Applique is most commonly used by quilters to add a decorative shape onto a piece of woven cotton fabric. It's a fun process that has wonderful results. I was intrigued when I took a Wendi Gratz Applique Monster quilt class on Bluprint.com and was inspired by her playful designs. Instead of making a child's monster quilt, I decided to put a cute monster applique on a pair of fleece mittens for my young granddaughter. I knew a traditional applique wouldn't work well with the lofty stretchy fleece, so I experimented and found that a needle felting technique using wool roving was a fantastic way to embellish the mittens. I named the technique fuzzy applique.
Step 1: Supplies
Here are the materials required for this project.
- Wool Roving (white, yellow, turquoise)
- Fleece Fabric (I used scraps left over from my Travel Bag, Blanket & Pillow project, but any fleece will work)
- Ribbing Fabric
- 1 sheet black synthetic craft store felt
- Felting needles
- Felting surface (or thick foam rubber)
- Sewing Machine
- Needle and black embroidery thread
- Mitten Pattern (see attached)
Step 2: Cut Fleece
Use the pattern pieces to cut the fleece with the arrows in the same direction as the stretch of the fleece. Since we are making two opposite mittens, make sure to cut out two opposites of each piece.
Since fleece often looks the same on both sides, mark the wrong side of the fabric. Be sure to cut the notch and mark the dots on the fabric.
Step 3: Design Applique
Create a template that represents the shape for your applique. I used a picture from my inspiration source to help create my template.
Step 4: Layer Wool
Cut a piece of the black synthetic felt slightly bigger than your template. Pull off small pieces of wool roving and layer on top of the felt. Continue to cover the black felt. Make a second, third, and fourth layer alternating the direction of the wool. Always put a piece of thick foam under your felting, or purchase a commercial needle felting base. A good base is an useful tool for needle felting.
Use the multi-needle needle felting pen to press the wool roving into the black felt. Continue with a punching motion moving up and down pushing the wool into the felt. This is needle felting. The needle is barbed so that it combines one piece of fiber into another.
Note: I used a black piece of felt since I wanted the applique to have a black outline. Of course you can also felt into a sheet of wool felt. I choose a synthetic felt because it is what I had on hand. It is also a bit thinner than a wool felt.
Step 5: Cut Out Felt
Use your shape template to cut your monster body shape out of the felt.
Step 6: Punch Fleece
Place your cut shape onto your front mitten piece and needle punch the shape into the fleece. This will take a bit of time to do. The goal is to press all of the fibers from the applique into the fleece. Since the fleece is stretchy, stretch it on occasion to make sure the top layer will not pull out when the mitten is put on. After the center has adhered, swap the multi-needle pen with the single needle pen and press the needle along the edges of the shape.
If you turn over your fleece, you will see the fiber from the front layer onto the back. This is what you want.
Step 7: Needle Felt Mouth, Dots, and Eyes
Continue to decorate the applique. First, cut out a mouth shape out of the black felt. Use a single needle to press it into the applique.
Pull small strands of yellow fiber and single needle felt it into the applique.
To create the eyes, needle felt a wad of white wool roving onto itself until it builds up into a ball. Be careful during this step since you will be punching a small area of wool.
Felt a tiny piece of black felt to make the black of the eye. Since the eye is thicker than the other parts of the applique, it will not adhere completely to the fleece and may fall off. You will need to give the needle felting a bit of help by sewing the eye. Use a needle and black piece of embroidery thread to sew through the black dot of the eye into the fleece. I used a french knot to give the black of the eye more depth (check out the Instructable Embroidery Class for information on how to embroider a french knot).
Step 8: Sew the Upper and Lower Palm
Place the upper and lower palm pieces right sides together matching the notches and dots. Pin. Set your sewing machine to a longer than normal stitch length (I set mine to a 4). Start at the dot and sew until you reach the notch. Backstitch on both ends.
Step 9: Sew Palm to Front
Pin the sewn palm pieces to the front piece right sides together matching at the dots and notches. Sew together. You will not be able to sew fully around piece because the thumb will be in the way, so you will need to break up the sewing into three parts.
Step 10: Sew the Ribbing
Cut 2 pieces of ribbing 5 inches square (one for each mitten). Fold each in half so that it stretches horizontally. Stitch the ribbing side seam.
Fold the stitched ribbing in half from top to bottom, wrong sides together. Pin the ribbing into the edge of the mitten right sides together . Sew along the edge. Stretch a bit as you go such as you would if you were sewing ribbing to the neck of a t-shirt.
Step 11: All Done
Turn the piece right sides out and admire your work.
Step 12: Needle Felt a Ready-made Pair of Gloves
Here's another idea. If you want to make a no-sew project, you can needle felt a ready-made pair of gloves. Just put your needle felting surface inside the gloves and needle felt until your applique is fully adhered into the bottom layer. If desired, embroider around the edges of your applique.