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A while back I saw this awesome layered t-shirt. I really like layering a long-sleeved t-shirt under a short-sleeved one, but what I really loved about this project is how it covered up little holes in the short-sleeved t-shirt with reverse appliqué. While I just love regular appliqué, sewing a fabric shape on top of another base piece of fabric, I find reverse appliqué, when you cut out the top fabric to expose different fabric below, just gorgeous, especially when it’s Alabama Chanin style. Have you seen the Alabama Stitch Book*? I own it and it’s just such a beautiful book with such a gorgeous style. Natalie Chanin’s technique is basically doing reverse applique with upcycled t-shirts (or t-shirt jersey material), optionally fabric painting the edges of the cut-out fabric, and hand stitching the two fabrics together with a contrasting color thread. The effect is just stunning.
That’s basically what this layered t-shirt is doing, but instead of using fabric paint, you discolor the cut edges by dabbing them with bleach on a Q-tip (according to the tutorial, she got that idea from this post), rinsing all the bleach out and then stitching the two (dry) shirts together. I used a boring lavender t-shirt (which I’d gotten to freezer paint stencil with these ones, but just never got around to it) and a thrifted long-sleeve dark purple t-shirt. While I didn’t have little holes in my top t-shirt, it did have a couple of stains.
I didn’t make a stencil because I wasn’t really sure how I wanted the leaves arranged and I wanted to be sure to go over the stains. So I folded up a brochure and cut out some leaf shapes and placed them over the t-shirt, fiddling until I was happy with their position. I then traced around them with a water soluble fabric marker* (which I prefer to air drying ones because I can choose when I want to erase the markings), cut out the shapes, dabbed on the bleach (with newspaper inside the shirt so it wouldn’t go onto the back of the shirt), rinsed out the bleach, and hung out to dry. Alas, I accidentally splattered a tiny bit of bleach in a couple of spots, so I purposely splattered more bleach around the front. After rinsing out the bleach, I realized that the holes had gotten larger than how I’d cut them. I was concerned that the project would have to be dumped, but the next day I put on both shirts and patiently pinned the top shirt into place, pulling the leaf shapes into position. They did end up larger than I’d expected (and the bleached edges adds to this effect), but at least they weren’t deformed. So I suggest cutting out your holes slightly smaller than you’ll want them in the end.
The next day, while I was outside supervising my kids playing, I started hand stitching. I decided to use four strands of embroidery thread so that the stitches would be more visible. Normally I dislike hand sewing, but I have to say that it was surprisingly enjoyable and relaxing to sit outside in the sun, watch my kids, and calmly sew. It was a nice change of pace to not be working as quickly as possible with a sewing machine. I think I need to start doing more hand sewing in the future!
I love the look of the embroidery around the bleached edges and reverse applique!
What a fun shirt! So much better than either shirt on its own! I was considering cutting off the bottom and sleeve hems as well as the collar of the top shirt to make them roll up a bit, but in the end I wasn’t totally sure so just left it as it was. (By the way, the top shirt is not sewn on crookedly, despite what it seems from my off-center collar in this picture. It’s just that this picture was taken after a long day and I was a bit disheveled!) I’m so glad that I finally used this tutorial and technique!
Question of the day: What’s your favorite embellishing technique?
This is such a hard question for me to answer because I love so many embellishing techniques! I really like the effect of appliqué, but I also really like embroidery and beading when it’s not overdone.
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