Monday, March 12, 2012

Stitch by Stitch: Machine appliqué tee

Recently, I picked up "Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time" by Deborah Moebes.  It's a book designed for those who want to learn how to sew.  I know elementary sewing and built some basic skills by experience and trial & error, but I've been kind of wanting to re-learn sewing a touch more formally to cover some fundamental techniques that I missed.  I also wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn skills that I don't normally think of needing to know, like mitering corners. 

One of the first lessons in the book which I would have glossed over but glad I actually did was a stitch sampler:

The basic gist is trying out and getting comfortable with all the stitches your machine is capable of and playing around with various lengths and widths.  It was really enlightening to get a feel for the other stitches my machine does, though frankly, I think most of the others are decorative, not practical.  But apparently my machine does some kind of blind hemming which I'm hoping really comes in handy later.  I also got familiar with sewing buttonholes--though I find the idea of making clothes requiring buttonholes really daunting...for now.

To help get familiar with the zig-zag stitch, or more specifically, the satin stitch, which is a zig-zag stitch where the stitch width is wide, but the stitch length is short, there was this mini-project, a machine appliqué tee:

A perfect project because I had a t-shirt that needed some zipping up because its plain color was a bit blah on me. And I had these adorable sushi pajamas that Paul gifted me a while ago where I loved the print but the fit wasn't that comfortable and I wasn't using them. Upcycle Heaven!

I cut a some material from the sleeve and per the lesson, I ironed on fusible webbing, which pretty much makes any material an iron-on.  Fusible webbing comes on these rolls and there is a textured side and a paper-backed side.  I cut a piece large enough for my project and ironed the textured side to the wrong side of my fabric piece.  A lesson learned here is make sure that the fabric is ironed smooth before ironing on the fusible webbing--once the fusible webbing is on you won't be able to iron it out any smoother.

I cut a simple heart stencil from a magazine cover and traced it on to the paper side of the material:

I cut out the heart and peeled off the paper and ironed it to the front of the shirt:

In some ways, one could finish here and leave it the way it is but it looked a bit unfinished so I stuck with the project and decided to satin stitch around it.  To make that easier, I pinned tear-away stabilizer on the inside of the shirt, behind the heart applique.  Stabilizer makes it easier to sew short length stitches (like this satin stitch) with knit material by temporarily attaching it to non-stretch material to make it easier to feed through the sewing machine (and not get jammed up because the knit alone can just stretch and gets stuck under the needle).  The book recommends iron-on (tear away) stabilizer but the store was out so I had to use the kind where you have to pin it, which wasn't too bad to use, but I plan on getting the iron-on kind next time.

I centered my foot right on the edge of the heart so that my satin stitch would evenly get both the heart and t-shirt and I sewed on the right side of the shirt/heart.

Another lesson learned:  With a heart path, I recommend practicing on spare material beforehand.  The point and divot of the heart are a little wonky because I wasn't quite sure when to pivot the material and would have liked to have a bit of experience doing it before my actual project. 

Then the last steps are just to tear away the stabilizer--both from the outside of the heart and inside.

And ta-da!

A great way to jazz up a plain tee:

Even with the slight stitching mishaps (which I like to think are imperfections that make home-made crafting charming), my teen daughter still thought it was cool enough that she wanted to wear it. High praise, right?

As an "experienced beginner", I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in filling in the blanks of skills and techniques that one might have skipped along the way. I'm really looking forward to continuing with other lessons in this book and see what other cool things I can sew and better my sewing technique.

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