Chiffon appliqué

This is one of a series of ‘hints and tips’ articles from Ruth O’Leary. View some of Ruth’s work in the Gallery

Appliquéd chiffon shape

Appliqué means attaching a shape in one fabric to a background of another fabric. There are lots of different ways of doing this, including the use of iron-on adhesive interfacings such as Bondaweb, but in this tips article we’ll look at using hand-stitched chiffon shapes to build up layers of colour.

Chiffon appliqué gives a light, ethereal effect, allowing the background fabric to show through. It can be used on very fine fabrics.

Materials and equipment


When working on a project using chiffon appliqué you will need:

General sewing kit (needles, scissors, etc)

  • Sewing hoop or frame
  • A background fabric
  • Sheer fabric such as chiffon or organza
  • Tacking thread
  • Sewing thread to match your fabrics
  • Embroidery threads for embellishment (stranded cotton in a matching or contrasting colour is fine, or a metallic thread you can either sew with or for couching can work well)
  • Sharp scissors with a good point.

Getting started


Once you’ve finalised your design:

Transfer the design to your background fabric and mount the fabric in a frame or hoop, using a lining fabric if required.

Gingko leaf design marked onto the fabric ready for embroidery

Gingko leaf design marked onto the fabric ready for embroidery

Cut a piece of chiffon or other sheer fabric larger than the shape to be appliquéd.

Chiffon laid over the top of the design

Chiffon laid over the top of the design

Tack this to the background, over the shape.

Using small stitches, back stitch around the outline of the shape, to attach the chiffon to the background.

Outline of the design stitched onto the fabric

Outline of the design stitched onto the fabric

Very carefully, trim the excess chiffon with sharp pointed scissors. Leave a small margin round the shape, to allow for a small amount of fraying.

Cut away the excess chiffon

Cut away the excess chiffon

Embellish with surface stitchery or beading if required.

The appliquéd design

The appliquéd design

Chiffon appliqué hints


If you’re using a fine fabric, you may wish to use a firmer fabric such as calico as a backing, depending on the effect you wish to achieve. A fine fabric on its own will not have the strength of cotton or linen, so take care when stretching it in a hoop or frame.

Layers of chiffon can be built up in this way, to give a deeper colour. This works well over part of the design, to give contrast and depth.

Use a plain sewing thread to stitch the shape if it’s to be covered over later. If it’s to be left plain, use an embroidery thread, such as stranded cotton. A variegated thread can give an interesting effect.

Over-stitching over back stitches used to attach the chiffon can be used to neaten the shape. Chain stitch in a metallic thread or a toning or contrasting stranded cotton can work very well, as can couching.

Find out more


If you’re interested in finding out more about Ruth’s work or would like to discuss commissioning a piece of unique textile art, please get in touch.