Applique Tutorial - Sweet Little Dress for Valentine's Day

Target. I have a love/hate relationship with Target {Tar-jhay}. For years, I couldn't get out of the store for under $100. Like, almost never. And then, as my kids got older and needed to have brand-name clothing that looks like it came from a dumpster, I stopped shopping there so much. Now, if I get outta there for under $50, I'm doing good.

But - with all of that said - you just can't go wrong with the clearance items that dot the store. I almost always browse through the kids/baby sections to find items that have been marked down to almost nothing. And yesterday, I found this little gem:
It's a 2T - I don't know anyone with a rugrat that size, but I figured I could embellish it and sell it in my Etsy shop. This dress was $2.

I just recently learned to applique - a process that intimidated me until I actually did it. It's so stinkin' easy! It just takes practice. Start with scrap pieces of fabric and cut out different shapes and just experiment with stitch length and width. The key is the needle down/pivot move around curves and corners. And if you have a machine that has lots of decorative stitches - experiment with those, too. I used a simple zig-zag stitch with this project.

I'm sure this little velvet number was meant for a Christmas dress, but it has no embellishment at all and the shape is very girlie and simple. I'm not a huge fan of too cutesy-fartsy - a ton of ruffles and bell sleeves and those flouncy pants bother me. It just doesn't seem practical for a little one to have a ton of fabric hanging off of them - it would interfere with serious playing, in my opinion.

I wanted to use black in this - it'll be cute with a bit of an edge. I used scraps and a little yardage from my stash.

Heat 'N' Bond {HNB} is the greatest stuff in the world! It's readily available and a little goes a long way. I bought the lightweight version. If you've never used it before- it's easy. Again, practice with it first. It has a paper side and a shiny glue side.

Cut the HNB to fit your piece BEFORE you cut out your shape. Iron the shiny side to the wrong side of your fabric. I use steam and I iron both sides. {Don't use your best iron for this - maybe a thrift store iron may be in order for projects like these}

Now that all of the HNB has been ironed on, cut out your shapes. Since I'm doing a simple heart, I'm not going to draw out my shape, but with any other design I would most likely draw it out first. {PLEASE NOTE: if you are doing letters or shapes that are asymmetrical, flip them and trace them backwards so they face the correct way when facing right side out} I added a pin to stabilize when cutting for the larger piece.

So- all of these pieces need to be arranged so they jive. I like to overlap and tilt to create movement and interest. Lay them out however you'd like.
Begin with the bottom-most piece - which for this layout is the large black polka dotted heart. Peel off HNB backing paper and position the piece. Iron for several seconds, moving the iron in circles. Iron from the inside, too.

Before you begin stitching, practice your zig-zag stitch to get it to the length and width that you think will look good. Also, you can check the thread color at this point - sometimes the thread on the spool doesn't translate into a pleasing decorative stitch color. Adjust if needed. I used a black and a silver for this project and both had a little sheen to them.

I love the foot in this picture. It has a little red mark that lines up with the needle. If you don't have this type of foot, mark your regular foot with a bit of paint, nail polish or permanent marker. It helps a ton with this type of sewing. This type of machine applique is all about lining up the needle with the edge of the fabric. Keeping the edge of the fabric in line with the needle will ensure that the stitches will fall on either side of the fabric evenly.
When going into or around corners - go beyond 1-2 stitches where you think you should stop. It may look like you're going to mess it up, but you need to go a little further than you think in order to line up the edge of the fabric when you pivot to the next side.  Again, practice, practice, practice this move - after you try it a few times, you'll understand what I'm talking about. You can also cheat the corner a little by lifting the presser foot and the needle and adjusting the fabric to line it up.

Now, just keep layering the other pieces over each other, repeating the process above with each piece.

This is what the inside will look like when done.
It was a little tricky sewing over the seams of the tiers, but it wasn't that hard.

Et Voila!
C'est adorable, non?

This project took me about 30 minutes. And cost me $2.
This is why I sew - I can transform the ordinary into something that's just so dang delicious!

Try this technique with t-shirts, jeans, skirts - whatever. It's a great way to makeover an item that's lackluster or even extends the life of a hand-me-down. Find clip art on the internet or draw out simple shapes - just experiment!


  1. That is really..really cute! If only I knew about this 10 years ago!

  2. Wow...that is so cute! I never thought to shop the kids' clearance section!

  3. LOVE IT! Too bad both my rugrats are a 3T or 4T. Really cute and clever!

  4. My hubby calls Target the Hundred Dollar store! I try to take a list with me and stick to it. Sometimes it actually works! So glad I don't have a 2T rugrat right now!

  5. Oh how cute!!! Love Target for picking up Ts of the clearance rack to applique for my kiddos! I'll have to keep my eyes open for a gem like this dress!

  6. I love doing fabric appliques! I haven't ventured much from onesies, but they are so fun. Great tutorial and I love the finished dress.

  7. So cute! My little one is a 2t :) How much are selling this for???

  8. That is seriously so cute! You are definitely a better at applique than I am! Really really cute!

  9. I am going out today to try and find something I can applique for my 5 yr. old grandaughter. Great idea!!
    Gmama Jane

  10. Fantastic Tutorial! I love applique and like you mentioned practice is the key. It is really fun to create details with your applique. One of my favorite methods is placing a medium weight tear away stabilizer on the back of a project, then use Free Motion Machine Embroidery creating texture and pizzazz. Excellent idea to buy discount clothing and spice it up with applique. I actually have a couple of shirts that have small stains (so only worn at home) that would look super fixed up with some applique and embroidery stitches. Thanks for the tutorial and idea!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...