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Customize Your Quilts with Easy Reverse Appliqué!

Want to add detail to your quilt blocks and sewing projects — without fussing over tiny appliqué pieces?. Reverse appliqué might be the perfect technique to get the results you want!

reverse applique heart

What is reverse appliqué?

Reverse appliqué is actually the opposite of traditional raw edge or needle-turn appliqué. Rather than sewing a shape or design on top of your main fabric, you’ll remove the shape or design from the top fabric to reveal your main fabric.

It works by sewing  two (or more) layers of fabric together and then cutting the top layer to reveal a shape or pattern of the fabric beneath.

Making detailed quilt blocks requires a lot of time and practice, and reverse appliqué can create some of the same results with this simple sewing technique.

How to reverse appliqué

reverse applique quilting

Materials needed:

  • Two fabrics of the same size
  • Appliqué template
  • Pins
  • Water-soluble marker or other marking tool
  • Zigzag stitch on machine

Step 1:

template for reverse applique

Cut your two fabric pieces the same size, whether you’re making an 8″ square quilt block of a 14″ x 20″ pillow.

Step 2:

Choose which of the two fabrics will be the top layer and which will be the bottom layer. The bottom layer will show the appliqué cut-out.

Layer the two fabrics on top of each other, both with right sides up. If desired, baste around the perimeter to secure the fabrics together. 

Step 3:

Print your appliqué template or create one by hand. Cut out the paper template, then trace the design onto your fabric with a water-soluble fabric marker. Or, if you’re up for it, you can draw a design freehand right onto the top fabric.

reverse applique heart

Cut out the design inside of your marked line, only cutting the top layer of fabric. Leave a narrow seam allowance.

clip the curved edges and corners

If your design has curved edges or corners, clip the curves now. Do not clip past your traced line. 

Step 4:

reverse applique techniquepin the top layer for reverse applique

Fold the seam allowance on the top fabric under along the traced line. Pin these tucked edges around the entire design. 

Step 5: 

machine settings for applique

Prepare a zigzag stitch on your machine. I like to use a stitch length of 0.7 and stitch width at 2.5.

Step 6:

zig zag stitch for reverse appliquw

Sew this zigzag around your design. Stitch right along the edge of the cut-out part of the top fabric, which will join the fabrics together and leave a smooth edge between the two. You can use a coordinating or contrasting thread depending on what look you want. 

reverse applique heart

That’s all there is to it! Now you can sew this into a quilt, skirt, throw pillow or what ever you are making with the reverse appliqué. 


Shamin Naicker

I use reverse applique to mend tee shirts with holes. My jeans waistband rubs against my tees and little holes develop. I use other old tee shirts to cut out the fabric, and follow the instructions above. This method allows me to get more wear out of my favourite tees. Thanks for the great post!


What is the purpose of clipping inside the heart cutout and then turning under the clipped edges? You end up with a smooth edge that you then sew around.
If you use the heart cutout without snipping around the edges, you already have a smooth outline to sew inside the design.


Turning the fabric under the design works as a seam allowance. On curved edges, if you don’t do the clippings before turning it under, there will be puckering. I imagine that they also had to clipped at the bottom point of the heart so that some of the seam allowance went on one side and some went along the other side of the heart.


The folding under makes sure you don’t have a raw edge that would fray… If you just cut it and have a raw edge, it would fray, even with the stitching.

Angela J Short

Thank you for sharing the tips. Have a great day! angielovesgary2 atgmail dotcom


Thank you Craftsy, Angie and Ciara for the helpful hints.

Angela Smith

If you cut out the shape on the actual outline, don’t turn under, use the satin stitch rather than the zigzag you get a neater more professional finish with no fraying at all.

Mary Newton

Sorry but this looks amateurish….stitches are not even…this is not a tutorial I would endorse


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