Introduction: Graphic Sweater to Beat the Winter Blahs

About: My aim is to help you upcycle, remake, or sew! Or if you don't want to sew but would like to support artisans who do, visit my Etsy store: EmeraldRainbowProjct

Punch up any plain sweater into a graphic beauty that is sure to beat the winter blues. You will need:

Sweater in good condition

Material or sweater(s) to cut up for appliqué

Steam-a-seam (my favorite) or wonder under


Bead for eye (if making bird)

Step 1: Draw Your Graphic

If this is your first appliqué project, I would recommend starting with a simple graphic such as a heart or star. The bigger, the better! Use paper or cardboard that has something on the back. This will be very helpful later.

Step 2: Cut Out Your Graphic

Save the outline left over after cutting if it is a more complex graphic such as a bird just in case you need to be reminded of how the pieces are to be placed.

Step 3: Trace Onto Steam-a-seam

My favorite brand of iron on is steam-a-seam (unfortunately for me I am not paid to say this but it is a superior product because it makes for a soft -not stiff- appliqué). There are many other things that I like about this product but anything your local fabric store might have will do as well. This will keep your material in place when you go to sew. Be sure to remember to turn your piece over to its wrong side to trace onto the steam-a-seam paper if it is an asymmetrical design because you will be ironing this on to the back of your fabric. This is when it comes in handy to have something on the back of the drawing paper so as not to get the right & wrong sides confused.

Step 4: Cut Steam-a-seam

Cut out your steam-a-seam tracings leaving an edge all the way around. In other words, leave margin and don't cut right on your lines.

Step 5: Iron Steam-a-seam Pieces Onto Back of Fabric

By now you've probably already chosen your fabrics. I used upholstery samples that a neighbor passed on to me. I love the different textures that these fabrics offered me. The belly and beak are out of a cotton velvet, the back is a textured apholstery and the face and tail are out of a silk dupioni-like fabric with a hint of gleam. Follow the steam-a-seam directions as to the ironing. It is about 10 seconds, setting the heat of the iron according to what kind of fabric you are working with.

Step 6: Cut Your Pieces and See If You Like!

I started out with a patterned face but didn't like how it looked and changed to plain to match the tail. However, I did use the discarded face piece to cut the legs from. At this point it is an easy change because my pieces are just laid down and not sewn.

Step 7: Choose a Backing Fabric

Any random piece of cotton fabric will do. It is important this piece is not a knit or stretch to be supportive as the backing. This is the fabric you will initially be sewing your bird on as it is easier to work with under the machine needle than having to work to turn the whole sweater around & around on the sewing step. You can iron and sew directly on your sweater if you are up for the challenge but you will need a tear-away stabilizer under your sweater layer so it doesn't stretch or bunch up as you sew.

Step 8: Iron Bird on Backing Fabric

I turned my scrap fabric over & ironed my bird on the back side. You might want to choose a fabric that is similar in color to your applique or the same color as your sweater so as not to show around the edges when you are done. This will make more sense in a couple more steps. I chose a white so you could see it better in this tutorial.

Step 9: Satin Stitch Around All Borders

You will need a universal sized machine needle and whatever thread to match your fabric. In this case, I used yellow, orange and fuchsia thread. The satin stitch is found on your machine's zig-zag function. If you've never done this kind of stitch before, I would recommend practicing on scrap fabric to get the hang of it before working on your appliqué. Once you are completely done satin-stitching around all raw edges, go back to the ironing board to iron the whole appliqué. This will smooth out any waviness and set the stitches.

Step 10: Cut Out, Sew on & Voila

At this point, iron a big piece of steam-a-seam to the back of your completed applique. Then cut out the appliqué from the backing getting as close to the stitching as you can without cutting any stitching. You may have a bit of a border you can see. This is when it makes sense to use a fabric that matches your appliqué or sweater so that once it is sewn on, this tiny outline will not be noticeable.

If you forgot to apply the steam-a-seam before cutting as I did, you will need to apply more steam-a-seam to the back in pieces, covering as much as you can.

Next, sew on the eye (if applicable). I used a czech glass bead that has some subtle & beautiful marbling. This would be a good use of that one beaded earring that you have been hanging on to since you lost its match.

Peel off paper backing of steam-a-seam and iron on your sweater.

Change the needle on your sewing machine to a jersey (ball point) needle so as not to cut your sweater threads. Straight stitch around the appliqué to adhere it to the sweater and - voila! You have a designer (you:)), one-of-a-kind, winter blahs-beating, amazing sweater!

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