"Handmade (Not Homemade)" describes the way this Denver blogger approaches her many projects in life: creating, inspiring, loving and exploring. Living life to it's fullest requires more than a rag-tag assortment of homemade theories and thrown-together decisions. But the goal is not perfection, for handmade items and actions have a slightly imperfect organic charm.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Applique Kitchen Towel Tutorial

I was so excited about the beautiful fabric for my new kitchen curtains that I was inspired to make a matching/coordinating kitchen towel with the beautiful bird theme, as you may recall. Here is the completed project!

I was already getting out my applique supplies to make a custom-order T-shirt for a friend, so I thought I'd piggyback this selfish project on to the afternoon. Here's the T-shirt I made, using the same technique that I will teach you below.

I make a wide variety of applique onesies and T-shirts that I plan to sell on my Etsy site, HandmadeNotHomemade.Etsy.com The Bambino was wearing one of my creations this very day (as he does most days). Here, he is celebrating a flip from his tummy to his back. It's his new thing.

But I digress... Here is what I gathered to make the kitchen towel: a towel set I bought from Walmart for $4 (I looked for a kitchen towel that had a flat texture-one with a deep waffle weave will distort the applique after washing), Heat 'N Bond iron-on interfacing, iron, thread to match my beautiful fabric, sewing machine, and the fabric itself. Here is the label from the brand of interfacing I use. It has double-sided iron-on capabilities that I will explain in a sec.

First, I made a rough cut-out of the motif I wanted to isolate for the applique. Cut it bigger than what you want to be the final shape.

Then, cut a matching piece of the interfacing. The interfacing can be slightly smaller than the rough-cut, but needs to cover the ENTIRE portion of what will be your final shape.

Lay the fabric face down, and iron the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric. For this brand of interfacing, you will be ironing the paper side. The dotted rough side will be touching the fabric. You only need to hold the iron in place for 2 seconds using the cotton/linen heat setting with no steam. See how it goes almost all the way to the edge?

Now cut out your shape as detailed as you want it to be. Warning: if you cut every nook and cranny, you will have to maneuver your fabric through the sewing machine to get to every nook and cranny, which is not easy & if you mess up, you will get frustrated-this is supposed to be fun and easy. I like to leave just a little bit of breathing room around my shape (about 1/16") to leave room for my zig-zag stitch. If I cut right on the line of the motif, my stitch will cover it up. Also, I like to make fluid cuts with as few sharp corners as possible.

Once the shape is cut out, peel the paper backing off of the interfacing.

Then place your shape exactly where you want it to be on the kitchen towel. Using your iron on the same setting as before, iron each area of the shape for 8 seconds. Now it should be 'glued' to the kitchen towel.

Time to sew! Change out the thread on your machine to the thread that matches your fabric applique. Also change out the bobbin thread to the same color. I used to think that I would use bobbin thread the same color as my base material (in this case, the kitchen towel) in order to not have a different color outline on the wrong side of the fabric. But sometimes, a bobbin thread is pulled up from the back and shows up on the front, so it is better to have all matching thread for a neat final product.

I set my machine to do a not-very-wide zig-zag stitch and not super-fine, either. I find that if I mess up and have to rip out some stitches, a super-fine zig-zag ends up making a hole in the fabric. Now, carefully sew around the shape. Maybe it is because I am right-handed, but I like to place the right part of the stitch barely on the outside of the shape and the left part of the stitch into the shape, so that pretty much all of the stitch is on the applique. Some people like to 'straddle' the applique with the stitch. However you wish to do it is fine! Here is the detail of my stitching. See how it is on the very edge of the applique?

Trim the extra threads off, and you're done!

Here is another picture of the final product, ready to be used. Tess decided to poke her nose into this photo and it was too cute not to share.

Lest you think that I've been slacking on my other projects, I'll have you know that I've been working on my Christmas stockings little by little every day, usually after the Bambino goes to bed. I'll share those next, even though they are not complete, simply because you still have time to do some stockings yourself. Maybe you'll be inspired...


  1. Love that Tess nose! I have been inspired, but I am thinking I want to monogram some dishtowels using the wax paper technique from your baby shower.

  2. My talented friend Kristen has also done an iron-on technique. She found a great vintage image, printed it on iron-on paper, and put it on a tea towel We've been talking about doing a craft night at one of our homes to do that very project. If it ever happens, I'll put you on the invite list.

  3. Geez. My thoughts- 1. I need to stop slacking on my blog. 2. You are such a good teacher- inspiring and creative. 3. How come my background on my blog doesn't go all the way up like yours. 4. I want a sewing machine.