Polka Dot Elephant

Since last month was devoted to Filipino Food, I thought I should post something not related to food in any way. :)

I made this way back in February, actually, but haven’t had a chance to post it yet. Until now.

I made this for Little Man’s friend, Olive. It was her birthday. Yay, birthdays!

At the time I was making this, Olive was calling elephants “Adi-dahs.” Except when you asked her to say it in Spanish. Then she could say “Elephante.” Well, except for one time it was “Adi-dah-fante.” It made me laugh, so I decided to make her an elephant shirt.

This technique is called reverse applique, and involves sewing fabric to the back of the garment and then cutting away some of the top fabric. I learned this technique from the Alabama Stitch book, which I highly recommend.

First, you’ll need a stencil. I made this one using stencil paper and an exacto knife. I already had the basic design from some other clothes I made, so I just traced it onto the stencil paper and cut out the negative space. You will also need fabric paint (not puffy paint.) I used a deep yellow. It works best if you also have a stenciling brush, which is round and flat. Then you use a small amount of paint and stipple it on a little at a time. That will help you from getting paint bleed under the stencil. Don’t make it too thick, or the fabric will get very stiff there.

Remove the stencil and let dry. Follow instructions on your particular fabric paint– some need to be set in the dryer.

The next step is to pin another piece of fabric behind your stenciled design. It works best if you use the same type of fabric, in this case a jersey knit. This is also a great way to use old t-shirts. Once you’ve pinned it securely, use a straight running stitch around the outline of the design. I used a doubled thread for this, but you could do it single as well. A running stitch is easy, but can pucker easily if you make it too tight. With fabric like this, it will always look a little bit puckery, but you don’t want it to pull the fabric out of shape.

Once you’ve completed the stitching, use a very sharp scissors very carefully to cut away only the top layer, leaving a consistent border. Turn the shirt inside out and trim away excess fabric from the back too. Leave at least 1/4″ around the stitching so you don’t run the risk of the stitches pulling out.

Lastly, I decided to make polka dots. I used an unused pencil eraser dipped in white fabric paint. I made a random pattern, but you could do something more consistent if you like. Allow to dry, following the instructions on your paint.

And then you’re done! Really easy and cute!

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