Many applique patterns don't have any numbering sequence. Simple designs simply don't need them, but for more detailed patterns, it certainly helps make construction easier so this is why I include them in my patterns.
So you already know, when building an applique shape such as a flower, it is all about layering, right? One piece is placed down and another will partially cover that. It is important to get the order right so the design looks correct and in turn, all raw edges will either be covered or stitched down. The latter either turned under or fused and stitched.
The numbering tells you the order in which to place each piece of fabric within the applique shape you are making. It also lets you know if you need to extend the piece so it goes under another. A good example of this is my Simply Sunflowers design.
Let's take a look at how we go about extending each section in a little more depth... Each section needs to be extended where another piece is numbered higher than itself so that an overlap is created. For example in the first sunflower of Simply Sunflowers, Section 1 needs to be extended into sections 3, 9, and 10 as indicated by dotted lines in the picture. This extension will lay underneath those pieces.
Right: Section 1 will look like this when cut out
... and Section 3 will be extended into sections 4 and 9 only, not section 1 this time because it is numbered lower than 3.
Right: Section 3 will look like this when cut out
Why is it important to add these overlaps to each section? When you add this overlap, there is less need to be accurate with both our cutting and ensuring that each section fits snuggly together. Imagine if you had to cut very precisely along the lines - you'd never get two pieces exact! And even if you did, if edges do not overlap, it would be necessary to stitch both raw edges where they meet. When this is done, the stitching can cause the pieces to separate slightly allowing the background to show through. Of course, this is something we do not want to happen.
Using the numbers, you can place each piece in the correct order, nothing needs to be pressed until it is complete so you can easily change a petal if you don't like the fabric, and pieces will cover over any extensions added so the correct design will be formed. Look how easy that is when you have a numbering sequence...
PS: This process really simplifies the construction, however, if you think that way too many pieces for your liking, my workshop explains how you can simply the sunflower very easily so that each flower only has 3 pieces instead of 16-18 pieces. Interested? You can sign up for that here: Sunflowers at Dawn