Friday, August 3, 2012

Free Reverse Appliqué Onesie Tutorial

Simple surface appliqué is an easy and popular embellishment technique for clothing; but have you ever tried reverse appliqué? The general concept is the same as regular appliqué, except that the accent fabric is stitched to the garment from the backside. Then, the garment fabric is trimmed away in front to reveal the cute fabric print inside a stitched window.

Here, I used this technique to create a sweet birdie onesie, perfect for autumn. Because I wanted to soften the brightness of a white garment for a more natural, cozy look, I coffee-dyed it before appliquéing. The easy how-to for this process is included here following the instructions for reverse appliqué.


  1.  Use blue wash-away marking pen to trace bird design onto wrong side of cotton fabric print. Turn onesie inside out. Pin cotton fabric onto inside front of onesie, right side down, and making sure bird will be positioned where you want it on your finished onesie.
  2. Set up sewing machine with monofilament thread. Stitch fabric to onesie on traced lines of bird shape, backstitching to secure at beginning and ending point.
  3. Use scissors to trim away excess fabric around outside of stitching lines to about 1/4 inch.
  4. Turn onesie right side out. Cut a small hole in onesie fabric inside stitching lines, being careful to only cut through knit layer. Trim away onesie fabric from inside stitching lines, about 1/8 to 1/16 inch away from stitches. TIP: Extra-sharp, precision-tip scissors are especially helpful in this step.
  5. Machine wash and dry onesie; this will fray and curl raw, cut edges of onesie fabric.
  6. Using a blue wash-away marking pen and template provided, trace embroidery design onto onesie around bird design. Use DMC floss to backstitch over marked lines.
  7. Rinse away blue marked lines; let onesie dry, then press.

Fun Ideas to Switch it up!
  • Instead of monofilament thread, use thread in a coordinating or contrasting color.
  • Create your own appliqué templates using any shape you choose! Just keep in mind that simpler shapes are easiest to stitch around on the sewing machine.
  • Apply this same reverse appliqué technique to any garment, or use it in home décor such as on tea towels or pillows.

How to Dye with Coffee
Dying cotton fabric with coffee (or tea) is a simple and inexpensive way to give any item a natural, aged off-white hue. I chose to coffee-dye the baby onesie used in this project to soften the brightness of the white fabric, and love the results. Here’s how you do it!

  • White cotton baby onesie (or other item)
  • Coffee and coffee pot
  • Water
  • Tub or large casserole dish
  • Wooden spoon
  • Vinegar 
  • Pre-wash and dry baby onesie to remove any sizing or oils from fabric. This will ensure a more evenly dyed application.
  • Brew a strong pot of coffee. NOTE: Coffee can be either caffeinated or decaffeinated; the key is just to brew with a bit more grounds than usual.
  • Pour brewed coffee into tub or large casserole dish. Place onesie into dye bath. With a wooden spoon, push garment under surface and allow it to steep in coffee dye for 20 to 40 minutes, or until desired darkness is achieved.
  • Before removing onesie from dye bath, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar, stirring with wooden spoon. Allow onesie to steep in mixture for an additional 5 minutes; the vinegar will help set coffee dye into fabric.
  • Remove onesie from coffee-vinegar mixture. Rinse briefly under faucet until water runs clear. Dry onesie in dryer or by laying flat.
  • Continue with reverse appliqué as instructed. Any remaining coffee or vinegar odor should disappear once onesie is washed.

This tutorial was excerpted from the new Fall 2012 edition of Sew Beautiful's sister magazine, Stitch Craft Create, which can be found on newsstands and at starting next week!

Shannon Miller is the editor of Stitch Craft Create magazine. Having previously worked as art director for Sew Beautiful magazine and with a love of all things crafty and creative, she feels blessed to work in such an inspiring environment every day. She admits to having a problem with coffee, an exploding stash of fat quarters, a strong dislike for cleaning, an addiction to reading blogs and an overwhelming affection for naps. Shannon lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband Nathan and their one-year-old daughter Georgia Mae and newborn son Ryland.

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