Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Adventure Time Felt Applique How-To

I don't make handmade gifts for just anyone, but I knew Alex would appreciate anything I made him for his birthday this year. Making the gift Adventure Time-themed ensured its success, even if my craft skills failed me. Luckily, they did not!

This was my first-ever felt applique project, and I learned many lessons along the way. To save you from felt applique anxiety, I'm sharing those lessons here in an easy little tutorial. Adventure felt applique time!

What You'll Need

  • A printed photo of what you'd like to applique
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Two pieces of fabric: one for the front and one for the back
  • Freezer paper or other tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Felt to match colors in your photo
  • Disappearing ink marker
  • Needle and thread that coordinates with the felt
  • Embroidery floss for outlining and embroidering features (I used black for outlining, plus red and white for other random features)

Making felt templates

If you're like me and you trace patterns for sewing all the time, you'll quickly find that felt is not like fabric. Don't even bother getting out your tracing wheel. It won't save you! Here's how I made my templates:

1. Use a search like Google Images to find a photo you'd like to applique. Choose a photo that has clean, clear lines and isn't too busy. You'll thank me when you start tracing!

2. Print that photo onto paper, printing it at the exact size you want your applique to be.

3. Using freezer paper or other tracing paper and a pencil, individually trace each piece of the photo. Pay attention to parts that might need to be layered. For instance, in my picture, I traced Jake's right leg individually because I wanted to layer it over his body. For pieces like Finn's shirt, I drew a line to make the entire shirt, even though it's hidden under Jake's body. This made layering a little easier later.

4. As you trace, label the pieces so you'll know what they are. Parts like Finn's arms were not super obvious shapes, so the labeling helped when it was time to layer.

5. Cut the pieces from the freezer paper. Lay each piece over its corresponding felt. Use a disappearing marker to trace each piece. Cut out the pieces.

Arranging felt templates

Once you have all your pieces, start to arrange them on a table so you can see how the pieces need to be layered. Once you're satisfied with the arrangement, flip the entire piece over. This will help you see which pieces needed to be appliqued onto the fabric first.

Stitching the felt

1. Place your main fabric in an embroidery hoop and hand stitch each individual piece to the fabric using matching thread. Remember to start with the bottom layer, then place other felt pieces on top. (If you mess up, no worries. Just rip the stitches and re-layer.)

2. Use a black embroidery floss to outline each individual piece with good old backstitch, including Jake's leg and Finn's sleeve.

3. The final touch -- and possibly the hardest: stitch features onto each character. I found satin stitch to be helpful when filling in mouths and tongues, while French knots came in handy for eyes.

Securing the fabric

1. Use the fabric backing to embroider a personalized birthday message on the back. (I didn't photograph it because if you saw it, I'd blush eternally.)

2. Layer the two fabrics and pull them taut to secure them in the hoop. Flip the hoop over. Turn the two fabrics under and hot glue them to the inside of the hoop.

It's a tedious process, yes, but the finished applique is pretty darn amazing, if I do say so myself. Alex hung his gift in the bedroom, and I hope it will always make him smile.

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