Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shabby Giraffe Applique {Tutorial}

We took a trip to Memphis last weekend to enjoy the Memphis Zoo {and some other Memphis attractions}.  EG requested a giraffe shirt, as giraffes (pronounced giraffe-uhs in our house) are her most favorite animal.  I fell in love with THIS technique for making a sweet faux chenille blanket, and I decided to try it out on an applique.  It doesn't quite get the same effect on something as small as an applique for a tee, but I still LOVE how it turned out.  And, most importantly, little bit loved it too!  This technique uses 4 or 5 pieces of stacked fabric sewn together and then cut to create the shabby effect.  Fun to do!  This is very simple and doesn't take that much longer to complete than your traditional applique.  And, obviously, you can apply this technique for ANY applique whether it be an initial, another design, etc.  On with the tutorial...

Materials Needed:
- t-shirt
- 4 or 5 bigger scraps of fabric
- fusible web (I use Steam a Seam)
- sewing stuff
- fabric marking pen
- 3/8" ribbon (optional for bow)

Creating and Preparing Your Applique Pieces:
For my giraffe applique, I found a cute clipart design on my computer, zoomed in, and traced it right from my computer screen.  If you are good at drawing, you could certainly draw your own!  Me...not so much.  You can see from all of my crazy lines that I tweaked the size a little after holding it up to the shirt to check it. 

Cut out your design and place it on your top where you want it to make sure it's the right size.

Once your applique design is ready, place it on top of one of your fabric scraps and cut around the edge of your applique.  You don't want to cut out all the details right now as that will make the rest of the steps more difficult.

For the "shabby" effect we will use several layers of fabric (4 or 5), so we will need to cut this shape from all layers.  Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be perfect at this point :)  For my fabric pieces I used 4 coordinating fabrics and 1 white muslin piece for the "base".  The "base" piece just holds everything together and doesn't really show in the end.

To do this, stack all of your fabric pieces on top of each other facing the same direction (i.e. all right sides up or all wrong sides up) **with the exception of one piece that will need to be opposite of the others**.  The opposite piece will be the bottom piece of your applique just above your base piece.  I forgot to do this when taking pics and had to re-cut later, so it isn't shown below.

Once your pieces are stacked, as shown above, place your template piece you cut earlier on top of the stack and cut this shape from all layers.  Again, it doesn't have to be perfect, so go ahead and cut through all layers at one time.

Here you can see how everything is stacked up and cut out at one time:

After cut, your stack should look like this:

With the bottom coordinating piece (just above the base) facing wrong side up instead of right side up (this is because that piece will curl up more than the others and you want the right side to show when it curls):

Marking and Sewing Your Applique:
All of this work is for some cute shabby sweetness, and is totally worth it in the end :)  To create the shabby effect, in a nutshell, we will be sewing lines across the applique and then cutting between them to expose the edges, without cutting the bottom layer.  

First, you will need to mark even lines across your top applique piece.  Mine were about 1 inch apart and horizontal.  There is no rule as to how they should be...anything you try will yield a little different effect. I think diagonal lines would be really cute, as well as lines closer together.  Keep in mind that your marked lines will be your sewing lines.  I was kind of in a hurry, so I did mine wider (1") to avoid having to sew so many.  I initially wanted to do them 1/2" apart.  Feel free to do what you wish!

Once marked, pin all of your pieces together well around the edges.  I pinned mine between each line so that I wouldn't have to take them out as I was sewing.  This worked great!
 Pin between the lines:

Once securely pinned, you can go ahead and sew lines straight across each line you marked.  I backstitched at the beginning and end of mine, but it probably doesn't matter since you will be cutting it out anyway... 


and back...

Cutting and Attaching Applique:
Once your pieces are sewn together, remove the pins and you are ready to cut!  Now we need to cut between each set of lines to create those cute shabby edges.  To do this, you will cut straight down the middle of each section (between each set of lines) through all layers EXCEPT THE BASE.  If you cut through the base you would be cutting your work into pieces, and that's NOT what we want!  

