Embroider even if you don't have a fancy-schmancy machine!
Applique has been around for a long time - many of our mothers and grandmothers were using the technique long before "embroidery-specific" machines were available on the market. The old-school embroidery look is very popular right now (just take a look around etsy), and is fairly simple to do - you can stitch it by hand or with a regular sewing machine - either way, the technique is very simple. If you have any questions - please don't hesitate to leave them in the comments or drop me an email - this technique can also be used with an embroidery machine and one of your favorite applique designs (with a few tweaks) - I'll be more than happy to share that with you too!
Unless you're super artistic/creative, I recommend starting out by creating a template - you can hand-draw one, copy a simple clip art, stitch one out, it really doesn't matter, you just need to have a starting point. I'm not much of an artist, so a simple template is a must for me! I stitched out my candy cane template and then trimmed it down leaving roughly a 1/8" allowance around the stitching.
Next cut a square of fabric that will comfortably encompass your template. I hate to waste fabric so I tend to cut the absolute smallest square possible, but sometimes that means it really is too small - so don't overly kill yourself trying to cut the perfect piece of fabric - my theory is it's better for it to be a little wasteful rather than to definitely be wasteful when I have to cut a second piece! Also - if your fabric has a "direction" - make sure that you cut it so that you can orient your template the desired direction on the fabric.
Now cut a piece of iron-on adhesive- I used this HeatnBond that I found at Walmart (make sure you get the kind that is sewable - not all of them are). Cut it the same size as your fabric & iron it onto the WRONG side of the fabric (leaving the paper backing on the adhesive) according to manufacturer instructions.
Now trim your piece of applique fabric (with adhesive paper attached) to your template. I'm not super artistic, so a template is a necessity for me...but if you are, you can also freehand your shape at this point...just remember that the more intricate your shape is, the more intricate your stitching will be. For me, simple is best.
Next, place your trimmed fabric on the item you want to applique - you can use a onesie or tee, dish towel, pillowcase, tote - the possibilities are really endless! For this project, I chose a pillowcase. Again following manufacturer directions, iron your applique fabric onto your item.
Next place your item on your machine and stitch the applique fabric down taking into account the fabric allowance you added earlier (I used 1/8"). The adhesive will help keep the fabric from fraying, but stitching inside the 1/8th inch also helps keep the fabric completely adhered to the item.
At this point, your item is appliqued - feel free to embellish it with ribbon, buttons, ric rac, etc. After looking at my pic I realized that you couldn't really see the red stitching holding the candy cane down, so I went back and restitched it in black.
I don't want to give away too much, as I'm giving embroidered items as several gifts, but here are a few of my other Christmas embroidery projects:
Hope your handmade Christmas is coming along nicely...for more great ideas, head on over to check out *holidays by hand* - this week almostfrugal is hosting!