...bring May flowers. I promised you a tutorial on the lace applique I used on Nora's Little Bunny Foo Foo shirt a few weeks ago. Here's my second spring shirt using the same technique--this time, my rendition of a happy raincloud spreading drops of sunshine. I added a cute face using a simple backstitching and embroidery thread.
Before I start the tutorial, allow I me to add the usual craft-blogger disclaimer--that I am not a trained appliquer and I am only describing my own technique. ;) I welcome your input on what's worked well for you!
Here's what you'll need, in addition to the item to be appliqued:
- lace (scraps are fine if they are big enough to match the design)
- contrasting underlying fabric in the same dimensions as your design and lace (as you can see above, I gathered a lot of options when I started to have a wide selection to choose from)--see below for some hints on choosing an underlying fabric
- thread for the applique (eg for finishing the edges of your design), as well as white thread or other color needed to match the lace--see below for some hints on thread choice
- optional ribbon (I used 1/2" wide grosgrain)
- fusible fabric adhesive (such as Wonder Under or Heat 'n Bond)
- lightweight interfacing
- your design, hand-drawn, printed or copied onto regular paper to the final dimensions (Google Images is great for finding simple images--the simpler the design the better or else you'll risk losing too much detail in the process). Here's the start of my cloud design, with a piece of lace on top to test the "effect" (note, you'll see that I was also testing out some different eyes in the process).
To begin, cut out your motif from the paper. Cut a piece of lace and a piece of your contrasting fabric** in the general shape of your design, leaving at least a 1" border around the entirety of the design. If your lace isn't wide enough (because it's a scrap or a lace ribbon for example), you may be able to overlap two pieces to make it sufficiently cover the design area. I did this on the bunny shirt and even up close it is difficult to see it.
**For the fabric underlying the lace, I used quilters cotton for both of my designs. A solid fabric is probably best, but a simple pattern is fine if it isn't too busy. Otherwise, the pattern of the fabric will compete with the pattern of the lace. Also, I recommend a bright contrasting color because it makes the appliqued item "pop" against the fabric of your shirt. For the bunny shirt, I used a coral quilters cotton against a white shirt. Here, I used a grassy green polka dot to contrast with the aqua blue shirt.
Now, make a sandwich from these 3 layers: contrasting fabric on the bottom, lace, and paper pattern piece, all face up. Pin the layers together in several spots, staying clear of the cut edge of your pattern.
With white thread in your sewing machine (assuming your lace is white) and your machine set to a short stitchlength (1.6-1.8), sew the fabric layers together following the perimeter of your design, not more than 1/8" away from the paper pattern. (Note that you do not sew into the paper, but outside of it.) To go smoothly around curves, you may have to stop periodically and pivot your fabric with your machine's needle in the down position. When you have circumnavigated the entire perimeter of the design, you will have an outline of your design stitched through your lace and fabric layers.
[This is the point at which I hand embroidered the face onto the cloud. Another change I made to this version was to add 2 small solid peach circles to the contrasting underlayer to give a hint of the cloud's rosy cheeks.]
Time to iron on the fusible fabric adhesive. Cut a piece of the adhesive paper in the same shape as your fabric/lace and iron it to the wrong side of the contrasting underlayer, following the manufacturer's instructions. Remove the paper backing on the adhesive so that you can see the sewn outline you made in the previous step. Trim away all the excess fabric close to this sewn outline.
Here's what mine looked like underneath. (The gray thread you see is from the hand embroidery.)
Next, position your design face up on the right side of the shirt (or item to be appliqued) and iron the design onto your shirt, again following the instructions for your adhesive product. To ensure the best bond, I found it works better to iron from the inside of the shirt, rather than on the lace side. If it appears your adhesive is not going to adhere strongly enough, don't despair--just pin the design in place in the center of the design (i.e., not at the edges) and remove after appliqueing. Lastly, for added stability during the applique process, you can iron on a piece of interfacing to the wrong side of the shirt to cover the area of your design.
OK, on to appliqueing the design to the shirt. It's really important to test out your machine's zigzag stitches on a swatch piece of fabric to get the right settings on your zigzag -- you are looking for a fairly tight stitch of medium width to cover the raw edge of your design all the way around. If the stitches are too far apart (i.e. stretched in length), you'll see more of the raw edge in between the stitches. I also keep the width of the stitch fairly narrow because this helps you to turn corners and navigate around curves more smoothly and it looks less chunky and overwhelming than a wider stitch.
** Note: For thread, I typically use a regular polyester thread like Gutermann's all purpose. However, I happened to have on hand the right color blue in a special machine embroidery thread by Coats and Clark, so I used that for experimentation purposes (with a coordinating all purpose thread in the bobbin). I didn't notice much difference in the end product, to be perfectly honest, so I wouldn't bother differentiating for a small project like this.
Make sure to keep the backside of the shirt free from the needle!
If you'd like to add a bow to your finished design, I suggest making the bow using a longer length of ribbon than you think you'll need, then trim any excess last. My technique for getting a small bow that lays smoothly is to make two individual loops with the ribbon, and tie those loops together into a bow--just as you would if you were tying your shoe only you don't cross the ribbon ends first--does that make sense? After sewing the bow in place, I trimmed the ends of the ribbons neatly by folding the ribbon in half hotdog-wise and cutting across the folded edge at a 45 degree angle. Here's a step by step:
I hand sewed the center of the bow into place on the design, then created a few "ripples" in the ribbon ends by machine sewing a few stitches in the valleys created by these ripples (where my fingers are in the picture below).
Finally, I chose to sew on some raindrops without lace. I positioned the drops on the shirt and adhered them using the fabric adhesive. I then stitched the drops in place with white thread on the inside of the cut design--this is called "raw edge applique" because it leaves a raw edge on the design, a look that I particularly like. You could use the same applique technique described above if you want a more finished looking edge.
Here's the final look!
I can think of lots of other motifs that would work well with a touch of lace--an ice cream cone, a heart, stars on a dark navy shirt to name a few. What will you come up with?