Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Three Cheers for Trapunto Hand-Sewing.

I had taken a break from hand-sewing and was waiting for an inspiration to get back into it. The Pattern Review Terrific Tank top contest was just the impetus I needed to get back to a craft I enjoy. In this post, I will detail the steps I took to complete my top so you can  make one too if you want.

My darling hubby gave me Ruth Singer's book Fabric Manipulation for Christmas. There are 150 creative sewing techniques illustrated in this book and all are wonderful.

Taking guidance from it,  I decided to make a reverse applique and trapunto tank top using some cotton jersey from my stash. I used lime green for the top and white beneath. I chose a retro Butterrick pattern I had on hand for my tank top foundation. I adjusted the size down to fit. When working with jersey, I find using my ready to wear size to be perfect to accommodate the stretch of the knit and give the fit I like.

I was standing in my garage looking over my stencil choices and came up an unusual pick; a felt decoration.

Once I settled on the placement, I traced along the outside of the stencil with chalk so I could have a guide of where to replace it. I removed the felt and sprayed the back with a generous amount of fabric spray adhesive. Using my placement lines, laid my stencil in place and and smooth the back to secure it.

I then covered the exposed fabric with brown paper to catch any over-spray. I checked closely to make sure there were no gaps. I covered the stencil with river rocks to prevent the pressure of my airbrush from lifting the fabric as I painted. This is probably over kill, but I have learned from having paint slip under the stencil.

My trigger gun airbrush

I have used these with much success. I recommend them if you do not have an airbrush.
All of my prep has paid off with sharp shapes and no color bleeding.

After three coats of paint dried, it was time to get sewing. I hand-basted the top layer to the bottom layer at the neck and arms. I also, basted the neck and arms of the single layer back. I stitched around all of the shapes with a small running stitch using a double layer of natural colored button and craft thread (Sorry about the picture quality, I do my stitching at night and took these pics by my bedside lamp).

For the trapunto shapes, I cut a small hole in the back of the shape and using a chopstick inserted polyfill until it was full. Once full, I stitched the opening closed.

The reverse applique shapes were stitched on the outside of the shapes. I then I cut the top layer leaving about 1/8 of an inch revealing the bottom fabric layer.

Once done with the top layer, I stitched the tank front to back and at shoulder and side seams. I then felled the seams to the back and secured them with white colored button and craft thread.

The last step is the finishing of the arms and neckline with bias strips. I cut them at 1.5 inches,  

 And pressed them in half for 3/4 inch wide binding.

I pinned, then basted the binding to the top and arms. I chose to secure them using a herringbone stitch.

 Herringbone stitch


Here is the completed tank! You can make your own, with my DIY kit or have me make one for you as a ready made order! Visit my Etsy store.

I really like how the trapunto stands outs.

I like the contrast of the reverse applique against the raised trapunto shapes.

I am very happy with the finished product. I will enter this in the Pattern Review Contest, but today I feel like a winner. (Update: I won second place with this tank! Just four votes behind the winner.) This is my first hand-sewn piece since I pulled my support of a company that almost exclusively uses this technique. I was recently reminded that they did not invent the techniques and that I should express myself, my way, in a craft I love. I feel like I have done that with this.

Moments after taking these photos, I got the cherry on top of my day. I read a wonderfully supportive post from Hilary, my virtual sewing buddy, and cheerleader at Entropyalwayswins. She took to heart my concern of the exclusion of people of color in the descriptor of "nude" as a color by this company (there are many others that do it too). She created a wonderful needle turned applique piece with a message "Nude is not a dress color. Words have power." Please show some love by seeing the wonderful work she did. I love it!

Happy Sewing,


  1. LOVE this top! How fun are those flowers, and I love your color choice and pattern placement! Cool post from Hilary, too. Someone should forward it to AC....

    1. Thanks! I really enjoyed making this! Hilary is awesome!

  2. By the way, have you seen this site? There was similar display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington a couple of years ago, and we all enjoyed figuring out what color we are.

    1. That site is FANTASTIC! I love that they are actual people and not just colors. I enjoyed the National Gallery of Art display you mentioned. I found the link to it:

  3. Wonderful unique design! Can't wait to see more techniques from your book


    1. Thanks Hilary! Those other techniques are on my to-do list, right after many things on your blog!

  4. 1) LOVE this tank. Love it love it love it!
    2) I found out about AC from your blog even though I live not 2 hours away, and
    3) recently bought two of her books, some t-shirts to recycle and button thread - I'd become a fan. I love the whole aesthetic, the community involvement, the open source stuff.... but then
    4) I don't know HOW I missed your post about pulling your support - I am *sorry* about that, but...
    5) I am SERIOUSLY disappointed in AC's reaction and disgusted...thoroughly. What she said is COMPLETE BS as far as I am concerned.
    6) Your action and Hilary's applique are inspiring thought and God Willing some action on my part.
    7) I'll let you know what I'ma do.
    8) Sending much love your way. :)

  5. Thanks Helen! I am interested to see what you will do! :)
    I have some plans in the works, so stay tuned.

  6. Congrats on your 2nd place win for the tank! I was checking our PR and saw your award in the contest. Awesome job.