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  • Writer's pictureShelley Barnett

River Stoned

Reverse-Applique Study in Gray

My latest in a series of reverse-applique projects is a river stone shirt design. I was intrigued to work with a range of grays in this simple color palette. I love smooth stones and the fabric patterns reminded me of them.

For the design, I drew a group of stones over-lapping one another. I was curious about the challenge of working with multiple layers in the reverse-applique style.

I also planned to wrap the design around the shirt from front to back.

When working with traditional applique you stacks the items on top of the shirt from the bottom up. But with reverse-applique you need to work from the top down, unseen, at the back of the shirt. This presented certain challenges. I began by labeling each layer of the design based on which stones were in front of or behind the others.

Then I colored the stones to represent my seven different applique fabrics.

To keep them straight I numbered a swatch of each and noted the colors of thread and embroidery floss I planned to use.

My design had six layers so I cut out six different stencils. I glued identical patterns to cardboard and cut away the stones for each layer.

I scored and folded all the stencils in the same place to allow me to wrap the design around the shirt.

Finally, I backed each applique fabric with iron-on fabric stabilizer. Now I was ready to begin stitching my design.

Starting with stencil one, I traced the stones onto the shirt using a fabric marker that erases with water. I pinned a piece of fabric face-up behind each stone, referring to my pattern to pick the right one.

Then I used an outline stitch, in a coordinating color of embroidery floss, to attach the applique fabric to the shirt. All the stones were stitched using four plies of floss.

I trimmed the extra fabric from the back of the shirt.

Then I CAREFULLY cut away the top layer to reveal each stone.

After completing layer one I moved on to the second, carefully lining up the pattern with the completed stones. This was important so that all the layers fit together.

Now parts of the stones were "under" the previous layer. Though I continued to use the outline stitch for visible edges, I used regular thread, stitching on the backside of the shirt, for unseen edges.

I stitched my way through the layers, each stone revealing more magic.

At last I came to layer six or the final stone. The stitching was done!

The back of the shirt was necessarily messy so I covered it with a layer of fabric stabilizer. I did this to make the shirt more comfortable and protect the stitching from wear and tear.

The shirt was finished!

I love the effect of the layers, the way the design wraps around the shirt and the variety of colors and patterns making up the stones. This projects was a ROCKIN' success.


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