Make Reverse Madeira Appliqué Windows and Hems

madeira applique

Reverse Madeira appliqué can be used to create lovely shaped, transparent windows and hems in your garments, accessories and home decor items. Try out this heirloom technique on your next project with this tutorial from Sue Stewart.

“I like to use an opaque fabric, such as handkerchief linen or silk dupioni for the base fabric, and a sheer fabric, such as silk organza or Swiss cotton organdy for the windows or hems to highlight the differences in transparency,” Sue says. “Both base and appliqué fabrics should be of natural fibers. I use a water-soluble stabilizer (WSS) ‘facing’ to turn the raw edges to the inside. There are many water-soluble stabilizers available, and I haven’t tried them all. For this technique, I prefer using Sulky® Super SolvyTM, as it does not seem to shrink up as much as some when ironed. If the stabilizer you are using shrinks up a lot, eliminate the ironing steps and just finger press.”

This tutorial first appeared in Sue’s “Sue Says” column in the January/February 2006 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.


1. Trace desired shape onto right side of starched and pressed base fabric.

2. Cut a piece of WSS at least 1-inch larger on all sides than traced shape. Center WSS over traced shape on right side of base fabric.

3. Using fine cotton thread to match base fabric, stitch a short straight stitch (L = 1.5 – 2.0) directly on traced line, which you should be able to see through WSS.

4. Cut out inside of stitched window, leaving slightly more than 1/8-inch seam allowance. Clip curves and corners. (Photo 1)

5. Turn WSS to wrong side of fabric. Use your fingers to manipulate fabric so that seam is right on edge, with no WSS showing from right side. Finger press, and press from right side to form a sharp crease. (Photo 2)

6. Place transparent “window” fabric under faced opening, aligning grain line with grain line of base fabric. Pin well, or use a tiny bit of water-soluble glue to secure.

7. With a 100 or 110 Universal or topstitch needle and fine cotton thread, pinstitch (L = 1.0 – 2.5; W = 1.5 – 2.0) all the way around window, with forward-and-backward portion of pinstitch going into window fabric only, and side-to-side “teeth” biting into base fabric. (Photo 3)

8. Another row of stitching will firmly secure window fabric and encase seam allowances. Stitch another row of pinstitching 1/4-inch outside first, with “teeth” pointing in toward window. (Photo 4)

9. Soak fabric to remove stabilizer. Press dry. Trim away window fabric on wrong side close to second stitching.

10. Variations of this technique would be to use a tiny featherstitch (L = 2.0; W = 1.5 – 2.0) in matching or contrasting rayon thread for second stitching, and/or to embroider a delicate motif on window fabric before stitching it to base fabric. (Photo 5)


1. Trace desired shape onto lower edge of starched and pressed base fabric.

2. Cut strip of WSS and stitch to right side of base fabric as for windows, with most of WSS above stitching. (Photo 6)

3. Trim, clip and turn as for windows.

4. Cut strip of organdy or organza twice the desired hem width, plus seam allowance. Press strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. (Photo 7)

5. Place raw edges of hem strip under faced base fabric. Pin. Stitch twice along shaped edge as for windows. (Photo 8)

6. Soak to remove stabilizer. Press dry. Trim away excess hem fabric close to second stitching.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of this guide to sewing reverse Madeira appliqué windows and hems.

Sue Stewart worked as a primary designer for Martha Pullen Company from 1990 to 2005, during which she had dozens of featured articles in Sew Beautiful magazine. An award-winning designer of heirloom and machine-embroidered quilts, she has designed and sewn for Martha’s Sewing Room and many Martha Pullen publications. Visit her website at

Check out these products in our online shop for more Madeira appliqué instruction:

Learn the secrets to Madeira appliqué in this video workshop with Martha Pullen!

On this episode of “Martha’s Sewing Room,” Martha Pullen shows a Madeira appliqué technique using wash-away basting thread that’s easy and beautiful.

5 thoughts on “Make Reverse Madeira Appliqué Windows and Hems

  1. Anita

    I really will give this a try! Humane it look quite easy – actually doing it might be another matter!!!

  2. Anita

    Should have said doing it! I hate these automatic words you have not typed in! I have always loved you web site and some years ago I emailed you a quilt I made. I have made many more since then.

  3. Kim H.

    This is one of my favorite heirloom techniques! I love the idea of using WSS instead of a “waste fabric.” Thank you Sue!

  4. Carol Steanson

    I love this technique, It’s exquisite. Sue’s instructions are always well explained. Just can’t wait to use it.


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