Picking through the scrap bins at fabric stores is my cherished scavenging adventure for texture and pattern. In every nook of my craft storage, strips of vibrant textiles bloom forth. When I find projects made for these sweet trims, I’m not only reinventing a T-shirt or a tote bag, I’m also creating something completely new out of my neglected bouquet of materials. Kayte Terry, who has shared many a resourceful embellishing how-to on The Storque, has come out with a new book, Appliqué Your Way. These projects will inspire you to root your way through not just your own pile of discarded cloth, but your neighbor’s as well.
I came to appliqué through my love of fabric and patterns. I adore the contrast of rich velvet on linen or a sweet Liberty print mixed with tweed. My heart goes all aflutter when I score a stack of feed-sack fabrics on eBay or unearth a set of vintage Marimekko curtains at a flea market. Doing appliqué is a way for me to highlight these special fabrics in my work and to play with textures and colors.
The beauty of appliqué is that you can use small amounts of gorgeous fabric to make a statement. It’s a great way to use scraps from your other sewing projects or to put old clothing or linens to new use. You can transform everyday clothing and household items into one-of-a-kind works of art with the addition of some simple appliqué. There’s really nothing more satisfying than answering the question “Where did you get that?” with “I made it myself!”
While I love the comfort of a T-shirt, sometimes a basic tee just won’t cut it. Romantic rose blooms and leaves, also made from T-shirts, gracefully trail down the neckline of this tee. A monochromatic palette makes this tee super sophisticated. Hit up your local thrift store for extra-large men’s tees (they give you more fabric to work with) in different shades of one color.
3 T-shirts in assorted shades complementary to the boatneck tee
Self-healing cutting mat
Sewing machine and thread in complementary colors
Needle and thread in colors to match T-shirts
Make the Flowers and Leaves
1. Use a quilting ruler and work on a cutting mat using a rotary cutter to cut from the assorted T-shirts the following strips of fabric:
One 6″ x 24″/15cm x 60cm
Five 3″ x 14″/8cm x 36cm
Three 2″ x 9″/5cm x 23cm
Note: You may have to sew a couple of strips together to get a 24″/60cm strip.
2. Trace about a dozen leaves onto the assorted T-shirts. Cut with fabric scissors. Mark simple leaf veins on the leaves with tailor’s chalk.
3. Set your sewing machine to a straight stitch and sew veins on the leaves, backstitching at the beginning and end.
4. To make the flowers,
a. Thread a needle with a thread color that matches the T-shirt strip. Knot the thread end and set aside.
b. Fold a T-shirt strip in half lengthwise. Holding each end of the strip with your hands, with the folded edge at the top, fold the upper left corner down so that the raw side edge of the strip meets the bottom edge of the strip, forming a 45-degree angle. (See figure 1.)
c. Start rolling the first few inches of the left side of the strip to make the center of the rose. (See figure 2.) Sew through the bottom edges of the flower center to secure.
d. Fold the strip at a 45-degree angle next to the flower center and roll flower center onto the fold. (See figure 3.) Sew bottom edge to secure. Repeat folding the strip, rolling the flower onto fold, and stitching to secure, until there’s no fabric left.
e. Tuck the final end of strip under the flower and sew to secure.
f. Repeat all the steps to form flowers from each T-shirt strip.
Assemble the T-Shirt
1. Lay the boatneck T-shirt out on a flat, clean surface. With the T-shirt facing you, pin the largest rose just slightly left of the center of the shirt. Pin two leaves below the rose. With a needle and thread, hand-stitch to the shirt to secure. Remove the pins.
2. Cluster four roses to the left of the large rose and accent with leaves as desired. Pin, hand-stitch to secure, and remove the pins.
3. Pin clusters of leaves trailing up the neckline of the T-shirt to cover the rest of the left side of the neckline. Hand-stitch to secure, then remove the pins.
4. Cluster four roses to the right of the T-shirt in a different formation than the one on the left and accent with leaves as desired. Pin, hand-stitch to secure, and remove the pins.
5. Pin clusters of leaves trailing up the neckline of the T-shirt to cover the rest of the right side of the neckline. Hand-stitch to secure, and then remove the pins.
Thanks to Kayte Terry and the good folks at Chronicle Books for sharing this project with us. For more modern embellishments, check out Appliqué Your Way.