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Tutorial: Modern Appliqué Tea Towels

We’re smitten with Kip & Fig’s modern appliqué patterns! We’re now stocking these playful, contemporary designs and invited Kip & Fig’s Julie Fagan to show us how to create your own appliqué tea towel using our fabulous Essex linen. Read on for the tutorial and sign up for a class in our shop if you’d like to make one of these with Julie herself as your guide!

Editor's note: Unfortunately Kip & Fig's patterns are no longer available in print. You can find loads of appliqué patterns online as well as tutorials to make your own!

Applique Tea Towel Tutorial

Materials and tools

Fabric to make a tea-towel approx. 69 x 47 cm, add extra for hemming. We used a cotton/linen fabric called Essex Yarn-Dyed in Flax and it has a lovely feel for a tea-towel.

  • Small fabric pieces to appliqué (we love the range of colour in Kona cotton solids)
  • Threads to match (or contrast with) all your fabrics (we use Gutermann threads as these colour match to the Kona so well and behaves itself whether sewing by hand or on the machine)
  • Heat n Bond iron-on adhesive (use the sewable 'Lite' type if stitching)
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
  • A few A4 sheets of thin paper
  • Scissors – small sharp embroidery scissors are ideal
  • A new needle for your sewing machine
  • Pencil
  • Appliqué design – use your own drawing or try Kip & Fig’s templates that can easily be scaled up/down to fit any sized project

TIP

We’ve found that we can sew through three layers of sewable iron-on adhesive – any more than that and you’ll find your needle will get gummed up!  Is no-sew iron-on adhesive really no-sew? Yup – we’ve tried that one!

HINT

You could opt to use no-sew iron-on adhesive for this project and dispense with any stitching! For items like bags or wall art no-sew iron-on adhesive is perfect – if you want to make lengths of appliquéd bunting the no-sew approach is fast and super simple!

For items that get washed frequently using no-sew iron-on adhesive (or a sewable type stitched by hand) works but the main difference to bear in mind is that the appliqué will start to fray slightly at the edges – but this can be the perfect way for achieving a shabby chic look!

DIY Appliqué Tea Towel Tutorial

Step 1

Hem your background fabric to make a rectangle – although in theory there’s nothing stopping you from trying a different shape!  The easiest way to do this by turning it in once, press in a crease with an iron, then turn in a second time.  Iron it, pin if needed, and straight stitch all four sides.

DIY Appliqué Tea Towel Tutorial

Step 2

Get your iron-on adhesive (with the glue side facing away from you, the glue side feels rough and bumpy), and place it over your applique design.  Trace each of the shapes in the appliqué design separately onto the paper side.  Just roughly cut them out.

DIY Appliqué Tea Towel Tutorial

Step 3

Place the pieces adhesive side down onto the back of your appliqué fabric.  Follow the instructions for ironing it on to create the bond.  Then cut the shapes out neatly following the traced pencil line using scissors – we like to use small sharp embroidery scissors.  If you find it hard to hold really small parts of a design try using tweezers to hold the fabric whilst you cut.

DIY Appliqué Tea Towel Tutorial

Step 4

Peel off the paper backing and place glue side down onto your tea-towel.  Follow the instructions to iron it on.  If you have used a sewable type adhesive you’re now ready to either machine stitch the raw edge or hand stitch the pieces.

If you’ve used a no-sew type adhesive you’re already done – super speedy!

DIY Appliqué Tea Towel Tutorial

Step 5

If you haven’t sewn appliqué before we suggest you have a little practice on some scraps of fabric first!  Set your machine to a zig-zag stitch and adjust the zig-zag stitch length and width to suit what you’re sewing – have a play with the settings on your machine.  If your machine has tension and/or foot pressure settings, adjust these at this stage too to suit your fabrics.

Aim to just overlap the appliqué edge, trapping the raw edge under the stitching as shown in our photo – here we’re sewing around a leaf shape using red thread to make it easier to see!

HINT

You can choose to have threads that match your fabric so that the stitching blends in, or you can choose to have a contrasting colour so the outline is emphasised – the choice is yours!

TOP TIP!

Don’t forget to change the needle in your sewing machine, admittedly we don’t do it for every project, but we do reasonably frequently, as we’ve found a sharp needle makes all the difference at this stage!

Use a piece of thin paper at the back of your project (so it sits on top of the feed dogs, with your project on top) and sew through that, it really helps follow curves by allowing the fabric layers to move around smoothly whilst you’re sewing.   The paper at the back will just fall away from your project as the zig-zag stitch punches so many holes in it.

For tighter curves or angles go slowly and leaving the needle in the fabric lift the foot, then turn your appliqué  lower the foot and carry on sewing – for tight curves/angles you might need to do this frequently, so have a practice.

DIY Appliqué Tea Towel Tutorial

Step 6

Finish stitching around all of the edges of all the appliqué design, snip off all the loose threads close to the stitching – done!

Now pour yourself a cuppa and admire your work! Thanks Julie!

DIY Appliqué Tea Towel Tutorial
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