YAY!!!! It is finally here!!!!! The LONG awaited tutorial on how to applique on a towel.
If you have read my earlier posts; this one and this one, you will know that I love giving personalised appliqued towels to the gorgeous little ones in my life. This cute little towel is for the gorgeous little Miss S for her first birthday. Her lovely Mum, Mrs V has decorated Miss S’s bedroom with pretty little butterflies everywhere, how could I pass up the opportunity to do a butterfly theme for her towel.
- Pick the theme/design you want to do
For this tutorial was doing a butterfly themed towel with a big S. Others I have done are; Owl, Giraffe, and other letters. The options are limitless. You aren’t even limited to your imagination anymore; Check out Pinterest and Google images for design inspiration. If you are starting out I would suggest a simple shape with not a lot of turns or corners, they can be quite tricky.
- Design it
You could draw it up by hand or on the computer or you could copy images from the internet into a Word document and print it off or you might even be able to find a template of your chosen theme on the internet if you look long and hard enough.
- Choose the towel for your project.
When choosing a towel, take note of the location of the decorative detailing, this is usually either a single or multiple bands and if they are located too far up the towel, they can impact the position of the appliqué.
- Pick your fabric(s)
The best fabrics for this are patchwork cottons, they are thick and have no stretch to them so they won’t lose their shape. This is a great way to use up scraps of fabric left over from other projects, as you don’t need big pieces.
If the towel and the fabrics are all 100% cotton you should either pre-wash them all or don’t prewash any of them and hope that they all shrink at the same rates. Although a different level of shrinkage on an appliquéd towel isn’t the end of the world, it’s just not ideal.
- Iron all fabrics
Before doing anything else with the fabric make sure you iron it. Irrespective of if you pre-washed or not you must iron your fabric. Yes, it’s a pain but trust me on this one! It makes things easier and gives a much better finish.
- Prepare your template
Print out or draw up the design at the size you want the final appliqué to be at. Cut out the shapes so that you can either trace around the outside of the shape or trace around the inside of the template (like a stencil) either way works, it just depends on your personal preference and what works best for your shapes.
- Cutting out multiple pieces that will overlay
If there are multiple pieces to your design, like the owl I have previously done; cut out 1 outline for the whole outside shape as the ‘base’ than cut up the other sections out of another template (or you could draw it up as separate pieces like below).
- Transfer the shapes to the fabric
On the reverse side of the fabric, trace around the template in a sewing pen or tailors chalk. Make sure that you lay the template face down so that you are looking at the letter or shape backwards. You do not want your letter to read backwards once appliquéd. (Something I have almost done before – note to self don’t start projects at night when you are tired and can’t see or think straight).
- Cut out the fabric shapes
Carefully cut out the shapes with sharp scissors. Small bladed ones work best if cutting out intricate shapes like the Giraffe I did in a previous project. The ears and legs made cutting it out rather annoying so be careful not to amputate any limbs; from the giraffe or other shape or yourself. Although if you’re likely to amputate your own limb with a pair of scissors just by trying to cut out fabric then perhaps sewing isn’t the craft for you or anything with sharp implements, have you thought about trying origami???
- Design it
Lay out the letters/shapes on the towel right side up. Play around with the design o it, till you get it the way you want. If you have a lot of shapes you might like to take a photo of it to remember where you put them all encase you disturb them by accident.
- Temporarily fix the shapes to the towel
There are a few ways that you could do this; Pins, Iron on adhesive or spray adhesive.
Pins can be a real pain (did you see what I did there?) you can prick yourself whilst manoeuvring the towel around, which you will need to do lots of and they don’t secure the shapes perfectly in place.
Iron-on adhesive isn’t the quickest way to do it but it should work really well; I haven’t tried it yet for this type of project but I will be doing it for the next one
Spray adhesive is quick and easy but dosn’t have the strongest hold, so if you have a really intercate shape that requires a lot of moving around then it will loosen up and become a PAIN.
WARNING: Do not use any old spray adhesive, it MUST be basting spray, these are specially formulated not to clog up your sewing machine.
Apply whichever type of staying power you decide to use then position the fabric shapes onto the towel in their final positions.
- Use a good quality thread
This is a MUST. A cheap or old thread will break easily and this will be a nightmare, trust me! It is not fun to stop every few minutes to re thread the machine.
- Thread colour
Pick a thred that co-ordinates with your fabric shapes, it could be matching or contracting. You can either have matching tread on the spool and the bobbin or you can fill the bobbin with thread that matches the towel. You could even go for another colour altogether. The choice is yours!
- Fit your machine with a sharp new needle
A blunt needle will push through the fabric rather than pierce the fabric. This will cause the shape to shift and not sit on the towel properly resulting in a poor quality finish.
- Machine settings
Set your machine to zigzag stitch with a very short stitch length, almost as if it doesn’t move. You want it to bunch up tightly so that it looks somewhat solid. The stitch width will depend on the shape and size that you will be sewing around. Do a few runs on some test fabric until you find the width you like the look of.
- Sewing position
Position the towel so that the edge of the fabric is at the centre of the zigzag stitch. You want to completely enclose the edge of the fabric. It also makes it easier to sew around the shape as you just follow the edge of the fabric as a guide.
- Start sewing
Begin stitching at a spot where the start and end join will be inconspicuous. This will depend on the shape of your design.
- Go slow
Slowly and carefully stitch around the shape, try to line up any turns or corners to ensure a smooth finish. Trying to go too fast may cause the feed dogs (the spiky teeth under the presser foot) to lose traction and create a big thread lump and jamb up your machine (yes, I speak from experience – hangs head in shame). Depending on your machine you may need to gently guide the towel through but be careful not to tug on it too much or too fast, this will cause the stiches to be too far apart, which isn’t the look we’re going for.
- Back to the start again
When you get back to the start, try to join it up so that you can’t see where it begins or ends. If you like you can do a few back stiches to secure the thread (I always like to but I am a little paranoid that it will unravel) just be sure not to do too many, otherwise you will have a noticeable lump.
Yes, again. I know I am a hard task master, but the results speak for themselves. Once you have completed sewing around all the shapes, iron the fabric and then lightly fluff up the surrounding towel with your fingers.
Now pour yourself a glass of wine to celebrate a job well done, or if you finished your project in the morning like I did an awesome smoothie can be a decent substitute. Oh and maybe clean up your mess before your family members or housemates get cranky.