How to Make Padded Applique Wall Hangings – Mother Earth News (2023)

Create these padded applique wall hangings as a bright addition to any room.

How to Make Padded Applique Wall Hangings

Quilted wall hangings make a colorful addition to any
room . . . and they aren’t as hard to make as you might think.

Maybe you’d like to make good use of those long winter
nights that you’re now spending curled up by the fire. And
maybe you’d also like to recycle some of the many
attractive scraps of material you’ve saved over the years.
But — and here’s the worst “maybe” of
all — maybe the sheer logistics of making a quilt have
intimidated you enough to keep you from giving it a try.
Well, If that’s your situation . . . perhaps you should try
your hand on a padded applique wall hanging.

The machine-applique “wood stove” wall hanging is — I’m proud to say
— an original design: I made it as a gift
for a friend. (“Rebecca,” I said, “here’s your-own personal
‘padded room’. Bounce off that for a while!”) My friend was
delighted. So was I, because the whole thing took less than
a week to complete — working nights only
— and the ‘total cost for the project was
under $6.00.

You Don’t Have to be an Artist

The great thing about applique is that you don’t have to be
a Picasso to create stunningly beautiful designs. If
there’s a particular part of your homestead that you find
especially attractive, you can make a simple sketch of it
and translate some of that beauty into a highly original
piece of folk art. You might want to capture some trees,
against a sunset say, or a portion of the barn and field
(with a farming implement or two thrown in, perhaps) . . . or
something funky in the way of an indoor scene, such as an
old-timey bathtub (for the bathroom wall, naturally).

Then again, you don’t have to copy real life objects . . . you can also create your own thematic designs. Bold, simple shapes are the most effective. The texture of the material you use (and the underlying padding) will
eliminate the need for a great amount of detail . . .
although if you want to get fancy, you can add some
interesting touches with bits of embroidery here and there.

Applique Wall Hangings: The “Rounded” Look

The wall hangings I make have a kind of three-dimensional quality, a depth and richness that ordinary flat applique can’t match. My
secret: I pad each element of the picture as it is applied
to the cotton fabric “front” . . . and I pad the entire
piece again when I put the backing on. This way, it’s
possible to get a “rounded” look without having to stitch
through five or six layers of tatting all at once.

Applique Wall Hangings: What You’ll Need to get Started

If you do any sewing at all, chances you already have most
of the necessary starting materials on hand. All I had to
buy to make Rebecca’s wall covering was [1] the solid white
cotton fabric that constitutes the piece of work’s front
and back, and [2] a $2.88 package of polyester batting
(from which I had enough left over to pad two smaller wall
coverings later). By dipping into the scrap bag, its easy
to keep costs to a minimum.

Here’s a complete list of the tools and materials you’ll
need to make a 31 foot by 31 inch wall hanging:

Sewing Tools for Wall Hanging Project

[1] A zigzag-type sewing machine

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[2] Scissors

[3] Straight pins

[4] Embroidery needles and hoop

[5] A yardstick or ruler

[6] Chalk and/or a pencil and pen.

Materials for for Wall Hanging Project

[1] One 32 foot by 32 inch sheet of heavy drawing paper (or several
smaller sheets taped together)

[2] Two 36 inch by 36 inch pieces of heavy cotton fabric

[3] Odd scraps of material

[4] Regular sewing thread

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[5] Embroidery floss in a variety of colors

[6] One package of 100% polyester fiber (layer-built

[7] Seam tape (optional)

[8] A 32 inch-long wooden dowel (optional).

How to Select Fabrics for Machine Applique

Applique — which began as a way to patch
worn clothes — is simply a technique for
applying one fabric to another. There are various ways to
do this, but the method I use is the quickest and easiest:
It’s called machine applique.

In machine applique, small pieces of material are cut to
shape, then zigzag-stitched along their rough edges to a
larger piece of cloth. It’s essential to use heavy cotton
or firm, non-fraying fabrics for this method. By choosing
firm fabrics from your scrap bag, you can avoid the
laborious finishing off and handstitching operations that
usually accompany applique. (Not that I don’t enjoy
handwork . . . I do But I’d rather save this kind of work for
decorative embroidery stitches, where I can get as
elaborate as I want.)

