Sunday, November 20, 2016

Stylish Seasonal Sweatshirts

Decorated jacket from sweatshirt
Here in the high country it is possible to wear sweatshirts for at least part of three of the four seasons. The garments are sturdy, economical, machine washable and colorfast. I buy them whenever I find them on sale. Be aware that they are on sale for a reason. Check carefully for flaws before you buy. Another thing that you should be aware of is that the sizes are not always accurate. I have five now that are all marked “Large” and no two are the same size! Hold them up at arm's length to get a better idea of their real size. Decorated sweatshirts are durable. To illustrate that fact, here is a shirt I decorated and have worn regularly for the past ten years. It has been laundered scores of times.

apple applique sweatshirt

print fabric panelYou can buy ready-printed panels for applique, although these are more often intended for use as pillows, table linens, etc. These are usually sold as a separate unit, rather than by the yard. Many of them need to be trimmed down in size the be used as appliques for sweatshirts. You can make your own panels from calico prints or the kind of illustrated fabric usually classified as “Country” (i. e., rural or pastoral scenes, farm animals, people in old-fashioned costumes, etc.); that's what I did with the apple design above.

sweatshirt with raglan sleeves
Look carefully at the sleeves of your chosen sweatshirt before you choose a panel or make a pattern. Most sweatshirts have set-in sleeves that curve slightly toward the center of the shirt above a straight up-and-down side seam. But other shirts have raglan sleeves. These sleeves slant upward at an angle, joining the shoulder seam much closer to the collar. This narrows the area available for applique. You may find that a circular. diamond-shaped, or free-form design will fit a raglan-sleeved shirt better than a square or rectangular one.

I mark what part of the fabric I need for the applique with tailors' chalk and then add a 3/8 to ½-inch (1 to 1.5 cm.) border all around that will be turned under, leaving a smooth edge. After turning it under, I press the piece, making sure the edge is flat and straight. Then I am ready to pin the applique in place on the sweatshirt (using lots of pins). I baste the piece in place, remove the pins, and sew the applique to the shirt either by hand or by machine. If I like, I then edge the applique with rick-rack, braid, or cotton lace.

Green sweatshirt with large applique
Green sweatshirt with large applique. Note the lack of raglan seams.

Red sweatshirt with round appliques

Even small pieces of patterned fabric can be used effectively. Here is a finished shirt with a seasonal theme. I decorated it with three circular pieces cut from the same fabric and arranged in a triangular pattern. Each circle was then edged with gold trim. Small motifs like this can be arranged horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or in squares, diamonds, circles, etc. Try pinning the pieces in several different arrangements and choose the one you like best.

Embroidered sweatshirts are a little more complicated, especially if you are decorating a dark-colored shirt. If you are working on a light-colored shirt, you can use a commercial iron-on transfer (following the directions on the envelope) or make your own hot-iron transfer (see the post for May 12, 2016). For dark-colored shirts, I usually draw my design on thin tissue paper and pin it to the inside of the shirt front. Then I back-stitch along the pattern lines with white thread, floss, or yarn. This gives me an easy-to-follow outline on the right side of the shirt. I remove the tissue paper and discard it. The white stitches can be removed from the finished embroidery later if you like; I just work over them to hide them.

Steps in sweatshirt embroidery
Steps in sweatshirt embroidery, as described above

Today, however, I have something even better to work with! These are patterns I drew with transfer pencil on non-woven interfacing. They have already been used to transfer the flower designs onto a pair of pillow tops. I then filed the patterns for future reference. Now I can pin them to the insides of shirts and stitch along the lines with white thread, floss, or yarn. I simply leave the interfacing in place to further strengthen the embroidery.

used iron-on transfers
Recycled iron-on transfers of lily and pansy

All of the items I have shown here have been for adults, but the same techniques work well on sweatshirts for children. Animals, cartoons, sports logos, superheroes, and many other topics are appropriate. If there are no children in your life, clothing like this is always in demand at women's shelters and emergency services. You and your friends could take on a project like that and have a lot of fun getting together to make the shirts.

I regret that I have written fewer posts lately. J.D. and I have been as busy as long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs, dealing with craft shows and sales. We have another three weeks or so of that and then I will be able to get back to my regular writing schedule. Until then...

Stitch away!

Finished embroidered sweatshirt with detail

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