Remember how on Monday I said I’ve been doing a lot of sewing? Well I’m excited to share what I’ve been up to! A lot of of what I’ve been doing involves applique and I’ve been having so much fun with it! I’ve understood the how-to’s of applique for a long time, but truth be told I’d never tried it out until a few weeks ago, and since then, I’ve been going applique-crazy! It is really easy and super-fun. It is also a fantastic and it is a fantastic way to make things that are personalized and/or unique. Never tried applique yourself? I’ll walk you through it and show you how I made this wall art for my mom’s 2nd grade classroom!
To applique, you need your base fabric (the fabric on which your letters will be sewn) and a contrasting fabric for your letters (or shapes or whatever you’re appliqueing). If your base fabric is, say, a blanket, you’ll just applique directly onto your blanket’s front fabric before you sew it to the back fabric piece. (Confused? Don’t worry—I have a post on this exact topic coming up!) You will also need some Stitch Witchery (or fusible webbing) and some letters to use as your “pattern.”
First things first: you need letters to use as a pattern. If you have a Cricut (or another cutting machine), cutting letters out is easy. Just pick out a font that you like, get the right size and you’re done! If you don’t have a cutting tool, don’t fret. You can print your letters off your computer. Just type your word in the font and size that you want and print. You’ll have to cut the letters out yourself which is a bit of a pain, but still totally doable. No worries!
There are two ways of cutting your fabric letters out. If your letters are large (as in this project), it is easy to just pin them to the fabric and cut them the way you would any ol’ pattern. If you have smaller letters, it is easier to trace the letters on the fabric and then just cut them out that way.
Once your letters are cut, it’s time to get ready to sew them on your fabric!
Here’s what I did to prep the background fabric for my wall art:
I took out the cardboard piece found inside my frames and put it on uncut background fabric. I then cut the fabric into four pieces, making sure they would wrap around the back side of the cardboard.
Now you’re going to need Stitch Witchery or some type of fusible webbing. This is a lovely little tool that sort of glues fabric together. It holds the fabric in place so that you can stitch around it. My JoAnn store was out of fusible webbing when I was looking for it, so I used Stitch Witchery instead, and it worked just great, though it was a bit of a pain to cut and fit around my letters.
The instructions for using Stitch Witchery are on the package (and you should definitely follow those), but I’ll go over it as well. I have to say, though, that there is about three feet of plastic wrap wrapped around the outside of the actual Stitch Witchery. The first time I used it, I was completely confused, thinking the plastic wrap WAS the Stitch Witchery, because there was so stinkin’ much of it! So don’t let that confuse you if you do use this product.
Cut the Stitch Witchery up so that the pieces will fit well underneath your letter. It doesn’t have to cover every inch of your fabric letter, just enough so that the letter stays put when you’re sewing around it.
Once you’ve gotten your Stitch Witchery cut, figure out where on the background fabric you want the letter to be and put it there. Then place the Stitch Witchery pieces underneath your fabric letter so that they are sandwiched between your letter and the background fabric. Try not to let any of the Stitch Witchery pieces stick out from behind the letter (but if they do, it won’t be the end of the world).
Take your iron and put it on the wool setting. Next, take a moistened piece of scrap fabric and place it on top of your letter. Lastly, take your iron and press it on top of where your scrap fabric/letter are. DON’T move the iron around (like you do when you’re ironing clothes), just let it rest on top of your letter for about 10 seconds. Once the time is up, take your iron off and test the letter to make sure it adheres to the fabric the way it is supposed to. You’ll know if it is right—it definitely stays well if it is applied correctly!
Once your letters are all applied to the fabric, it is time to sew! To applique, all you need to use is a zig-zag stitch (you can do it with other fancy stitches, but we’ll just stick to a zig-zag stitch for now).
You want to set your zig-zag stitch so that it is wide enough to to move across the edge of your fabric letter onto the background fabric. You also want it to be fairly short, but not too short—the length of your stitch is really a matter of personal preference. The longer your stitch, the less the stitches will show up (and the more your letter will fray if you run it through the wash). The shorter the stitch, the longer it will take to sew around the letter, the more thread you’ll use, etc.
Your best bet is to play around with the zig-zag stitch settings on a scrap before you commit to sewing your letter on.
Once you’ve settled on your stitch width and length, you’re ready to sew!
Here’s the basic principle behind applique: you want the zig-zag to go back and forth across the edge of your letter. If you look at the pictures above, you might be able to see what I mean. In the first picture, the needle is on the right side, and it is off the letter. In the second picture, the needle is in the left position and it is on the letter. All you have to do is continue sewing like this all the way around the edges of your letter (and on the inside of the letter, where applicable).
Here is what I learned as I went along: GO SLOW, especially around small turns and corners. In fact, sometimes it is best if you use your hand wheel as you are going around corners. The more careful you are, the better your finished product will look.
And that’s it! Now all you have to do is repeat with each letter/applique piece. As you can see, there is sometimes some fabric bunching that happens. It was never enough to bother me, but if you aren’t happy with your results, you might want to try to adjust your stitch width and length and instead of using Stitch Witchery, use fusible webbing. I haven’t used fusible webbing myself but my understanding is that it is the same basic principle, only it comes in more of a sheet (rather than a tape) form and you can cut it more exactly to fit your shape. You can also try using a stabilizer as well. And last, but not least, after you’ve appliqued your shape, iron it with a hot iron and a lot of the time that will help smooth out the puckering.
I’m excited to show you all the ways I’ve been using applique! I have been having so much fun with it and I feel like the possibilities with this technique are endless!
Now, for the rest of this wall-art project:
Once I was done with each of my letters, I centered the fabric piece on the frame-cardboard and pulled the fabric tight around the cardboard. When I had that the way I wanted it, I put the cardboard/fabric piece into the frame, closed the frame up, and…
The finished product, all ready to hang in my mom’s classroom! She put it in her reading center at school and it looks really good (in my humble opinion).
In hindsight, I wish I had used two background fabrics instead of just one. I think it would have been cuter and made the whole thing stand out even more. But my plans in the fabric store that day went a little awry and this is what I ended up with. I’m still happy with it though!
So there you go! I hope you try out applique and have as much fun with it as I have been. The projects you can come up with using applique are practically endless–I can’t wait to show you a few more things you can make with it! Until then, have a great day!