How to Adjust Your Sewing Machine for Applique Work

I use a fairly wide zigzag stitch (four or five on my
dial), and I recommend that you do likewise. (You can
regulate this as desired, however.) Place the dial on
“satin stitch” . . . close to zero on most machines. And be
sure to use a medium to heavy machine needle (size 14 to
16) for this kind of multiple-fabric stitching.

Begin Applique Work by Making a Pattern

First make a small sketch of your design (and
please, keep the figures simple). Then
— when you’ve got something you like-redraw
the scene on a 32 foot by 32 inch sheet of paper in actual size,
leaving a 2 inch border around the artwork. (This gives you
room for a 1 inch seam allowance and lets you top-stitch 1 inch in
from the outer edge.) This sheet is your paper pattern.

The first thing you should do with the pattern is lay it
down on your “background” fabric and cut around the pattern
to make a 32 inch by 32 inch square of material. Do this with both
the 36 inch by 36 inch pieces of heavy cotton fabric. (These squares
will, of course, form the front and back of your finished
wall hanging.)

Next, cut the individual design shapes from your pattern
and trace their Putlines onto the scrap-bag pieces of
fabric that will be used in your finished wall hanging.
(Use pencil if your fabric is light-colored . . . chalk when
the material is dark.) Also trace the outline of each
design element onto the back. ground fabric (again using
pencil or chalk as appropriate).

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As you trace around the paper patterns and cut out the
applique pieces, remember that you’ll achieve the best
results with bold textures and color combinations.


If you plan to embroider details onto any of your
applique’s components, leave plenty of room around the
edges of each piece as you trace the design onto the fabric
so you’ll be able to get your embroidery hoop around the
work. Then — after you’ve embroidered — you can
cut away the excess material.

I used very simple stitches, incidentally, on the
individual design elements of the “wood stove” wall hanging. Chain stitches, for
instance, run in alternating colors across the rug, chain
stitching makes up the stove’s “burners”, chain stitching
and backstitching are used on the barrel motif, and
backstitching and French knots on the kerosene lamp.

Wall Hanging Layout

Now snuggle up close to the fireplace, spread out one of
your 32 inch squares of material, and lay the pieces of your
design out on the fabric. (Hint: If you’ll place a 32 inch by
32 inch or larger piece of plywood or cardboard beneath the
square of cloth, your work will be easily portable for
cleanup, and the back of the fabric will stay clean.) And
by all means do experiment with different juxtapositions of
design elements and different types of material . . . you may
discover some particularly striking combinations.
(Originally, for example, I had planned to use a solid
fabric for the stove doors in my “wood stove” wall hanging
. . . but after a little trial and error, I found that a
print looked more interesting.)

Putting the Wall Hanging Together

When you’re satisfied with the layout, you’re ready to move
to the sewing machine. (Or — better yet
— move the sewing machine closer to the
fire.) I find it’s easier to apply the larger pieces first.
And here’s how to prepare the “stuffing” for one of these

First, trace the original paper pattern onto the layered
batting. (Use a triple thickness of batting for most large
pieces . . . more for those items you really want to pop
out.) You can work with a pen or felt-tip marker here,
since you’ll want to cut inside the lines and make
the batting a fraction of an inch smaller all the way
around than the piece of fabric that it will “fill”.

Next, place the batting underneath the corresponding piece
of applique and hand-baste (close to the edge) through both
onto the 32 inch by 32 inch fabric front. After you’ve done several
pieces, you’ll probably be adept enough to forgo the
basting process and pin the pieces directly onto the square
of cloth.

Now you’re ready to machine stitch. (if you’ve never tried
this before, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to practice on some
scraps first before you attempt the real thing. One
advantage of machine applique — you’ll
notice — is that you can use contrasting
thread around the edges of each piece of fabric, which
really helps to define the design.) As you zigzag over the
raw edge, try to keep the machine moving . . . but don’t
“force” the fabric. What you’re aiming for is a smooth,
even satin stitch. Finish each applique by backstitching
and clipping the loose ends of the threads.

