Saturday Sewing with Janome : Sewing cork appliqués with the Janome HD Roller foot

As I’m sure you may have noticed, I am a huge fan of cork fabric and use it often. I’ve recently started experimenting with appliqué using cork, trying to find uses for smaller pieces that are not large enough for bags. In case you missed it, I used tiny scraps to make these hexie appliqués. This time, I will be using slightly larger pieces for decorative appliqué on a larger bag. If you’re new to cork, I purchase all my cork from MM Cork Supply here in Canada and the curated packs are perfect for larger appliqué projects.


1. Choose a pattern:

I wanted to make a bag that would provide a larger area to work with so I selected my Snowdrop Satchel pattern in the larger size and changed the straps slightly to use metal hardware connectors instead of the usual strap connectors. This provided me with an area that was approximately 13” wide x 8” high. 

2. Gather your supplies:

In addition to a sewing machine and basic sewing supplies, you will need:

  • Glue stick
  • Fabric glue (I use Fabri-tac)
  • Thread (I am using a 100% polyester upholstery weight thread in my HD9. The weight is Tex 75.)
  • I recommend a needle size of 90/14 when sewing with cork. (I’m using an HLx5 type needle which is the recommended needle for the HD9). 

3. Select an appliqué design:

When selecting a pattern or design to appliqué, I sometimes find some great simple images that are free to download when I do an internet search. However, this time I decided to use a font that I enlarged to 300 pt and printed out. (There are many free fonts available on the internet but you will need to know how to install new fonts on your computer). If you’re not entirely comfortable with fonts, I have prepared a PDF file of the flower I used in this tutorial which you can print out and use yourself.  

4. Prepare your appliqué paper template pieces:

If you’re using my flower image, you’ll want to print out 3 copies and cut out as shown in the photo above: the inside circle, the inside flower and then the outside flower. If your chosen image is just one layer, then that will be much simpler and you only have to print and cut out one page.

5. Select your fabric:

Now it’s time for the fun part: selecting your cork fabric!

 Keeping in mind that the background fabric would be a natural cork, I selected the “Candy Red” for the exterior flower, “Aqua” for the inside flower and then “Printed Gold Geo on Natural” for the inside circle (all are from MM Cork).


  1. Using the glue stick, spread a thin layer of glue on the wrong side of your paper shape. This glue is only to hold it in place so make sure you don’t apply too much glue.

2. Now draw the outline of your shape on the wrong side of your cork fabric. I don’t recommend drawing on the right side of your cork because you may leave some pen marks on your piece.

3. Now use a sharp pair of scissors and carefully cut out your shape(s). Do not use a rotary cutter if you have corners in your design or you will have trouble cutting neatly.

Repeat steps 1-3 for all of your shapes, if using more than one. Once all of your shapes are cut out, we can start sewing.

4. I will be using the HD9 roller foot that came with the HD leather kit for the Janome HD9 Professional. (link on the HD9 Roller foot takes you to a great video that Michael made showing how to use the HD Roller foot. Ed.) The Once the foot is attached, you can press on the screw seen in the photo above, which allows the wheel to rotate away from the needle for threading. 

5. Since I am using a heavy weight thread, I will be following the threading instructions found directly on the machine to thread my HD9.

6. You’ll need to adjust the foot pressure when using your roller foot. The recommended setting can vary between 2 and 3. 

To verify your foot pressure and tension settings, prepare a test layer “sandwich” and look closely at your top and bottom stitches to make sure your stitches look nice on both sides and that your tension and/or foot pressure doesn’t need adjustments. I am using a stitch length of “3” since that setting seems to work best with the roller foot.

7. You’ll want to keep your needle in the down position to help when rotating at corners.

8. Use a ruler and mark the centre of the panel on which you will be sewing the appliqué. If you’re not centering your design, skip this step. Since I am sewing my design to the centre, I marked the top and bottom centre to  help me align my pieces for sewing.

9. Using your fabric glue, spread a VERY thin, even layer of glue on the wrong side of your cork. Never use thick layers of glue on cork as it can damage the finish on the good side of your cork fabric. If you’re doing the flower like I am, you will start with the exterior flower piece. The order in which they will be sewn on are: exterior flower, interior flower then interior circle last.

10. Glue the shape to your panel with the wrong side of the shape glued to the right side of the panel. If you need to,  use your ruler to make sure it is centered. Give the glue a chance to dry before sewing. 

11. Start by positioning your needle so it is approximately 1/8” from the outer edge of your shape. It doesn’t matter where you start sewing but I’ve chosen to start at the pointed end of one flower petal. Again, your needle should be kept in the down position and make sure you’ve tested foot pressure and thread tension so you can focus on maintaining the same distance 1/8” distance from the edge of your shape when sewing.

12. When you reach a sharp corner, keeping the needle in the down position, lift your presser foot and rotate the entire panel as needed. 

13. When you have sewn all the way around, I usually try to backstitch a couple of times where I started sewing however I go very slowly to make sure my backstitching stays in the exact same spot and then I pull my top thread through to the back and tie it off with the bobbin thread.

You will now repeat steps 1-13 for any other shapes/layers you want to add. If you’re making the flower like I am, you’ll repeat those steps for the interior flower and then the interior circle shapes.

YOU’RE DONE! All you need to do now is follow the instructions in Celine’s Snowdrop Satchel pattern (or whatever bag you might like to try out this applique technique) to complete your bag. I am now super glad I did not turf out those little cork off cuts as I for sure know what I’m going to do with them!! Ed

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