With a little practice and some patience anyone can apply their very own art to clothing using a regular sewing machine. I hope you find my three different techniques helpful.

Just a heads up! Doing a lot of stitching, like I do on these projects below, can distort fabric and cause puckering. I highly recommend something to stabilize your work. I have tested a few of these products here.

Left to right, Heat and Bond Lite (fusible), Wonder Under 805 (fusible), Stitch N Tear 805 (non fusible, tear away), Fabric Stabilizer (non fusible, heavy starch)

For extreme heavy stitching you will want to hoop your work and use a stabilizer. This is placing a large embroidery hoop on your piece tightly. It will sound like a drum when you tap it if it is tight. The hoop will help with puckering as you sew on the machine.

Alright! Let’s go. I like to start with sketching an idea on my iPad using the Procreate app.

For all of these I used a technique called free-motion sewing. I drop the feed dogs on a regular sewing machine (the metal teeth under the needle plate, most machines have a switch), change the foot to a free-motion foot and then sew along while drawing with the thread. These were my very first attempts. See how it wants to pucker?

The Deer Dress: I printed my Procreate art and used that as my pattern. Using those pattern pieces, I cut out pieces of cotton as placement markers. Once I had the pieces arranged I sprayed them with a heavy sizing. The heavy sizing was an experiment to see what would happen and whoowhee! It didn’t do JACK! I wound up hooping my work. I used a glue stick to adhere those cotton pieces to my dress before hooping and then free-motion sewing. To make the deer I used transfer paper, tracing out the faces, spots and other details. Filling in entire pieces is called free-motion embroidery.

Pattern credit, I used Dottie Angel’s Simplicity pattern #8186 cutting that front pocket in half and moving it to the side.

The Sunflower Skirt: I used freezer paper to freehand draw my art onto larger pieces than I could print out on my printer. The basting spray and Heat and Bond Lite gunks together in my machine so I used the glue stick again to temporarily hold my pieces to the skirt. This time, using tear-away interfacing as my stabilizer. I pinned it onto the back and it worked really well, except for getting it to come off in the end.

Pattern credit – I used 1950s McCall pattern #7962 and made it similar to the pattern cover. The pattern simply states to buy large floral fabric.

The Funky Top: I chose an old favorite, reverse appliqué. This is a class I’ve taught many times and I even had the pleasure of seeing some historical samples of Mola’s of Panama exhibit in the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2020.

Here’s the scoop, stack your different colored layers of fabric, I used five. Due to this thickness I did not need stabilizer. Pin that fabric around the sides so it can not shift. Trace your garment piece onto the outside (top) of fabric. This will help with placement. I used transfer paper to trace out the flowers and the birds so that I could see them on that top layer. Using free-motion sewing I drew around the flowers and birds with my thread. Next, I drew swirly lines and free-motioned over those. After, I cut away the layers using duckbill scissors. Just to be safe for washing I did a second row of free-motion stitches over my piece before making it into a shirt.

Pattern credit, I used the 1960 Simplicity #2995 for this look.

All in all this was just one big fun practice.

Behind the scenes ~ A little hand me down fabric can go a long way. Here is the quilt that all these scraps came from for these pieces. Check out the matching curtains, too.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it!Sew it!


Tracy McElfresh
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