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There are lots of options for appliqué, which is essentially just adhering a feature fabric to a background or base fabric. But with machine appliqué, you need a quality thread that can both outline accurately as well as fill without obliterating the accent fabric. These adorable gingham fruit machine appliqué designs were custom digitized for the Aurifil 80wt ultra-fine thread. It performed fantastically in the outline stage, creating smooth even stitches. We then added overlapping lines of embroidery to simulate gingham. The resulting stitch work is so delicate and precise, you almost do a double-take when you realize it’s stitching and not actual gingham fabric! 

The custom embroidery files are available as free downloads courtesy of Aurifil Thread. Each of the three fruits is a separate design you can download in ART, EXT, JEF, PES, VIP, and VP3.

The stitching of these little designs may seem basic, but as is often the case, creating something so clean and simple can sometimes be harder than a more complex stitch out. Your thread must perform flawlessly to produce the distinct lines that make up the design. Because there is more “air” or white space around the design, there’s more attention drawn to each stitch. The Aurifil 80wt thread allows you to make basic – beautiful!

We used classic toweling for our samples, which comes pre-hemmed along the selvedges. This means you just need a simple hem top and bottom to finish each towel. Of course, you could also use a purchased kitchen towel or create your own towel from yardage.

We recommend using a quality cotton or linen for the towel fabric, however, because our designs specify a solid white quilting cotton for the base shape of the fruit, you could even use a terry cloth. The appliqué fabric will overlap the terry’s nap, allowing the fine stitching to still stand out. This appliqué method, with a white base fabric, also means you can use any color for the toweling and the gingham stitching will still retain its traditional bright white look.

The designs would also be a cheery addition to placemats, hot pads, and other kitchen linens. They’d even be cute as a featured embellishment on a child’s jumper or overalls.

Our towel samples finish at 16” wide x 26½” long. The fruit designs finish approximately as follows: the Red Apple at 3½” x 3⅝”, the Green Apple at 3¼” x 4”, and the Pear at 3½” x 4”. You can position them in any way you choose, even using a “fruit salad” of all three designs on a single towel.

You can find the Aurifil 80wt thread collection at your favorite online or in-store independent retailer. Our friends at Fat Quarter Shop have a fantastic selection of individual spools as well as unique spool bundles.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ⅞ yard of 16” wide toweling for EACH towel or your choice of towel yardage or a purchased towel; we used 16” wide, 100% cotton Moda Toweling
  • TWO fat quarters or scraps of 44”+ wide quilting cotton for the appliqué elements; we used White for the base fruit shape and Dark Green for the leaves
  • Tear-away stabilizer as recommended for your embroidery machine
  • Aurifil 80wt thread for the appliqué:
    White 2021
    Green 2890
    Beige 2312
    Red 2250
    Apple Green 1147
    Yellow 1135
  • We also recommend Aurifil 80wt thread in White 2021 for the bobbin
  • Aurifil 50wt thread is recommended for the towel hemming
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started and Embroidery Downloads

From the 16″ wide toweling, cut ONE 28” length for each towel.

Embroidery preparation

  1. Download the Gingham Fruit embroidery design(s) of your choice in the appropriate format for your machine. Save the design to a memory stick. You should also print the PDF file(s) with the design crosshairs for placement.
  2. Our Download Page also contains all the Color Chart information with the color change steps. This information has been repeated below as well.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Hem the toweling

  1. If working with traditional toweling, you need only add a simple hem top and bottom. Our Moda Toweling came 16” wide with a generous ½” hem along each side. To best match this and keep bulk to a minimum, fold back the top and bottom raw edges ¼” and press, then fold an additional ½” and press again.
  2. Edgestitch along the inner fold in a matching thread to secure both hems.
  3. If you are making your own towel from another fabric, you’ll need to stitch both the side hems as well as the top and bottom hems. And, if using a purchased towel you needn’t do anything at all to prepare the towel other than press it flat.

