig-zag to the desired stitch width and length. I recommend trying it out on a scrap of cloth first to decide what you want for your applique baby blanket. Try a few different widths and lengths. My machine is an old White trooper! You can see by the picture that I chose a relatively wide zig-zag and a small length.

This slideshow from a quilting site is super helpful in preparing to machine applique. Click on View All to easily see about pivoting at the curves and corners of your design.

The right side of your zig-zag should be barely off the applique into the fabric. Your zig-zag stitches are almost completely over the applique.

GO SLOWLY! To manage curves and points, it is important to follow the pointers here, raising the presser foot and pivoting the fabric. Sometimes you may even use the hand wheel on a sharp curve.

Finish by tying off the threads

To prevent an overlap of stitches on the applique, STOP STITCHING when you meet up with the beginning. Snip your threads with a few inches to spare. You will be tying these together on the back side. To see this method in action, watch this youtube video. (The video actually gives 3 ways to machine applique. At 9:55 she demonstrates how to tie off the threads.) Turn the fabric to the back side. Gently tug on the threads to bring up the thread from the other side. Pinch the thread and pull it through. 

Ends of thread on frontEnds of thread on front
Ends of thread on backEnds of thread on back
Still missing one thread after gentle tuggingStill missing one thread after gentle tugging
Using needle threader to pull up final threadUsing needle threader to pull up final thread

If gentle tugging won't bring up the thread from the other side, I have had excellent success with this little item called a needle threader. Insert the wire end through the fabric right where the thread that you want should be. Put the thread through the wire and pull it through the fabric. Easy! The needle threader can also be used to thread needles with tiny eyes or pull snags to the back side of sweaters. I've had this one for absolutely ages!

Now tie each set of threads together in a double knot. Snip the threads about ¼ inch from the knot. This will be invisible because it will be sewn into the middle of your special applique baby blanket.

There you have it! A unique applique baby blanket!

Sew up the sides of the blanket, as in this tutorial of mystery fabrics that I shared, and your applique baby blanket is ready for gifting to the new little bundle of love!

As you can see, I put Bellany's initials on opposite sides and opposite corners of her applique baby blanket. Place your applique wherever you like for a truly personal touch!

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