Abby's Flower Stencil T-Shirt

There are lots of tiny flowers and bits in Alabama Chanin's Abby's Flower stencil, making it somewhat tricky to work with, but I love it! The blossoms seem to float and hover about, like petals in the wind. Inspired by the beautiful couture dresses with appliqued organza butterflies and flowers, edges free-floating, I used the Abby's Flower stencil in conjunction with the Negative Reverse Applique technique to achieve these flowing edges.

I wanted the top layer to be white, so I didn't want to paint the stencil on. I used a gray Sharpie to outline the elements. I like the way it accentuates and crisps up the pattern shapes. It reminds me of the inked and quilted method.

Usually I try to stitch around all the edges of the elements, but there were so many smaller pieces that I ended up running stitches up the middle of some elements or hatch stitching some parts. I used a creamy colored floss to put French knots in the middles of some flowers.

After completing the stitching and cutting away all the negative space, I was stumped as to what color to use for the binding. I posed the question to the fun and helpful Alabama Chanin group on Facebook, The School of Making Stitchalong. If you haven't discovered this group yet, please look them up! There is a wealth of knowledge, wonderful conversations, feedback, and positive support from all the participants in this group.

White, ocher, suede, faded, or couched faded? I practically changed my mind with each comment. The overwhelming support was for the tone on tone, suede. My friend had the idea of suede trim, rosebud stitch, and white French knots. I stitched up the suede trim with the rosebud stitch.

I still need to get my book out to refresh my memory and get started.

Here's the neckline completely tone on tone. I liked it, was about to get out my white floss for French knots, then suddenly had the idea of using the beautiful cotton gauze tape in ecru that I had in my stash.

I used a very large needle and simply slipped it underneath the rosebud stitching. I'm not sure how it will launder, but if it's a fail, the ribbon can easily be pulled out and replaced. Also, this ribbon does not stretch, so don't try this in an area that you need to have stretch!

I may go in and put the suede binding on the hem. I wouldn't put the ribbon on that, though. I think it may cut me in half too much, shortening my frame up even more. For now, I'll wear this top with jeans, my basic suede pants and skirt, and over cream and white dresses. I may layer it up over a long-sleeved white T-shirt during the cold weather. This skirt would also be nice.

I'm happy with the little extra pop the ribbon gives, without adding extra busyness and fuss. If the shirt were plain, it might look cute to leave long tails on the ribbon and tie it with a knot or tiny bow somewhere along the neckline. I'll let you know how the ribbon fares in the wash with future updates.

Applique, Reverse Applique, Negative Reverse Applique ~ What's the difference?

Negative Reverse Applique ~ that's a bundle of rather confusing words to wrap your head around, especially when placed right next to Reverse Applique and Applique, plus throw in the differences for the Alabama Chanin methods. I Googled the definitions of these terms, and Merriam's Dictionary only listed Applique:

Applique (per Merriam's Dictionary): "a cutout decoration fastened to a larger piece of material."

Sounds easy; right? For me, though, Applique is the most time-consuming and possibly most expensive technique of the three. With Applique you begin with your base. I have used a single layer of fabric for my base successfully. If you are planning on a lot of embellishment, which adds weight, you should use two layers for your base. Alabama Chanin teaches to always use two base layers. For ease of explanation, I will use two base layers. 

Begin with one plain bottom layer (for stability), right side facing up, and one top layer with your stenciled design on the right side, facing up. This is your base. You will then take a third layer of fabric and paint the mirror image of your stencil onto the back or wrong side of this fabric. 

Cut one element out of the third layer; flip the cut element over so the unpainted, right side is facing up; match it to the corresponding element on your base; place the cut element on top of the corresponding element;  and with a single strand of thread, whip stitch the element onto your base. Proceed element by element until your whole piece is complete. Do not cut all the elements out first, because you will have a dickens of a time trying to find the correct matching elements, like a giant jigsaw puzzle! 

Applique is a beautiful treatment. An upside to Applique is it allows for no visible paint showing on your final garment: Your garment will be very stable and heavy, which will do well for a heavily embellished item. Some drawbacks are: You will have three layers of fabric, which gets expensive: You will have sprayed your stenciled design twice, which is time-consuming and adds more cost: You will need to cut each element, flip, match, and sew it down, which can be tedious.  If you want a warmer garment, Applique may be your technique of choice. 

When adding extra weight like these beads, one would definitely opt for two base layers.

Reverse Applique: (per "A sewing craft in which an outline is cut from a top layer of fabric and the raw edges are turned under and stitched to expose one or more layers of fabric underneath."

This is the classic quilters' definition. In the Alabama Chanin style we use jersey fabric. With jersey fabric there is no need to turn under and stitch the raw edges as cut jersey does not fray and will simply gently roll when washed. 

With Reverse Applique you have two layers of fabric. The bottom layer is plain. The top layer is stenciled or painted with your design. You will place the bottom plain layer, right side up. Next place the stenciled or painted layer on top of the bottom layer, right side up. You now have two layers of fabric, both with right sides up. Pin or baste them together. Stitch or quilt these layers together by stitching each of the elements. Inside each of the stitched elements, cut only the top or painted layer away.

The top portion of the photo has the center or painted portion cut away. The bottom portion is before it is cut away. You'll notice that if the elements are too small, I don't cut them.

