Hand Stitching

I went to a great little hand-stitching/reverse applique workshop on Saturday with Gina Sekelsky, put on by the folks over at Sewtropolis.  To be honest, I saw the workshop announced on the Sewtropolis blog and thought the project looked uber-cute, signed up for a spot, and then promptly pushed the workshop to the back of my mind.  So when my calendar reminded me about the event the night before, I dutifully threw my bike stuff together and set my alarm clock accordingly.  I thought about looking up what reverse applique entailed (since I don’t even know how to do un-reverse applique!) but ended up watching a mini-marathon of Vampire Diaries episodes instead (don’t hate folks…anything that makes regular fun of Twilight can’t be all bad!).

So when my alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 7:30am on Saturday, I hopped on my bike and pedaled over to Minneapolis to give this whole hand-stitching thing a try, not really sure what I was in for.  And I have to say:  It. Is. Fabulous.  Gina brought a couple shirts and a couple skirts that she’d done and they were so pretty and intricate and hand-made, but not “home-made” looking (that is to say, very polished and well finished things).  The basic premise is to create a pattern on knit fabric, then hand-stitch around the shapes using very sturdy thread, then cut out the centers of the shapes to reveal the 2nd layer of fabric beneath.  The possibilities are endless…different stitches, different shapes, different layers (and different numbers of layers, if you’re really ambitious!).  And anything (knit) could be appliqued like that…shirts, purses, scarves, you name it!

For the workshop, we made scarves out of layers of white and red knit with little leaves at the end…my only regret is that I didn’t sew far enough from the stenciling, so you can see the pink paint from the stenciling around the red cutouts (I’m not the world’s biggest fan of pink, so I wish it were just the red and white fabric).

I got about 90% done during the 2 hours we sat around and chatted and stitched (it was a cool group of ladies, to boot!) and learned about the technique.  Turns out there are some really high-end clothing lines that use this technique, too (check out Alabama Chanin for instance).

I love the look of this, and have one of their books on request at the library, but while I wait for that to come in, I decided to try my hand at a small project of my own devising.  My sis-in-law has 3.5 kids at the moment, and a while ago I whipped up a dress for my niece, but hadn’t gotten around to doing anything for my nephews, so I decided to make hand-turkey prints (you know, you trace your hand and then make it into a turkey for thanksgiving) on tee-shirts for each of them.

I cheated (a LOT) and hit up Target for little boy shirts in a couple colors, then stitched two shirts together so I had my two layers of knit fabric.  I sewed up the side seams from the bottom to the armpit, across the shoulder seams, and around the neckline and sleeve cuffs to keep the shirts from shifting too much.  I debated sewing around the bottom, but figured if I left it open,  any imperfections I had in lining them up would hang out and not bunch up (especially since I didn’t have any life-size models to try the shirts out on!)

On the larger of the two, I turned the inner shirt inside-out so that the final shirt is (hypothetically) reversible, but on the smaller one, I left both right side out so it’s not. I wanted to see how it would turn out either way, and to be honest, after the first shirt, I decided I wasn’t a fan of the reverse side, anyhow:

One thing that bugged me about the scarf (and, I have to admit, even a tiny bit about Gina’s beautiful creations) was that you could see the knots on one side of the fabric.  I think it looks a bit untidy unless you’ve worked the knots/fringe into the design somehow, and since I didn’t do that, I wanted to hide the knots between my layers of fabric (I also thought it might be more comfy for the kiddos to wear to not have the knots against their skin, and I didn’t want to see the knots on the outside)–sandwiching the knots between the two seemed like the logical answer!  It was a bit of extra work, but I think it really does look better for it:

Once I got the shirts stitched together, I used a sharpie to trace my hubby’s hand for the bigger turkey, and my hand for the smaller one, then stitched around the birds.  I also stitched on legs and an eye to complete my masterpieces!  Cutting out the center of the shape was the most nerve-wracking part of the project…I was deathly afraid I would accidentally cut through both layers, or cut too close to the border stitches, or cut unevenly along the border…aaaaaaah the pressure!

I’m super super happy with how they turned out, though…yeah, they’re simple and home-made looking, but for a 3-year old and a 7-year old, I think they’ll be cute and festive.  Of course, now the real challenge of the project: getting these into the mail before the holiday passes!

And I picked up a couple shirts in my size to try out…I haven’t figured out a pattern yet, but I think I might wait till I get that book from the library (it’s not like I have a dearth of projects to work on in the meantime!)

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2 thoughts on “Hand Stitching

  1. LOVE the shirts you did! I’m so glad you enjoyed the workshop! I’m going to try and bring Gina in to teach a class or two. In the meantime post your pics on our Facebook page – we love seeing stuff like this!! Nikol

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