It was really hard to get a picture, but it's not difficult to do.  Simply place the bottom blade of your scissors on top of the base layer (so that it doesn't cut through) and cut straight across.  You can kind of see in the picture above how when you separate the layers where you've cut you've only got the base layer intact.

Once cut, you'll have something that looks like this... 

Now, we're ready to get the applique cut out and attached to the shirt.  Yay!  Follow the directions on your fusible web.  Mine says to trace the design in reverse on the side that doesn't easily pull away.  Once traced, cut loosely around the edge (again avoiding all of the details).  It's hard to see my traced design, but if you look really close you can see it below.  Adhere your traced fusible web piece to the base layer of your fabric stack (the bottom of your stack...the part that will attach to the shirt).

With this piece adhered, you can now just cut around your traced image.  If you have small parts, the cutting can be a little tricky.  Just take your time and be patient.  After cutting you should have a perfectly shaped giraffe (or other design) with the fusible web stuck to the back (and another layer of paper...the fusible web I use has paper on either side of the web).

Flip your applique over, peel off the remaining tear away paper piece to reveal your webbing...  

And stick to the front of your shirt where you want it...

Press really well (it's takes more time through all those layers...but be sure not to iron in one place too long or you'll scorch your fabric like I did HERE) and then zig-zag around the edge to complete {almost}.  Not too shabby!  Literally.  Haha.  

To actually create the shabiness you need your handy washer and dryer.   Throw that baby in the washing machine, dry it in the dryer and  you end up with a cute shabby applique that's perfect for visiting your favorite animal at the zoo!  The more you wash and dry it, the shabbier it will get.  See evidence of the shabby magic below... 

 I added a little extra touch to mine by making a simple ribbon bow and hand-stitching it to the top.  Perfection :)


  1. what an awesome blog you have here, thanks so much for sharing your talent and tutorials, I don't know how to saw that much but I would love to try this out, thanks :)

  2. Oh absolutely love it! My lil miss Annalea will have to have one of these when we go to the Birmingham zoo this summer.

  3. Too cute!!!! I am actually in the process of making that blanket! I've got about 50 rows done, it sure is a TON of work to make a yard & 1/2 blanket!

  4. Wow. SO Cute! Saw your link on Train to Crazy!

  5. That is the cutest thing I've seen! I will definitely be making one of these soon!

    Visiting from Nap Time Crafters!

    Valerie e
    Stop on by!

  6. I love this, what a great twist on the traditional applique.

  7. This is adorable. I want to try it!

  8. I love how that shirt turned out! That's so adorable!

  9. Very, very cute! :) What a great idea to use the "faux chenille" blanket techinque for applique! Thanks for sharing! The shirt is adorable! :)

  10. I've made three of those blankets and never once did this occur to me! What an adorable shirt and girl!!

  11. This is so cute! Please stop by and link up to my Share the Wealth Wednesday Link Party!

  12. That giraffe is so cute! I love the fabrics you chose as well! :)
    I did a similar project, but with a different technique, inspired by the same blanket- Great Minds must think alike ;) Thanks for sharing!

  13. ahhh im totally in love with this:) sooo stinkin cute..great job

  14. Thanks so much for the tut! This is soooo precious!!

    amber @

  15. This is adorable! And your girl looks so proud wearing it.

  16. Found this through Tea Rose Home. LOVE THIS!!! My favorite is a giraffe as well, your little bit is in good company. :)

  17. This is so adorable!!! I'd love for you to link up!!

  18. Very Cute! come and join our party:

  19. Featured this today!

  20. Love this! I'll have to give it a try sometime.

  21. That is the cutest thing ever! I will be making an elephant, too too cute! This is my first time here.

  22. Wow that is super cute. I happen to know a few 3 year olds that this will be perfect for! thanks for sharing.

  23. I just wanted to tell you I made the shirt and linked you up to my blog.


  24. I love this idea. I can't wait to try it and hey, a big thumbs up on the instructions. They were great!!!!