Mother Makes: An Applique Tutorial

I’ve had a few people ask for more info on how Mother makes all those darling appliqued shirts I’m always carrying on about.  Well, she’s taking the reins on the blog today and has all the expert info.  Take it away, Mother…
I am writing this blog entry especially for “Grandma Udy” and the others that have reached out to Amanda over the past year or so for more information making appliqued clothing.     

(Grandma Udy, you are a lady after my own heart!  I also love making appliquéd clothes for my 4 grands.)

What made me decide to start sewing children’s clothes with appliqués on them?  It all began when my 2 daughters would show me the gorgeous outfits they had bought for their little boys.  I loved the outfits…………so classic and fresh.  But when I saw the price tags, I almost fainted!  Ladies, we are talking over $60 for essentially an appliquéd T-shirt and a pair of shorts with an elasticized waist!  Well, then and there I decided that I would try to replicate the look of these darling outfits, at a much more reasonable price!  About this time I was also retiring from my career, and knew I would finally have time on my hands to do just what I wanted to do.  I had sewn when my girls were little, but not since then.  My dear hubby talked me into buying a new sewing machine, since mine was about 30 years old and the tension was never right.  I was lucky to go into Jo-Ann’s and was browsing by the sewing machine aisle when I found one that seemed reasonable….a Singer Confidence 7470 sale priced.  I know that many sewers use much more upscale machines, but I can tell you that sewing on this machine has been a dream.  I love the electronic stitch selections, and even the button-hole stitch is easy.  Well, back to the topic at hand!

I started out making those little John-John suits, also called shortalls.  They were simple to sew and line, and the front was perfect for appliquéing. Here are some examples:



Well, after the little boys got too big for the shortalls, I started sewing outfits consisting of shorts (often lined) and a matching appliquéd T-shirt.  There are all kinds of great fabrics for the short sets…………….think seersucker, small gingham checks, polka dots, prints, etc.  I usually find my fabrics at JoAnn or Hobby Lobby and try to always use a coupon for a great deal.   Here are some different outfits that I have made:







The T-shirts that I like best are the ones from Wal-Mart that do not have a pocket on them.  Here are the basic steps I take:

· I decide what I want the appliqué to be, then I draw a template for it on paper.  I sometimes enlarge it or make it smaller on my printer.  This saves time, and allows me to vary the size of the appliqué, depending on whether it is something for Bird, the youngest boy with the smallest shirt, or John, the oldest with a larger shirt.  I draw my own patterns on a sheet of paper until I have it just right.  I have found it best to stick with simple outline drawings.  Once you get comfortable with simple shapes, you can even start to layer on different parts of the template with different fabric choices.  But for now let’s just concentrate on the simple shapes, which are darling on the shirts, and also can be appliquéd on a leg of the shorts. 

· After I draw the template and get it the right size for the T-shirt, I then cut it out and place it on the fabric I want to use.  I cut the fabric a little larger than the shape, usually in a squared off type of shape.

·  I then cut a piece of HeatnBond Lite a teeny bit smaller than the fabric square.  I have tried other bonding materials, but I can truly say that HeatnBond Lite is the best one to use!  Follow the directions on the package………basically you iron the HeatnBond onto the back of the fabric. 

· Once it is cooled, trace your paper template onto the HeatnBond side of the fabric, where the paper is adhered.  I usually use a black fine marker to do the tracing.

· After tracing the shape onto the BACK side of the fabric (the HeatnBond side), cut out the fabric into the shape you have traced.  Then, peel the paper off of the back of the shape, and place the shape on the T-shirt or shortall, or whatever, where you want it, and then iron it on, following directions. 

· It should seal onto the shirt completely.  You will not need to use any pins to hold the shape on and it will not shift…………this is very important when you are sewing around the outside of the shape…….the appliquéing part.

· After trying lots of different stitch settings, I have found that the setting I like best on my machine is this:  I first click on the #6 stitch, which is the satin stitch.  I then adjust the stitch  from the default setting to 3.0 (width) and .8 (length).  I also decrease the tension to minus one.  You will have to play with your machine to get it the way you like best. 

· I have found that straight edges and wide curves work best.  When sewing an appliqué with a short curves, I have found it is best to sew fast and keep the fabric curving as you go.  It is hard to explain, and is something I have gotten better at with experience.   And that is key……………the more you practice, the better you will get. 

· I cannot emphasize the importance of using HeatnBond Lite.  One day I ran out, so I thought OK, I can do this simple appliqué without the HeatnBond.  Yikes, was I sorry.  I made the exact same appliquéd T-shirt for each of the grand boys, but the one for John was without the HeatnBond. It was hard to sew and looked awful.  And when I washed the shirts as I always do before I send them on to my daughters, his appliqué even looked wrinkly after ironing the shirt.  Also, make sure you get the “Lite.”  The other is not for sewing. 
Oh, one last thing……… shirts from Target that I appliquéd for my 2 daughters and a friend:


Good luck with your sewing projects, and know that the more you practice, the better you will get!

10 thoughts on “Mother Makes: An Applique Tutorial

  1. such a great blog post – love the outfits! and how special that there were made with love!

  2. omgosh! thank you so much for writing this post!!!! i LOVE all the darling outfits she makes! i need to learn how to sew… ha! this inspires me to break out my sewing machine so i can try and learn! i would totally buy her adorable outfits! :) love love love!

  3. Love, love , love the tutorial! Thanks to you and your mother for the inspiration! I, too, am a grandmother of 4… Love th look, but hate the prices? I'm inspired to try this!

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  5. Hi Jen,
    If you don't plan to sew the edges, then use the HeatnBond Ultrahold Iron-On Adhesive. I have not tried it because I always sew them. I have bought HeatnBond at Wal-Mart and Jo-Ann's.
    Amanda's mom.

  6. Thank you so much for this! I have been trying to sew some things for my two boys. I, too, love the boutique outfits, but not the prices. I have found a cute pattern for boys shorts/pants on Etsy called the Trevor short pattern, and have enjoyed making some sets for my sons. The pattern was so easy to follow. I'd love to try a jon jon soon!

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