A step by step photo tutorial on how to applique on an embroidery machine. This post will show you how to embroider an applique using a Brother SE400. Create Shirts, tea towels, blankets, baby gifts and more!

Embroidery machine, hoop and complete applique

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I have the Brother SE400 and that is what we will use today. I think you can apply this method many other machines with minor changes!

What is an Applique?

An applique is basically a fabric design sewn onto another fabric base. You can leave the applique with sewn edges or you can use an embroidery machine to finish the edges with a satin stitch

A satin stitch can best be described as a filling stitch. The thread is stitched right next to one another.

Embroidered Applique Letter with Name
You can see here fabric is applied on top of another fabric and satin stitched embroidered to complete an applique

Where to purchase embroidery & applique designs:

Here are my favorite places to grab the cutest embroidery applique files! Different embroidery machines accept different types of embroidery files so be sure you read up which types your machine takes!

When you purchase them, they are normally offered in ALL the file extensions!

Notes about the Brother SE400/SE600 Sewing & Embroidery Machine

This specific machine doubles as both a sewing machine and embroidery machine. I love that I get 2 machines in one and I also think it’s a great machine for hobbyists and beginners.

The maximum size for a Brother SE400 is 4 x 4 inches (actually 3.93 x 3.93 inches) If you are looking to sell products you might want to size up to the Brother PE770 or PE800 (the 800 has a color screen) because those will give you 5×7 inch embroidery area.

The larger area is better for children’s shirts and jammies! The 4 x 4 works great for baby bodysuits and smaller things like towels, makeup bags etc.

How to Convert the Brother SE400/SE600 from sewing into an embroidery machine

With your machine turned off, remove the front plastic casing and replace with embroidery carriage.

remove front of sewing machine

Using the black-handled tool, loosen the presser foot screw and remove the presser foot. Replace with the embroidery foot and retighten the screw.

Removing sewing machine presser foot with tool
embroidery foot attached to machine

You may now power on your machine. A note will pop up warning you that the carriage will move. Make sure it’ is clear and press OK. The carriage will slightly adjust to make sure all connections are secure.

NOTE: When removing the embroidery carriage, there is a lever to press under the left-hand side of the carriage. Press this and it will release the carriage from the machine.

Supplies for Embroidered Applique

How to Applique on an Embroidery Machine

  1. Load your design onto your embroidery machine

    You can find detailed instructions for how to upload designs into a Brother SE400 here.

  2. Prepare your hoop

    Layer these items in this order. Place the bottom of your hoop. Add a layer of Stabilizer. Add your finished fabric (onesie, towel, blanket, etc.) Finish with the top layer of the hoop. Secure all together by tightening the hoop screw. Click the hoop into your machine.Step out on how to prepare your embroidery hoop for applique

  3. Stitch the Applique outline

    Once your presser foot is lowered, the needle button will turn green and you may press it to start. The machine will stitch an outline of your design. It does not matter what thread color you use here as it will be covered up. Close up of outline stitch created to show placement of applique fabric

  4. Apply Applique fabric over stitch outline

    There are 2 ways that you can apply your fabric over your stitched outline.

    The first method is to use a temporary spray adhesive. Spray the wrong side of the fabric and place over the outline. The adhesive will help keep it in place while stitching.

    The second method and my preferred method is to line the back of your applique material with wonder under and hold it in place while the machine performs another outline stitch. applique fabric covering the applique outline stitch

  5. Run Tack Stitch to Keep applique fabric in place

    Press the green button again and it will run another outline stitch to keep your applique fabric in place. Again, thread color is not important here.

  6. Trim excess Applique Fabric from Design

    Raise the presser foot and carefully remove the hoop from the machine. Using small sharp scissors, cut the excess fabric away as close to the stitch lines as you can, obviously without cutting the stitches. Cutting excess fabric away from applique stitching

  7. Heat set in place

    If you chose to use the wonder under, use a mini iron to press the applique fabric to the base fabric. This will prevent puckering during the rest of the embroidery process and also after washing. I definitely like to use this method when making baby gifts or gifts that need regular washing. Pressing the fusible interfacing with a dritz mini iron

  8. Verify Thread Color

    The next stitches will show so you will need to make sure your machine is threaded with the appropriate colored thread. (bobbin thread never matters since it only shows on the back!)

  9. Add Tacking Stitch

    Replace the hoop into the machine and lower the presser foot. Press the green button and the machine will add a tacking stitch. This will be a stitch that outlines where the satin stitch will go. It is usually a V or E stitch. It is building a base for the satin stitch!Close up of tacking V stitch

  10. Embroider Satin Stitch

    After the tacking stitches finish in the step above, the machine will begin the finished satin stitch in segments. Close up of finished embroidery satin stitch

  11. Remove stray threads and lint

    Remove the hoop from your machine and clean up any long threads with scissors and remove any fabric or thread lint with a lint roller. Applique in hoop with lint roller

  12. Clean up Stabilizer

    Loosen the screw on your hoop and remove your project. Flip it over and remove the excess tearaway stabilizer as well as any stabilizer in the center of your stitches.

  13. Finished Project!

    You may need to press your final project to remove any wrinkles from your embroidery hoop! Enjoy your project!Finished Applique

Tips for Appliques using an Embroidery Machine

  • When adding applique to a shirt or baby bodysuit, be sure you have only the single layer of fabric in your hoop. If you hoop both front and back you will stitch both front and back making wearing the shirt/bodysuit impossible!
  • Trim your excess fabric as close to the stitching outline as you can without cutting the outline itself.
  • Use a lint roller to grab any stray threads or pieces of fabric after your design is complete
  • If using a terry cloth towel you will need to add a water-soluble topping before stitching. (more on this later!)