Monday, February 6, 2012

tutorial: applique blossom sweater

photo taken by Deborah of Whipstitch 
Fancying up a casual cardigan has been one of my favorite things of late... I love a cardigan- especially during the early spring-type weather we have had lately. It all started with the tree sweater pictured below. I had a lightweight sweater that fit well, I liked the color... but I hadn't worn it in years because it had developed some pin holes. Having something that was useless in its current condition gave me the freedom to get very creative...which reminds me- did you know that Michelangelo had his apprentices throw rags of paint at his surfaces before he started painting? (it is possible that this is a rumor, because for the life of me I can't remember exactly where I heard it... but as I'm pretty sure an art professor told me, we'll believe it, right?) The point is, even Michelangelo felt intimidated by a perfect blank surface.  So, I had a ball appliqueing the heck out of my green sweater and started wearing it all the time... so much so that it started getting more holes... in places that a leaf wouldn't quite work to patch (think: forest arm pit... nope!) It was time to start with something new as my canvas...

    This is a sweater I bought on sale at Target and went a bit overboard decorating... it is a little on the quirky side, but that hasn't stopped me from wearing it all over town.
     My latest applique adorned sweater is the blossom sweater from the top of the post. Here is a little walk through of my process:

 Besides your cardigan (my current favorite is the basic one at Old Navy) and fabric scraps(and needle, and embroidery thread, and your machine, etc) you will need fusible web-- I use Pellon brand 'Wonder-Under'. For a blossom similar to the one I did you will want to cut the Wonder-Under into a bunch of half moonish shapes in varying sizes... I used: 6 large, 6 medium, 6 small, and 3 tiny crescent-type shapes. I freehand these instead of tracing perfect shapes because I like a more organic style rather than stiff over perfect forms. I cut out three tiny circles for the center of the flower.
After cutting your shapes out of the fusible web you need to iron them onto fabric scraps with the rough  adhesive side down.
 Next, cut your fabric following around the Wonder-Under paper as your template.
 Then, peel the paper backing off of your fabric pieces... this can be tricky on small pieces. It is hard to explain, but I hold either edge of the fabric and roll it and twist it until the paper starts to separate from the fabric.
 Ah! The fun part... lay your pieces out until you have them in a configuration that makes you happy. Then, iron them down using some steam to to activate the adhesive(follow the directions on the package).
 Now pull out a WASHABLE marker (test it first- it doesn't come out as easily as the water soluble markers you buy in the sewing section, but it has always come clean in my washer... and they are SO much cheaper and always on hand- if you have kids...) and draw some leaves. Remember: imperfect leaves look more organic and have character... if you want something that looks perfectly stamped out at a factory, don't bother with hand-making things!
 Grab some embroidery thread ( I used perle cotton) and do a super simple running stitch over the leaf lines you sketched.
 Did you know that you can sew buttons on with your sewing machine? All you have to have is a zig zag stitch set to the correct width (a button foot is helpful b/c it holds the button in place while you stitch it down, but you could probably manage without it).
 Use your machine to stitch around your petals. This is easier to do if you lower the feed dogs and use a darning foot-- even the most basic machines are capable of this "drawing" technique. I am not a very neat person, but I don't let that stop me- instead I capitalize on the looser style that goes with my strengths and weaknesses. If I stitch a petal with a wonky line, I just go back around it and make it look intentional.
---- Now that you understand the process, the sky's the limit for all the many things you can applique with whatever design you choose!
I also like to add some decoration to the front of the cardigan... I love to add buttons, but I learned not to put them where the shoulder strap of my purse could snag and pull the button off--ooops!
[Using a stabilizing interfacing on the underside of the applique might make it more durable, but I prefer to keep the sweater flowy... I don't like the stiffer feel when I use interfacing, but this is a personal choice- up to you....]

If you make an applique sweater with this tutorial, I would love to see it! Leave a link to a picture in the comments...


Christy said...

So stinkin' adorable. I think the tree one might be my favorite ... so hard to decide. I'm just a little disappointed that it doesn't have an armpit forrest.

jane said...

I bet you are! I can help you make a sweater with an armpit forest any time you like ;-)

Lindsey R. :: LRstitched said...

I am so glad you posted this! I have been drooling over it since I saw the picture on AMH's blog. Absolutely adorable! Can't wait to make my own!

jane said...

I'm getting antsy to make more... I stocked up on the cardigans and I'm thinking about doing one with a little cityscape next... they are so fun ;-)

Brea said...

So fun! You're gonna be all over Pintrest! :)