Reverse applique may sound fancy, but it’s actually a crazy-easy sewing technique that allows you to add tons of color, texture and pattern to your projects with very little effort. In this technique, two or more fabrics are layered and stitched together, then sections of the fabric are strategically cut away to reveal the color(s) beneath, essentially creating an original textile. In this post, we’re experimenting with reverse applique to make simple place mats, but once you get the hang of this technique, you’ll see that it can be used to create your own patterns on just about anything, from throw pillows to curtains and more. Ready to reverse applique? Let’s get started! — Brett Bara
Read the full how-to after the jump . . .
- fabric in at least two different colors; cotton-linen blends are great for place mats, or any cotton is a good choice
- thread in contrasting colors
- sewing machine, iron and basic sewing supplies
1. Cut the fabric.
2. Sew the abstract pattern.
Layer at least two pieces of fabric with their right sides facing up. If you’d like to incorporate more colors into your piece, you can use more layers of fabric in different colors, and simply cut through as many layers as you’d like to reveal the different colors. I only wanted two colors in my design, but I added a third layer of fabric to my stack to give my place mats a bit more weight.
In this design I used a special feature on my sewing machine called free-motion sewing. This means that you can sew freely in all directions — front, back or sideways — making tight loops and curves in any abstract shape. This is accomplished by lowering the feed dogs, which are those metal pieces in the photo above that look like they have treads or cleats. Normally the feed dogs grip the fabric and feed it through the machine at an even rate, but if you lower them, they get tucked out of the way, and your fabric can move freely.
Most machines these days allow you to lower your feed dogs, but if your machine doesn’t have this feature, you can adapt this project and sew your shapes in wider curves or with straight lines. Consult your sewing machine manual to learn how to use this setting on your machine.
3. Cut the layers.
4. Attach the backing.
To finish each place mat, cut another piece of fabric the same size as the pieces you already have. I used a contrasting hue, which creates a subtle pop of color peeking around the edges of each mat. Place this piece on top of the applique piece, with the right side of the applique and the right side of the backing fabric facing together.
Turn the whole piece right-side out, carefully working the fabric through the opening left in the stitching. Use a pointy object to poke out the corners, then press all the seams flat. Turn under the raw edges of the fabric at the opening in the stitching so that the opening is even with the seamed edges.
Using a needle and thread, sew the opening closed by hand. (Alternately, you could top stitch around the perimeter of the mat.)
And you’re done! Happy reverse applique-ing!