Sunday, March 13, 2011

Birthday Top for a Special Girl

Rylan is turning 7 soon and she's "into" dragons right now, so her Mom asked Grandma to make a top with a dragon to wear at her dragon-themed birthday party. I hope she likes it!
Before I got my first (I'm on #2 now) embroidery machine, I had no idea what-all you could do with them! I thought I could do monogramming and occasional designs, but I was afraid I would get bored with it soon, so the first machine I bought was an entry-level model. I didn't want to spend too much, just in case . . .
It wasn't long before I realized that I love machine embroidery! I quickly learned that there's so much more than just monogramming. The designs on this top include lettering and applique.
Applique back in the days before embroidery machines was a LOT of work, and always turned out looking "homemade". I mean, who could get that satin stitching just perfect?? With an embroidery machine it turns out perfect every time and it's SO easy. There are literally tens of thousands of designs available on the internet, which you can download to your computer, at a very reasonable price.
To machine applique, you first apply stabilizer to the back of the fabric, mark the placement of the design, hoop the fabric, and if necessary apply a "topper". The first stitching is a placement line, which shows you where the design will stitch. You place your applique fabric over this line. The next stitching is a tack-down stitch. After this stitching, you remove the hoop from the machine, but NOT the fabric from the hoop. You carefully cut away excess fabric from around the stitching using curved tip embroidery or applique scissors. Then you place the hoop back in the machine for the decorative edge stitching. That's basically all there is to it!
For this top, I used a dragon design from, the set of applique numbers from Big Dreams Embroidery and the lettering was created in Monogram Wizard. I merged all three designs in my embroidery machine.
Here are a few hints for perfect embroidery or applique on t-shirts:
  • use iron-on stabilizer. This keeps the fabric from moving as you hoop and stitch.
  • always use a water-soluble stabilizer as a topper. It looks kinda like Saran Wrap and you stitch right through it. It keeps your fabric from distorting as you stitch and keeps the stitches from sinking into the fabric. I also use a topper when embroidering on minkee or terry. When you're done stitching, you cut away excess topper, then rinse in warm water. It dissolves in water.
  • mark the placement of the design carefully before hooping. I use a water soluble blue marker and draw "cross hairs" where I want the design. There's nothing more annoying (or costly) than finishing up a really cute design only to find that it's off-center after you unhoop it.
  • clip threads as you complete one color or area of the design to avoid having "tails" poking out when you're done. If you look closely you'll see that I missed one in my design.
  • after clipping away excess fabric and before you do the satin or other decorative stitch, use a piece of Scotch tape and pick up excess fabric pieces, threads, fibers, etc.
  • this top will probably only be worn once or twice, but if you plan for your garment to be worn and washed a lot, you might want to use an iron-on adhesive product (stitch witchery, wonder under II, etc.) on your applique fabric.


  1. Hi Tracy! That shirt is so cute. I love the dragon. Can't believe Rylan is 7!! Happy Birthday to Rylan!

  2. Thanks so much for the info on applique. I just bought my first embroidery machine last week.

  3. That shirt is so cute! And thanks for the info about applique embroidery designs. I'm starting to get better but I like looking at pictures of people who know what they're doing.