Negative Reverse Applique: I could not find any definition from any dictionary sites, so here is how I learned it from Alabama Chanin. 

With Negative Reverse Applique you have two layers of fabric. The bottom layer is plain. The top layer is stenciled or painted with your design. You will place the bottom plain layer, right side up. Next place the stenciled or painted layer on top of the bottom layer, right side up. You now have two layers of fabric, both with right sides up. Pin or baste them together. Stitch or quilt these layers together by stitching 1/8" inside each of the elements. Cut away all of the negative space, 1/8" outside of each of the elements. You will be left with mostly painted elements, with just a thin ribbon of unpainted fabric surrounding them.

This technique leaves you with a lighter-weight garment as much of the top layer is cut away. Sometimes I will stitch right on the paint line, then cut away the negative space. This leaves more of the unpainted fabric showing on the final garment. It's best not to cut too close, less than 1/8" to the stitching or your stitches may pull through the cut fabric. Sometimes when the patterns run close together, it's difficult to leave the 1/8". In these cases, I do the best I can. Luckily, it's more visual and not in the construction. If one happens to pull through eventually, I doubt it would be noticed with so much going on. When constructing a garment, though, I adhere to this rule, as I don't want my seams popping or failing.

If you are not completely confused at this point, read on. I have one more technique to throw in there I've coined the Hybrid technique.

As in Reverse Applique and Negative Reverse Applique you begin with two layers. The bottom layer is plain. The top layer is stenciled or painted with your design. You will place the bottom plain layer, right side up. Next place the stenciled or painted layer on top of the bottom layer, right side up. You now have two layers of fabric, both with right sides up. Pin or baste them together. Baste each of the elements in place. Cutting all the way up to the paint or leaving a thin ribbon of unpainted fabric, your choice, cut away all of the negative space. Next, with a single strand of thread, whip stitch each of the elements in place. Take out the basting stitches. You will notice in these photos that I have left the basting stitches in place. I like the way they look. They look like veining in leaves to me, and add an extra dimension. 

This Hybrid technique will not have the rolling raw edges. All those edges will be stitched down to offer a cleaner, less textural garment, similar to the Applique technique. Notice that like the Negative Reverse Applique technique, you see mostly painted elements, whereas with Applique there is no paint visible.

Here is a close up of the Hybrid technique. You can see I left a small sliver of the emerald color of the top layer. The paint is called Brownie. Below is my Hybrid Technique dress.

Here is a tea towel that has both the Reverse Applique (left-hand side) and Negative Reverse Applique (right-hand side) on the same item.

This skirt has Reverse Applique as well as some Applique. The Applique leaves are randomly placed about and are not part of the base stencil design. 

I hope this helps clear up these different techniques. I highly recommend reading one of Natalie Chanin's books. She goes into greater detail, with pictures, tips, and diagrams for Applique, Reverse Applique, and Negative Reverse Applique. 

There are a plethora of design choices just using these techniques, whether used alone or in conjunction. I hope you explore them all!

Tutorial: Hiding your Tails

I'm a rather free-form creator. Exact perfection is not my forte. Most of the time when I hand stitch a garment I leave the end of my thread, the "tails", free to wag around on the back side of the fabric, or even let them become a design element on the front of the garment for the whole world to see. The feel or visual aspect of tiny knots and threads usually do not bother me in the slightest. There are a few scenarios where I do like to keep things tidy and hide the tail of the end of the thread, for example, around the neckline or armpit area, or if it's a particularly precious garment and I want the backside to be as perfect as possible.

If you have wanted to tidy up your sewing and would like to know how I do it, here is a tutorial on how to hide your tails at the starting and ending points of your stitching.

The easiest way to hide the tail is to feed your threaded and knotted needle between the two layers of fabric, bring your needle up at your starting point, and stitch as usual.

This oftentimes is not an option, for example, if you're working in an area of your piece where you cannot split the two layers of fabric. If that's the case, here is another way to hide your tails.

1: Make a knot (one that you will cut away later).

2: Place this knot on the top side of your fabric, 1/2 inch away from your stenciled line. (Note: If you're doing reverse applique you'll want your tail to be lying outside of your stenciled area: If you are doing negative reverse applique you'll want your tail to be lying underneath your stenciled area.)

3: Run your thread through (between) your two layers of fabric, and come out with your needle and thread approximately at your stencil line on the back side of your fabric.

4: Tie another knot. Now you have a knot on the top side, your 1/2 inch tail of thread between your two layers of cloth, and a knot on the back side (with the thread and needle), ready to begin sewing.

5: Bring your needle up to the right side of your fabric and begin to sew as usual.

6: Once you finish your stenciled piece, knot off and run your needle through (between) your two layers of fabric.

Come out about 1/2 inch away from your stenciled area if you are doing reverse applique or come out about 1/2 inch inside your stenciled area if you are doing negative reverse applique.

Cut your thread.

7: Turn your fabric over to the right side, and cut away your original knot.

When doing the reverse applique, be very careful to thread your tail away from where your stencil, the paint is so the tail will not show when you cut away your stenciled area. You don't want this to happen. See the little tail hanging out at the top of the photo?

If you are doing the negative reverse applique technique, you will run your thread below the painted, stenciled area, as this will not be cut away and will hide that tail.

I hope this helps you keep your tails hidden and your work tidy!