On smaller pieces — such as plant leaves — I’ll stitch nearly all the way around the piece, stuff tufts of batting into the leaf
to plump it up (lamb’s wool works great, if you have sheep
on your homestead), then close up the edge.

Finishing Wall Hanging Touches

After all the design pieces have been appliqued to the
front 32-inch square of cloth, it’s a good idea to iron
your future wall hanging. Just press around the edges of
the zigzag stitching (on the wrong side only) . . . never
directly on the padded areas.

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OK. Now you’re ready to put the backing on. (Note: Hidden
loops — through which a dowel may be
inserted for hanging the finished piece —
can be added to the backing. See accompanying
Illustrations.) First cut out a 32-inch square of polyester
batting. (I prefer to use three or four layers.) Next,
place the front and back pieces of 32-inch-square fabric
together (right side to right side), lay the square of
batting on top of the back panel, and pin all three pieces

Now sew 1 inch in from the edge and all the way around the
square except for a 6 inch-long area left open at the
center of the bottom edge. I find that if I use thin
tracing paper or seam tape — or the paper,
cut into strips, that comes between the folds of batting
— along the seam line between the sewing
machine needle and the batting, I don’t have problems with
the machine’s pressure foot catching or tearing the

Next, trim the bottom seam to 1/2 inch and all other seams to
1/4 inch. Clip the corners, then carefully turn the
hanging right side out through the 6 inch opening and push out
the corners. Turn the 6 inch-long open area at the bottom
under and close it up by hand with a simple slip stitch.

Finally, using the satin stitch setting on your machine,
top-stitch through all thicknesses of the wall covering an
inch in from the piece’s outer edges. This helps hold the
batting tightly in place when the piece is hanging. (For
the “wood stove” design shown here, I also top-stitched
through all thicknesses along the lines that define the
“padded room”.)

There you have it: your own uniquely original, colorful,
and three-dimensional applique wall hanging to brighten up
the old homestead. Who knows . . . maybe — if
you really enjoy this craft — you will want to
make several wall coverings in the same theme, then sew ’em
together to create one smashingly beautiful quilt. (And you
thought you didn’t have time to make quilts!)

How to Make Loops on the Back of Your Wall Hanging

Cut out four strips of fabric, 3 inches long by 2 inches wide.

Fold long edges in towards the middle and zigzag down the
center across raw edges.

Measure down 2-1/2 inches from top of the wall hanging’s backing
and 2-1/2 inches in from each side. Pin the bottom edge of each
corner loop to the backing (right sides together). Space
other loops out evenly across back, also 2-1/2 inches from the
top, and pin.

Zigzag several times across bottom edge of loops.

Fold loop down and under. Adjust to size of dowel. Stitch
across bottom fold several times.

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Some Simple Embroidery Stiches

Backstitch: This — one of the easiest and
most useful of embroidery stitches — can be
used to outline shapes and embroider curved lines. It is
worked from right to left, as follows: Bring the needle
through to the front side of the cloth and make a small
stitch backward (i.e., to the right) . . . then bring the
needle through again to the left of the first stitch and
make another backstitch to the start of the first
stitch, and so on.

Chain Stitch: The chain stitch can help you cover a lot of
space quickly . . . and attractively. Just how
quickly depends on how big you make the “loops”. First
bring the needle through to the fabric’s front side. Next,
hold the thread down with your left hand and insert the
needle back through the cloth very close to where it first
emerged. Then bring the point of the needle up through the
cloth a second time in front of your first entry point.
Pull the needle through, while you keep the thread under
its point so that the next stitch holds it down against the
face of the fabric in a loop.

French Knots: Here, each “stitch” resembles a dot or bead.
First pull your needle through from the back to your
cloth’s front side. Next take the working thread in your
left hand and wind It two or three times around the needle,
close to its point. Then — while you hold
the thread taut in the left hand — insert
the needle close to where it first emerged. Now either pull
the needle through to the back of the cloth and tie off the
stitch, or — if you intend to make a series
of French knots — bring the needle through
to the front of the fabric again in position for the next


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