February 17, 2009

Simple applique t-shirts

Several people have asked me this week how to applique original designs onto t-shirts.

I know lots of us make these, but now might be a good time to do a very quick tutorial, given that many of us are crafting handmade gifts and donations at the moment -- or have been inspired to try some t-shirts or teatowels after seeing them at the sewing bee!

Here's what you need:

A t-shirt, sleeveless top or teatowel
- I often use old t-shirts with the neckband chopped off to make a wider scoop (zig-zag or bind the edge) - or if I'm buying for this purpose, I look for plain knit tees that are not very thin or ribbed.
Double-sided fusible interfacing
- Vliesofix is a popular brand name. Just ask for it at the counter of any fabric shop.
Fabric scraps
- Quilters' cottons and similar cotton works best.

First, I draw my pattern on paper until I get it right. Remember that you will curse the skinny bits later, so hold off on cows with skinny knobbly knees if you are a beginner!

The pattern for the red t-shirt shown below.

Don't forget: your image will come out reversed. That's why I always do motifs that can face either direction - less thinking for me!

For ideas, I look for simple, chunky images in books of decorative patters, online, in kids' books and in the Dover sampler email I receive each week - which has images like these, below, that you are free to use for personal craft:

Aren't they great? (Sign up here.) Trace around the edges, simplify the idea, and you're all set.

Once you're happy with the pattern, draw it onto the papery smooth side of the vliesofix. Cut around it roughly, and iron to the BACK of your cotton scrap.

Now cut very carefully along the outside lines you have just drawn.

Iron your t-shirt to make sure it's flat. Peel the paper off the pieces of your vliesofixed scraps, place them (carefully) and iron them down. A temperature setting at about 'wool' on the iron seems to work best.

Now, to the sewing machine! Sometimes you might need to add embroidery stabilizer at the back, but I generally don't as long as I am using an open-mouthed zig-zag, not a smoothe run of satin stitch.

I select zig-zag, set the width to 2 and the length to 2, and try on a scrap first to see if I'm happy. Sew slowly around all of the edges, ending with a back stitch. You can use contrasting colours or matching colours. I often also do a wild freehand swirl of zig-zagginess across the middle of the patch, just to hold it flat and add some fun.

Clip the threads, add any embroidery or other touches, and wear (or give) with pride!


Tinniegirl said...

You are such a talented creative woman. I love your applique work. That first photo is my favourite. I haven't clicked on the link yet but I'm assuming it's the image source we were talking about the other day.

Hey. Go and check out
www.tinniegirl.com.au. I am so excited. Thanks again for your brilliant help.

CurlyPops said...

Fabulous! I love a bit of t-shirt bling.

Hoppo Bumpo said...

What a great tutorial. You are the Queen of Applique!

Bellgirl said...

At last, a simple tutorial on applique! I might just be brave enough to try now :)