Wait till you see how easy this is!

The Refabrication Challenges have really stoked the flames of creativity and pioneering new territories. March’s challenge was to make something out of knits and/or denim. I hope you enjoy my lesson on reverse appliqué and how this project came about.

My friend Sam and I take walks in the spring and summer just to see the beautiful swans and their babies! This was to be my muse.

I thrifted two knit dress with the plan of making a really cool swan bag.

Original thrifted knit dresses.

The night before, I researched swan bags to see if they were a current trend and BOOM! Kate Spade made a bunch in 2016. Along the way I fell in love again with Bjorks iconic 2001 swan dress. Also, Bjork made all of her own clothing in the 1980s, I wanted to be just like her!

What you will need for reverse appliqué

Sharp scissors
Inspiration photo
Freezer paper
Sewing machine
Fabrics of choice
(optional) Duck bill or appliqué scissors make it easier to cut away the excess.

I drew my simple swan shape for my appliqué on regular sized paper and folded it into fourths. I cut my freezer paper the size of the swan I wanted on my dress and then folded that into fourths as well. Folding your paper into fourths helps you get the proportion a little closer to the scale of your drawing. I can see where the swans neck ends and in what quadrant.

Important – I took my black dress and opened the back seam because I knew it would be much easier to work with a flat open space than a constricting circle. When I had my swan close to how I wanted it on the freezer paper, I cut it out and pressed the shiny side of the paper onto my dress where I wanted it. Freezer paper is great for this because it will temporarily stick to the fabric and leave no residue. Just in case it pealed up under my machine, I traced a chalk outline around the swan.

Before sewing I cut the white knit dress larger than my swan and pinned it under my black fabric making certain it was under the swan’s body completely. Then I peeled up my freezer paper and made a slit where the beak would be trimmed away and added a piece of orange fabric that was sandwiched between the black and the white fabric. I also made it large enough to be a small part of the eye.

Duck Bill or Appliqué Scissors

Now it’s SEW time! I carefully sewed through all layers on my chalk line. I am so glad I didn’t skip the chalk because getting all that under the throat of my machine many times was a mess, but totally doable. Most knit fabric does not fray but if yours does just sew around your motif twice.

This part can be a little messy but is really rewarding. I unpinned the white fabric and cut out the extra inside that was not needed. Then I cut the black away using my special scissors.

Since my dress was pull over I was able to sew the back together in a flash. I fit it realizing something was still missing? I referred back to Bjork and realized it was the swans black mask. I also had a lot of white fabric I didn’t want to waste so I decided to take the top apart and make the dress more me. I added white to the front and some cap sleeves. I used the black lace that was already on the shoulders of the dress for the swan’s mask.

There was still white fabric left so I made loofah face scrubs and turned this project into almost zero waste.

Behind the scenes~

My late spring and summer classes have been listed!

Stay tuned for the next blog post where I share the difference between a 1940s and a current big box pattern from the Momma and Me dresses.

Photo Credit, Richard Wonderling

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh
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