Monday, November 2, 2009

How To: Reverse Applique

I am working on a baby sling right now among other things. Don't even speak of Christmas...

Materials: In her new book Handmade Home, Amanda Blake Soule suggested that old tablecloths make good slings because of the firm weave. Genius. I have a bag full of gravy stained tablecloths from a friend, and they are waiting to be repurposed, but they are all white. Should I dye? Print? Embroider? It took me a while to decide.

Enter the beautiful Vogue CFDA picture this month for Alabama Chanin (Natalie has quite a nice recycling/art/fashion blog through the site too!). Alabama Chanin specializes in handstitched decorative patterns in sustainable fabrics, especially jerseys. They use applique, reverse applique, and embroidery techniques among others. This Karly Kloss picture is so great because these techniques are deeply associated with the folk arts of many cultures, and the photo really taps that.

So I decided to use a soft elephant-gray knit jersey in reverse applique with the tablecloth fabric, allowing the white to be the pattern on a gray field. I am using white DMC Perle 8 as the thread.
Did I copy Alabama Chanin's color scheme here? Interesting question. Gray is definitely a favorite of mine. The baby's room is almost the same gray, and I love to wear monochromatic gray outfits because in gray you can get by with more dramatic cuts as the color doesn't shout. If I hadn't had gray lying around I would have used some of the brown or navy jerseys I have, so in that sense, I'm not emulating the magazine spread. However, if this hadn't been a color combination I love, would I have taken note of the technique? Doubtful.

Technique: The idea of reverse applique is that you layer two fabrics and cut away the pattern from the top layer so that the image is revealed from underneath. In regular applique you cut a figure and apply it to a base fabric. The most well known projects in reverse applique are the colorful traditional molas of Panama. I also sometimes do reverse applique on the sewing machine leaving the edges raw. It is a very versatile technique. Jersey is absolutely forgiving for reverse applique techniques for the same reason it is monstrous for traditional applique: It stretches and shrinks as needed, doesn't show off mistaken tucks, and best of all, won't shred like a woven where you cut in close at the inside corners.

1. I cut the full pattern piece out of paper and penciled a floral pattern onto it Saturday afternoon. I was inspired by a scrap of fabric I had featuring plant silhouettes, which I interpreted loosely. To further soften the edges and finalize the pattern I traced over the pencil with a big fat sharpie.

2. I then cut out the pattern in both fabrics and basted & tailor tacked them together (in contrasting red thread as per photo). The tablecloth fabric was face up underneath with the jersey face up on top.
3. I traced the floral from the paper pattern onto the face of the jersey with a tracing wheel and wax tailor's tracing paper.

4. Here's the fun part: One flower at a time I cut into the jersey leaving a 1/4" or so seam allowance, turn it under on the traced line, and secure it with a running stitch in the Perle 8.
5. When I am done with reverse appliqueing all of the pieces, I'll sew them together according to my pattern, probably adding another layer of jersey as the lining.

You Try It: You might want to start with something less ambitious than a large piece of all-over pattern. A potholder or small T-shirt motif would be good. When you choose or draw your image, remember that sharp convex turns are pretty easy, but sharp concave turns take practice. All you need is a needle, thread, small scissors, and 2 layers of scrap fabric!

Happy Stitching!

1 comment:

Liz.Blog said...

This work is very cool. Inspired!


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