Prepping to sew my first Applique Seam

I bet you’re as surprised as I am, that I can make a whole post out of prepping an applique seam.  You are, aren’t you!?!

In my prior blog post about cutting out lace fabric for an applique seam and underlining it, I only got as far as completing the back yolk piece.  Over the next day things went a bit faster and I was able to complete the back bodice piece also.

(Sorry this one is a bit blurry.)

One additional step I had to incorporate on the back bodice piece was the dart basting.  I basted right to the inside edge of my original dart markings so when I go to sew them on the machine I’ll be sewing a hair outside these basting lines.

Here is the fully basted back bodice piece from the right side:

Now that I have two pattern pieces all underlined, basting lines in, and motifs trimmed comes the fun part (well it’s all been kinda exciting really).  I now have to figure out which motifs I want to keep on each side of the seam.

I purposefully have one motif on both the yolk and bodice that line up perfectly together at the seam line within the pattern of the lace.  This is the one flower in the center back (if you look hard enough you can see some extra thread at the center back denoting it on each piece.)  I decided to retain the flower on the yolk (nude-colored piece) to cover up the flower on the bodice (pink colored piece), so I’ll be covering the top over the bottom.  Additionally I’ve retained two more of the floral motifs on both ends of the back yolk, near the armholes.

The true key to making the applique seam worth all of the effort (in my opinion) is that you want the motifs to alternate positions.  What I mean by that is that on one motif you’ll want the top to cover the bottom, and perhaps the next one the bottom should cover the top.  Here’s a good image from Claire Shaeffer, courtesy of google book preview, that shows exactly what I’m talking about.

One major drawback that I encountered with my choice of lace and underlining fabric, is that the lace applique seam looks great when I use a motif from the nude side to lap to the pink side.  But it ends up looking quite ‘muddy’ when I tried to take an applique motif to lap upwards from the pink side to the nude side.  Since I was attempting to cover black lace onto another piece where the lace pattern didn’t match up, what ends up happening is that you can’t see clearly to the nude charmeuse, and ultimately it looks like something bad occurred at that point in the seam.

In the sections where I tried to alternate the pink side (bodice) over the nude side (yolk), I did it minimally.  I wanted to try and alternate the seam motifs like suggested, since it would enhance the look of the seam, but I couldn’t risk mudding up the fabric.

So if you guys will be attempting this on your own projects, you’ll need to keep this in mind when choosing both your fabric color as well as the design of it.  If my lace pattern wasn’t all-over lace like this Chantilly, but more of a Guipure lace, it may not have been an issue.  As a result of this issue, I’ve learnt this valuable lesson and had to share it with you guys too.

After pressing the seam allowances to the wrong side of the back yolk, I’m now starting to line up the remaining motifs after trimming away some of the extra ones.

After you pick out the final motifs you want to retain and which side of the seam they will overlap, you’ll need to trim the edges of them down to the seam line.  This is what enables you to lap the motifs as you alternate from side to side.

As an example, I’ve added white arrows where you’d want to clip your lace.  And you want to clip it as close to the seam line as possible so you can have a nice, flat applique seam.  *Note: You don’t want to clip the underlining fabric, just clip the lace.*

After I clipped around all the motifs on this applique seam, I pinned my two pieces together matching the basting lines and side seam basting lines.


Well, I should probably hold my excitement till I get these puppies officially sewn together.  But I couldn’t help myself; I spent several evenings this week working slowly on each piece, step by step, seam by seam.

Here’s a close-up of the center back where I have two alternating motifs along the seam line; I highlighted them with white arrows for you to see them easier.

As I said earlier, I could only minimal overlap from the pink side onto the nude-colored side to avoid overcrowding the lace seam line.  But isn’t the center-back motif awesome! I’m so glad I took the extra time to at least get one motif to perfectly overlap another.

I do have to say during this whole process I’ve had to constantly reassure myself, that it’s all gonna be fine.  I think learning any new sewing technique (for me at least) always starts out as intimidating and hard.  Now that I’ve gotten this far with the applique seam, I feel so much more comfortable and confident with it.  But I do believe the best part of this seam is that there’s no one right way to do it; meaning you can pick any motif to use, on any part of the seam.  And as long as the basting lines are there, intact, they equate to constant reassurance that you’ll be able to line your pieces up correctly and sew everything together, easy-peasy like.

What do you guys think so far?  Is this something you guys want to learn how to do for one of your own projects?

And as always, drop me a line if you have any questions or thoughts.

In: Sewing

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

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