Sunday, October 30, 2011

Suki's Applique Tutorial

Suki is always busy with wonderful projects and I'm so pleased she came in today to teach us how to make an amazing Autumn themed embroidered appliqué!

First of all, thanks so much Laura for hosting this glorious Autumnal blog party!

Did you ever think that all those plain onesies in your little one's wardrobe (or all those plain t-shirts in your own!) were just a little bit boring? Well, here's a simple way to liven them up and make them look altogether more personal and delightful. And it's easy too: I'm no sewing expert so you can be sure that if I can do it, it's pretty simple!

My Autumnal inspiration came on a walk in the park with my toddler. He found an acorn on the ground and held it up to me. I realised it was the first one he'd ever seen. The leaves on the oak trees are just starting to turn golden yellow, while some rusty ones lie on the ground.

You'll also need some card (I use old cereal boxes) or paper for the template. You can probably manage without the embroidery hoop, but I am new to embroidery and find it makes it much easier. They are very cheap and can be used over and over.

I drew my own templates as you can probably tell! You can find lots of inspiration on the web and there are even free templates to be found and printed out if you prefer.

All those glowing leaf colours made me think of the bright colours in my collection of Japanese fabric scraps. I found these in Paris on a trip last year. I use a mixture of vintage/recycled and new fabrics in my projects. I cannot resist buying new fabrics but I try to buy scraps and off-cuts that need using up! Appliqué is great for using up small scraps of material.

There are various different types of "no-sew" backing to create iron-on appliqués. At the moment I'm using bondaweb. The instructions on the packet are really easy to follow. Just remember to iron it onto the "wrong side" (i.e. back) of the fabric.

After cutting out your appliqué shape, you peel of the backing paper to reveal a nice sticky coating ready to attach to your onesie or t-shirt. Do this with all your shapes.

Yay, this is the fun bit! You can see it all coming together! If you're adorning a onesie, make sure the design is on the top half so that it can be seen if the little angel happens to be wearing trousers (pants) or a skirt. Now you just need to...

...iron down those shapes under a damp tea-towel. Isn't this a lovely old tea towel by the way? It's been in the family for many years. Remember it because at some point I'll be sharing a project using some of my old worn-out owl tea towels!

This is where the image takes on definition and shape. You can use embroidery to "draw" lines that bring the leaf and acorn shapes to life. I used brown thread and a small backstitch and 3 threads (embroidery thread is usually 6 twisted together), to give a well-defined, quite solid line. I used very short stitches to help me go round the curves more easily.

I think that it was important to have a well-defined line to make the shapes "pop" over the printed fabrics. If you used plain fabrics, I think a big, gappy running stitch could look good too.


If, like me, you're an embroidery newbie or novice, I highly recommend this post on the Ais for Ampersand blog, by Mel from Thrifted. It's a brilliantly clear and helpful introduction to embroidery! It was quite slow doing all the stitching but I found it a relaxing thing to do in the evening.

(A final note: since there will be a fair bit of thread and knots at the back, you might want to consider stitching on some scrap fabric or backing behind the appliqué on the inside of the garment, to help it withstand washes/wear & tear etc. and also to make it nice and comfy. I haven't done this yet - I was too eager for the trying on session!)

And there you have it: an Autumnal upcycle to give new life to plain clothes! All you have to do now is find a cute model to show it off ;)


p.s. many thanks to Josella of Tack-O-Rama for the 1950s-style Pacifico font (by code.newtypography) I used in the images for this tutorial. You can download it for free, here, along with lots of others.

If you're a fellow owl lover, you'll really enjoy Suki's blog The Owl Club. Though it's not just about owls. You'll get spoiled with all sorts of great posts about cute things, amazing collections, movies, books and crafting projects. So head on over there!


  1. Suki, you always have great, inspiring posts! I have a couple old garments that could use this applique and embroidery idea to give them a new life. what an amazing thing to see your son's first interest in acorns, too . . . so cute!

  2. i think your dad is right about the tv as well, OR let's just say that you get a lot more done if you actually DO something infront those crappy tv shows?? multitasking is good, right? :D

    i'm so jealous of your neat stitches! i'm way too impatient/not experienced enough to make mine as neat.

  3. erm, i was referring to two different "yous" there.. first part was to Laura and second part of the comment was, of course, meant for Suki.

  4. Thanks ladies!

    Andrea, I'd love to see it if you do some of this, it's bound to be incredible!


Thank you for your comments, they really make my day!


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