Machine appliqué

  1. Thread the machine with white Aurifil 80wt thread in the bobbin and 80wt thread in the top as listed on the color chart.
  2. Cut away excess paper from the Gingham Fruit Template. Position the template on the pre-hemmed towel. We placed ours 5” up from the bottom and centered side to side. Notice that the crosshairs are positioned at a 45˚ angle. This is so the gingham will stitch on the bias. Pin the template in place.
  3. Hoop the stabilizer and place the hoop in position on your embroidery machine.
  4. Place the towel over the hoop with the template under the needle of the machine. Rotate the template until the crosshairs are perpendicular to the sides of the hoop, with the crosshairs’ arrow pointing toward the top of the hoop. The needle should be directly over the center of the crosshairs.
  5. Pin the towel to the stabilizer and remove the template. If possible, use your machine’s baste function to secure the towel in place.
  6. Set up the machine for embroidery, following your manual.
  7. Follow the steps and suggested colors on the Download Page Color Chart for the embroidery (also shown below).
  8. Appliqué in the hoop is done in four steps. The first step is a stitched outline. We stitched this sample in a colored thread to best show up in photography. As you’ll see below in step three, we actually suggest using matching thread (white thread in our sample) for this step to avoid any color show-through.
  9. For the second step, place the appliqué fabric (the white quilting cotton in our sample) over the stitched outline, making sure it is completely covered.
  10. Stitch a second outline. Again, we are using a colored thread for photography; you should use matching thread.
  11. Step three is to trim the excess fabric close to the stitched outline. In this photo of our actual sample, you can see we used the recommended matching white thread.
  12. Step four is to embroider a satin stitch outline.
  13. Once the main fruit shape appliqué is completed, the design will cue you to change thread in order to stitch the gingham checks. Only the top thread color changes; the bobbin thread remains the same throughout.
  14. And finally, when the fruit is complete, the leaves will be appliquéd in the same manner: first with an outline stitch…
  15. Then you will place the green appliqué fabric and stitch the outline and the veins of the leaf, following the same steps as you did above for the fruit shape appliqué.
  16. The final stitch step is the stem.
  17. When all of the embroidery is complete, remove the hoop from the machine. Remove the excess stabilizer from the back of the embroidery and press from the wrong side.

Below is a Color Chart summary

APPLE (Red) – 7901 Stitches, 95 mm x 111 mm

  • Green 2890 Stem
  • White 2021 Placement outline for apple
  • White 2021 Tack down outline. Trim appliqué.
  • White 2021 Satin stitch outline
  • Beige 2312 Base of apple
  • Red 2250 Gingham
  • Green 2890 Placement outline for leaf
  • Green 2890 Tack down outline. Trim appliqué.
  • Green 2890 Satin stitch outline and leaf details

APPLE 2 (Green) – 7771 Stitches, 109 mm x 93 mm

  • White 2021 Placement outline for apple
  • White 2021 Tack down outline. Trim appliqué.
  • White 2021 Satin stitch outline
  • Green 2890 Stem
  • Apple Green 1147 Gingham
  • Green 2890 Placement outline for leaf
  • Green 2890 Tack down outline. Trim appliqué.
  • Green 2890 Satin stitch outline and leaf details

PEAR – 8975 Stitches, 96 mm x 108 mm

  • Green 2890 Placement outline for leaf
  • Green 2890 Tack down outline. Trim appliqué.
  • White 2021 Placement outline for pear
  • White 2021 Tack down outline. Trim appliqué.
  • Green 2890 Satin stitch outline, leaf details and stem
  • Beige 2312 Base of pear
  • White 2021 Satin stitch outline
  • Yellow 1135 Gingham
  • Green 2890 Placement outline for leaf
  • Green 2890 Tack down outline. Trim appliqué.
  • Green 2890 Satin stitch outline and leaf details


Project Design, Design Digitizing and Sample Creation: Michele Mishler

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