Today on the SSE Blog, we're fortunate enough to have the incredibly talented Roxann Lizardi share some of her top tips for creating absolutely gorgeous knit garments using applique and embroidery techniques. Read on to learn how she does it!
Hello! My name is Roxann Lizardi, I handcraft sterling silver jewelry for a living, my husband and I run a small business out of our home studio in Connecticut and in my spare time I am pretty obsessed with sewing! I have found that creativity is like a muscle, the more you work at it, the easier and stronger it becomes. For that reason I try to always be experimenting with new crafts, materials, techniques and ideas. The more I make, the more I want to make!
Over the last few years I’ve really enjoyed sewing with knits and learning to make my own clothes. I’ve always admired appliquéd and embroidered garments and really wanted to incorporate these elements into my makes. The best part is that there’s not many rules to this and anyone can get started embellishing fabric! I wanted to share pictures of my latest projects as well as some of the ways I’ve gone about embellishments in the past and some resources to learn more about these techniques. Sometimes I think it’s helpful to just get permission to be creative, just knowing that there really isn’t a wrong way makes it easier to get started and give something a shot!
Appliqué is simply adding one fabric onto another. I’ve done this on fabric before sewing something together and I’ve also done it to a finished garment. Both have great results! That’s helpful to know because it means that it’s never too late to add this type of embellishment. What's great about appliqué with knit fabrics is that the edges don’t fray so you don’t need to turn them under before sewing the appliqué down. You can either cut the shape out and then stitch it down or you can pin a larger piece, sew around the shape and then trim around where you sewed it down. See, no rules!
You'll want to get prepared by choosing what you'd like to applique. you could cut out part of a print as I've done here on this polka dot shirt. The flower was an all over print on a scrap of tri blend. I like using part of a print because there is already a design for me to trace with stitches or add embellishment to, kind of like a paint by number but with sewing! You could cut out the graphic on an old tee to stitch it onto a new one, Even sewing a stripe of plain fabric down onto another adds such interest and is fun to do!
What will you need to get started?
To embroider or applique on your project, all you need is a needle, thread and some fabric!
I get asked questions sometimes about stabilizers, tapes and things like that so I’m going to share some bullet points for my findings and current methods with you.
1. You don’t need to stabilize the fabric to add stitches. You can sew right onto knits and as long as you are a bit careful to not pull too hard on your stitches or stretch it out as you are going. I’ve had great results with no extra interfacing or stabilizers. I try to use somewhat stable knits to do embroidery or appliqué on. You could always test out your fabric to see how it will behave with hand sewing embellishment but so far I’ve had great luck without any stabilizer on jersey, ponte, french terry, sweatshirt knit, interlock and cupro.
2. You can use lots of different threads or needles to do this. I prefer embroidery floss because it comes in so many colors. I use 3 strands of floss most of the time and like the way this looks plus it’s easy for me to thread and glides well through the fabric. I use a longer needle meant for this type of hand stitching called a sashiko needle, it’s not really necessary but I find that having a longer needle is helpful especially for a running stitch because you can really load it up with stitches before pulling through.
3. You can use a hoop, or not! I use a hoop often but not all of the time. I find the hoop makes it easier for me to hold in some situations but other times I find the hoop to be annoying so just do what you find the most comfortable! If you do opt for the hoop, just take care not to stretch the fabric too much in it. I put the fabric in very loosely so it holds it but isn’t keeping it taught.
5. Once you have sewn all of the edges of your appliqué you can also use decorative stitching to add texture in the center, or not! Sometimes I just like to get the pieces attached and leave well enough alone. Other times I truly enjoy just adding more stitching all over the appliqué. You don’t need to do any fancy stitches, just putting random little stitches all over or in different colors is so beautiful and gives such a nice texture. I recently started experimenting with different stitches and French knots just to mix it up and I’m enjoying each new stitch I have learned and love adding them in!
Have fun and experiment! If you aren’t loving how something is coming out my advice is add more! I think if you just go for it and do what you love and keep adding stitches it will come out beautiful. Each time you do this you will learn to get a feel to adding the hand sewing and it will become easier each time to get your stitching the way you like it.
I hope this has inspired you to boldly go forth and add some decorative appliqués or embroidery to your makes! The best thing about hand stitching on your project is that it doesn't have to be perfect, the beauty of this technique comes from the texture that it adds, imperfections add to it's uniqueness making it more interesting and it's a great way to get creative! If you catch yourself ever saying “I’m not good at that” about a craft or art, change that to “I haven’t learned that yet” because nobody jumps in and just does something, we need some instruction and lots of practice! Failures are the best teachers so never be afraid to mess up, mistakes are the best learning experiences and if you can open to them, they’re often the creative spark to something you may have never thought of otherwise! I’m going to list a few helpful resources if you want to get more info about appliqué and hand sewing. These have inspired me to feel confident adding hand stitching to my projects.
- Alabama Chanin books and craftsy classes. I’ve watched all of Natalie Chanin’s craftsy classes and read all of the books. I find their techniques and instructions so inspiring. The focus is embroidering knit fabrics so it’s really helpful as most other instruction I have found applies more to woven fabrics. I have a copy of “The Geometry of Hand Sewing” on my coffee table and am currently using it to teach myself new stitches. So far I know about 4 so I’ve got a long way to go but it’s a helpful reference!
- Jessica Marquez’s Big Quilted Clutch craftsy class. A great introduction to sashiko stitching techniques and embellishment
These are the references I’ve personally used, however I am sure you can find plenty of instructions on YouTube, Pinterest and other inspiration on the web and I encourage you to search for appliqué and embroidery everywhere. I hope you have fun with this! Thanks so much for reading and I’d love to see what you make :)
Connect with me on instagram! @roxannmakesthings instagram.com/
You can check out my jewelry on LizardiJewelry.com