Monday, March 7, 2011

Hand-stitched Spiral Applique and Stenciled Bicycle Onesie

Hand-stitched Spiral Applique & Stenciled Onesie by Eden & Eliot

I'm incredibly in love with the work of Natalie Chanin, as decribed in her two books, Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style - in which she tells the story of how she came to found a hand-sewing industry among the women of her Alabama hometown, producing couture garments using traditional quilting techniques of the Old South.

I won't go into detail about the books (since there are plenty of rave reviews on Amazon), except to say that the techniques she shares are so accessible that I'm inspired to explore them in my own work.

This little embellished onesie I created for Eden is my first project using one of the techniques in the book - how to stitch a spiral applique.  The design is my own, as is the idea of using the spirals for the bicycle wheels.  I'll share about my own process here.


Prewash and dry the onesie.  Lie flat and pat to smooth out any wrinkles.  Do not pull or stretch.

Trace the bicycle drawing onto the onesie using the pattern tracing paper.  The lines are pretty faint, so you may want to redraw with a disappearing ink marker.

Figure out how large a circle you need for the wheels.  (This will depend on how large your drawing is.)  Draw and cut out a circle from your scrap cardboard, or use a large circle punch.  This will act as your stencil.

Pour out a small amount of ink on a shallow non-reactive dish.  Dip your foam brush into the ink - it will soak up fairly  quickly.  Tap the brush onto a scrap piece of fabric or cardboard to remove some of the ink.  You do NOT want to load the brush fully as it will cause too much seepage.

Using the cardboard stencil that you made, carefully apply the ink over the two bicycle wheels, making sure you lift the stencil directly upwards when you move from one wheel to the next.  It takes some practice to apply just the right about of ink.  Go slow and dab the brush with up and down strokes, especially at the edges of the stencil.  Do NOT brush sideways or you will cause the ink to smear under the edges.  (You will need to place a sheet of wax paper in between the layers of the onesie to protect the back of the shirt from getting inked.)

This is what you should get when you are done stenciling - the wheels of the bicycle are inked in blue.  Allow the ink to dry 24 hours, and heat set with a dry iron under a press cloth.

Next, cut two circles the same size as the wheels out of the scrap red knit fabric. 

Using a pair of sharp embroidery scissors, cut a spiral pattern from the outer edge of the circles towards their center.

Pin each spiral onto the stenciled inked circles (after they have been heat-set and are completely dry).

Using a straight (running) stitch and 3 strands of embroidery floss, stitch the spiral down starting from the center out towards the edge.  Pull the spiral apart as your stitch, at times overlapping the edges so that you get a "random" effect.  Just make sure the outer edge of the spiral meets the outer edge of the underlying stenciled circle.  That way, you will end up with two uniformly sized wheels. 

There it is, the hard part is done.  Finally, I used a cross stitch to sew the remaining outline of the bicycle, and on a whim, added a little bird on top of the seat. 

A hand-stamped label in the back adds the final personal touch!


  1. Thank you Erin! Let me know if you make one!

  2. Great and amazing! I'll try it out ... soon!


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