Friday, February 17, 2012

Mr. Bowlerman & Miss Charleston - an applique tutorial

as per our Valentine's Day tradition, I created these appliquéd t-shirts loaded with character and humor, just like the little people wearing them.  tell me what little boy doesn't want a shirt with his very own mustache built right in?!  i will tell you that hearts are boys informed me of that after last year's t-shirt design.

my inspiration for these images came from a quirky mobile i fell in love with which i had found hung in a refreshingly darling nursery on Shine Design.  this mobile is the secret fiancé of a Miss Charleston as seen on Flensted Mobiles

having my monthly sewing class is great motivation to get moving on projects i have been wanting to do. this month i taught a basic t-shirt appliqué class.  i am grateful to Elizabeth at Sew, Mama, Sew! for an easy to follow and thorough tutorial on machine appliqué as well as to Shelly and Karen from Figgy's Patterns who contributed to Sew, Mama, Sew! with a post on knit appliqué.  I am sure you will recognize these patterns floating around Pinterest.  oh so adore!!

lets begin with your supplies!
here is what i recommended for my class attendees to bring:
*fabric for appliqués - {I recommend cotton or wool felt - use scraps of fabric, or at the most, 1/4 yd}
     I used a black cotton/poly for the hats and mustaches and an old red cotton sheet for the lips
*thread to match appliqué fabric
*fusible webbing - brands: Wonder Under, Heat N Bond LITE, Steam-A-Seam, or Steam-A-Seam 2 
    {you will need the same amount of webbing as you use fabric}
*iron on paper stabilizer or fusible backing {same quantity as your webbing and fabric}
    I wish I could have found the tear-away kind, but I ended up just trimming instead
*ironing board
*pressing cloth {I use a tea/dish towel}
*scissors for fabric
*scissors for paper {optional but recommended}
*tape measure
*straight pins
*jersey/knit needle {optional but recommended}

on to the nitty gritty:
1. Print out your desired template - Mr. Bowlerman and/or Miss Charleston.  They're not pretty but they'll do the trick:)  If you are doing different sized t-shirts like I did, you can print your template out at varying percentages.  For my 3 boys I printed at 100%, 110%, and 125%.

2. Put your fusible webbing over top of your template with the shiny {glue side} down and trace your template onto the paper using a pencil.  Trim around your tracing leaving a small border.

3. Iron your fabric.  I always like to start out with an ironed piece of fabric before I do anything else to it.  Place your fusible webbing tracing with the shiny {glue side} down to the WRONG side of your appliqué fabric.  Iron it directly onto the fabric following the heat settings recommended by your webbing brand.  Cut out your appliqué, preferably not with your good sewing scissors.  
{we knew as kids that the only thing that touched the shiny scissors that mom placed in its special box, was fabric - not paper, not fruit snack wrappers, not sticks}

4. Arrange your appliqués on your t-shirt in the desired final location.  To ensure center placement, measure from edges of appliqué to side and bottom seams. Place straight pins around the perimeter, making sure to only puncture the front layer of the t-shirt.  This is serving as a general guide for placement of your fusible backing/stabilizer on the inside of your t-shirt.

Great tip from Elizabeth: 
"Keep in mind that the area where you place the appliqué will no longer stretch. (In other words: It’s best to avoid placing appliqués in the bust area of women’s t-shirts.)"

5. Remove the appliqués.  Use them as a guide to cut out pieces of backing/stabilizer for the inside of the t-shirt.  Carefully flip your t-shirt inside out and place your backing/stabilizer, shiny side down, inside the pinned guidelines.  Iron on the backing/stabilizer following the heat instructions on the packaging.  This step was not my favorite and I am open to suggestions of how else to do this.   I ended up getting pin head markings in my shirt.  I guess using completely narrow straight pins would have been fine.  I proceeded by ironing carefully as to avoid pressing any of the pin heads {he he pinheads:)} into the t-shirt.

6. Remove the paper backing from your appliqué and place the appliqué sticky side down onto your t-shirt where you want it to be, measuring edges to seams to ensure center placement. You can also refer back to the original printed template to determine distance of mustache or lips from hat.  Placing a pressing cloth or fresh piece of fabric over your appliqués, iron them in place using heat setting recommendations for webbing.

7. Determine what sort of stitch you would like to use.  For knits you want to make sure you choose a stitch that will stretch with the material.  You can use either an even zig zag stitch or a straight stitch.  Practice on a scrap piece of knit until you feel confident to sew on the real thing.  Make sure the stitch you choose does not cause the material to stretch out and warp in waves.
I prefer a straight stitch, and like to set mine at 3.0.
Change your needle to a new jersey/knit needle if you have one.  
Start stitching, back stitching a few stitches.  Make sure to lift your presser foot and turn as you go around curves and points.  If you have a 'needle down' option on your sewing machine, that makes life so much easier for those curves and pivots.  If not, just turn the wheel to ensure that the needle is down before you lift your presser foot up and turn the fabric. 

Elizabeth gives some great advice if you choose a zig zag stitch:
"If using a zig zag stitich: Starting on the right side of your appliqué, begin sewing, encasing the raw edge of your appliqué in stitches and raising your presser foot to pivot the fabric as necessary. Your needle should always be in the down position before you pivot your fabric. When sewing around a concave curve or angle (as in upper right photo) your needle should be down in the left-hand position, or through the appliqué. When sewing around a convex curve or angle (as in lower left photo) your needle should be down in the right-hand position, or just outside the appliqué."

8. After sewing around the entire appliqué, do a few backstitches to finish.  Remove your shirt from your machine and pull your cut threads to the inside of your shirt.  Trim them as well as any excess backing/stabilizer.  Or if you were lucky enough to find the tear away kind...tear away!

Turn it inside out!  And voile!  Mr. Bowlerman and Miss Charleston appliquéd t-shirts, sure to please any little mister or miss in your life.


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