Just walking down the streets in New York City turns up denim in every form - from funky overalls to snappy boots to elegant blazers. And with so much of it around, every piece of it should be as individual as possible.

Enter, applique!

The word "applique" comes from the French verb "to put on" and means the act of cutting out one cloth and putting it on another. Inspiration can come from anywhere - children's books, comic strips, horticulture magazines, record covers, you name it.

I have two favorite methods of applying designs onto cloth, and one's as easy as the other. The first is stitching the shape onto the jeans or denim. If you prefer a smooth edge, iron back a small hem all around with a warm iron. That way, when you sew, you'll have an even edge to go by and it will look neat when stitched down.

If you like a "raw" edge, sew the shape down after you've cut it out and secure it to the denim or blue jean fabric with a simple, "couching" stitch. This method of sewing right around the raw edge is also good for fabrics that don't take well to ironing back hems - such as velvets, heavy linens and ribbon.

This would be a good time to try the second method of blue jean applique, The "Stitchwitchery," or "WonderUnder," technique lets you iron shapes onto fabric without sewing. This fusible pellon web is available in notions departments under several trade names.

First, put a sheet of Stitchwitchery on top of a piece of plastic, then put your fabric on top of the Stitchwitchery. Next, give the fabric a quick squirt of water with a plant sprayer, and put a warm iron over the three layers to the count of five. Your fabric and stitchwitchery are held together lightly as though they were basted.

Now you can cut out your shape as though the two fabrics were one, lay it down and permanently iron it onto your blue jean or denim in one step.

Q: Although I love my various needlework and quilting projects, I'm addicted to my sewing machine - especially the zigzag attachment. Is it an amateur's shortcut to machine-stitch applique pieces to the background fabric of my table mats?

A: There's nothing amateurish about something expertly done. And while machine work might offend some needlework purists, I don't see anything "illegitimate" when it comes to stitchery.