Stitching Freestanding Applique With GlitterFlex


Certain machine embroidered applique designs can be stitched so that they are freestanding. That is, they are not stitched on something else and can stand on their own. It is an easy technique with a lot of potential!

The freestanding applique idea can use be used for ornaments and gift tags as well as play food (add GlitterFlex to cupcakes).

Using GlitterFlex in Freestanding Applique

Not every applique design is suitable for freestanding embroidery. You want a good solid satin stitch on the outside of the applique. Although I love my little Snow Buddies they aren't a good candidate for the freestanding applique technique. Even though there's a satin stitch all around his body, the top of his hat contains fill stitches. Without a satin stitch up there, he wouldn't be a good candidate.

There are a couple of workarounds, if you're good with your digitizing software. You can add a satin stitch around the outer perimeter. Or, you could make it into an ornament and add a name and a year. Just place the design inside a larger circle applique. Some machines allow you to automatically add an applique stitch or a satin stitch with tack down and placement lines around existing designs.

To make it easy on yourself, look for a design that has a satin stitch outline around the applique. My Christmas Cookies set is perfect for stitching freestanding applique. I made this one completely reversible so he looks the same on the front and back. Bear in mind, if you want a reversible freestanding applique, you must change the color of the bobbin every time you change the thread color.

It's really pretty easy as it turns out. Since I am using GlitterFlex as my applique fabric, I need a base fabric. You want to beef up your applique, to make it sturdy, since it won’t be stitched on a fabric or a shirt. Base fabric can be any scrap because it's not going to show after embroidery.

Stitching Freestanding Applique – Three Ways

Use fabric type wash away stabilizer. Do not use the film or plastic looking wash away stabilizer. The fabric type holds up better to satin stitching and fusing GlitterFlex.

Hoop your wash away stabilizer and stitch out the placement line. Lay the base fabric on top and stitch the placement line again. Then, place your GlitterFlex on top of that placement line. Normally, your tack down stitches would coordinate with your applique fabric but matching thread gets lost on GlitterFlex. Make sure you use a contrasting thread color so it is easy to see where to tear and trim. Stitch the applique tack down.

For an applique refresher, check out this blog or this video.

Either gently tear the GlitterFlex away or trim it with scissors. When tearing, hold the applique portion down so that you don’t accidentally tear the GlitterFlex past the stitches. If trimming, don’t worry if you accidentally cut a stitch or two. Unlike fabric, which would fray if you didn't use a fusible behind it, GlitterFlex will fuse down and stay in place.

Leave the base fabric on for right now. It will act as a pressing cloth against your water-soluble stabilizer underneath. Fuse the GlitterFlex in place. Get a refresher on fusing GlitterFlex here.

Option 1 – No Backing Detail

Stitch the face and other details. Add another layer of fabric type wash away stabilizer on the back of the hoop. That will give the final satin stitching a little extra bit of stabilization. Float stabilizer under the hoop and baste it in place. Stitch the final satin outline to finish the design.


Pop the design out of the hoop and trim away the water soluble stabilizer close to the stitching. Another way to remove extra stabilizer is to use a stencil cutter. Trace around the outer edge of the embroidery and it just melts the stabilizer away. Oh so quick and easy!

Remove stabilizer from the back of the applique by carefully clipping inside the stitching line. The base fabric becomes the back of the freestanding applique. Use cotton swabs and water to remove the rest of the stabilizer without soaking the entire piece.

Option 2 – Reversible Applique (Front and Back Look the Same)

If you want a backing on your design so that it is completely reversible and everything looks the same, front and back, stop the machine before all of the detail embroidery is added. Use a little spray adhesive on another piece of GlitterFlex and put it (wrong side) over the placement and tack down stitches on the back of the hooped stabilizer.

Re-stitch the placement line to hold the backing in place. Trim it and add wash away stabilizer on the back of the hoop. Embroider the final satin stitches and remove extra stabilizer.

Option 3 - GlitterFlex on Back Without All the Detail

If you want GlitterFlex on the back side of the freestanding applique without all of the stitched details, change up the sequence. Stitch out the embroidery details then attach the backing. Tack and trim before adding extra stabilizer and embroidering the satin stitched edges.

Add a ribbon loop before the final satin stitch sequence to make an ornament or gift tag. View the video here.

You will never look at satin stitched applique embroidery designs the same way, will you?

May your day be blessed with perfect stitches and GlitterFlex!

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  • Bonnie Welsh - October 30, 2018

    Debbie—I forgot to mention that I use this little “heat sealing iron” that I purchased off of Amazon. No affiliation, just like this little iron for quilting and GlitterFlex here:

  • Bonnie Welsh - October 30, 2018

    Debbie—Thank you for your kind words! You’ve made my day. =) Single needle machines will stop when there is a color change. Multi-needle machines will stop if you program your machine with a “Reserve Stop” so that you can applique appliques properly. This is something you set up at your machine—no applique designs don’t automatically do that for multi-needle machines. It’s not hard, just you tell the machine which colors you want it to stop at so that you can place fabric down, trim, etc. instead of automatically continuing on. Hope that makes sense.

  • Debbie Carlson - October 27, 2018

    Hi Bonnie;
    LOVE your tutorials, I am learning a lot. I have organized my sewing fabric and thread thanks to your tips. I am wondering, what is the small iron you use to fuse on the glitter flex with? I would love to start embroidering with glitter flex, do your designs have stopping points if I need to change colors of threads? I have a Babylock Enterprise 10 needle machine and would love to do some of your designs, but I am not sure if there are points that I can stop to program my machine change thread colors, or pull the embroidery hoop out to fuse on the material. Any help you can give me I would greatly appreciate.

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