Making the Applique Animals

by Jan Kerton

I developed this technique for making the appliqué animals in 1993.  I wanted something that was easy to stitch and would be able to be washed frequently and not disintegrate (like felt)  and look just as good after each wash.  This appliqué technique using my special velour fabric was the solution.  Some 14 years later the blankets are just as popular.  I love to think of all the babies all over the world who have been or are currently tucked under one of my blankets, blankets that have been lovingly stitched by mothers, grandmothers, aunts and friends.

Making the appliqué motifs is very easy, so do not be anxious about starting. Here are some step-by-step instructions to guide you in making an appliqué bunny.  All of the animals are constructed in the same way.

I prefer to machine stitch the motifs but if you do not have a machine they may be stitched by hand.

1. Cut a piece of stabiliser paper to fit the size of diagram 1.  Using a pencil or water-soluble pen trace the outline of the bunny (diagram 1) onto the piece of stabiliser paper.  Make sure you position the bunny centrally on the paper.

2. Cut a piece of velour slightly larger than the stabiliser paper.  Place the velour with the fluffy, pile side down.  The stretch in the fabric should run up and down the bunny.

Hint:  If you accidentally run the stretch in the other direction, it does not make a big difference – so don’t panic!

3. Now place the stabiliser paper (with the traced design) on top of the velour.  Pin in position and tack/hand baste the stabiliser paper to the velour just outside the bunny shape.

4. It is now time to stitch the bunny.  If you are going to machine stitch, prepare your machine:

  • Insert a fresh machine needle.  I recommend a fine needle like a #70.
  • Wind the bobbin and thread the machine with a thread close to the colour of the bunny.  I like to use heirloom sewing thread (#60 weight) as this does not build up on the surface of the bunny if you stitch a line several times.  However, normal weight sewing thread is all right.
  • If possible use a clear machine foot or open-toed appliqué foot so you can see where you are going.
  • Set the machine to straight stitch with a length setting on about #1.5.
  • If you do not wish to machine stitch the bunny, work small hand backstitches instead of machine stitching.

5. Finely machine stitch along the inside marking lines of the bunny.  Follow diagram 2, using the starting points and follow the arrows.  There will be some areas where you will stitch back over previous stitching. Clip away any hanging threads.

Hint:  In the colour diagram I have stitched the sample in red thread so you can see the stitching line clearly – you will stitch your bunny in a cream or brown thread.

6. Find the second piece of velour.  Place it with the fluffy, pile side down.  Now, place the stabiliser/velour piece on top.  Make sure the velour side is down and the direction of stretch is the same.

Yes, this means when you peel the two layers of velour apart at the corner, you will have the velour side and wrong side touching!!

7. Pin and hand tack/baste the layers so they are held together firmly.  Make sure there are no ripples in the underside fabric.

8. Using a very small straight stitch (length # 1.5) machine around the entire outline of the bunny.  When you turn the velour over to the fluffy side you will see the stitched silhouette of the bunny.

9. Tear away the stabilising paper completely both around the bunny and inside the bunny.

Hint: If you give the velour a gentle stretch, the paper will pull away more easily. Do not worry if some of the inside stitches pull away a little - these are only guide lines for the hand stitching later.

10. Using a fine, sharp pair of scissors, trim away the excess fabric from around the bunny, leaving a narrow 3mm (1/8") seam allowance.  Clip into any sharp corners.

11. You need to be particularly careful with this next step.  Turn the bunny over so the fluffy/pile side is facing you.  Separate the 2 velour layers and clip an opening (about 2.5cm or 1” long) into this side only. Do not cut the side with the stitched markings.  This will allow you to turn the motif through.

12. Turn through and use a small rounded stick  (a chopstick is great) to push out the shaping on the edges.  Do this carefully.

Hint:  In the colour diagram I have stitched the sample in red thread so you can see the stitching line clearly – you will stitch your bunny in a cream or brown thread.

13. Push a small amount of polyester fibre-fill into the bunny.  Do not overstuff. 

Hint:  This side view of the stuffed bunny gives you an idea of how much to stuff the bunny.

14. Stitch up the opening in the back of the bunny.

15. Your bunny is ready for sculpting.

Sculpting the Bunny

1. Thread a #7 crewel needle with a stranded thread (floss) that matches the colour of the bunny. Use 2 strands of thread.

2. Backstitch along all the machine stitching lines on the bunny.  You will need to work the backstitch in a quilting motion, stabbing the needle up and down through all the layers.  Pull the stitches firmly to sculpt the bunny.  Refer to the Online Windflower Stitch Guide’ – quilting backstitch (p5).

Hint: Do not make the quilting backstitches too small or the stuffing will not compress.

3. When working the bears – Surface Backstitch (p5) along the tummy seam and paw pads of the bear. Work the backstitch on the surface of the velour - do not quilt through all layers. The surface back stitching is indicated on the design sheets with broken lines

4. Mark the position of the eyes, nose and mouth with a water-soluble pen.  Thread the #8 crewel needle with 2 strands of DMC dark brown #840 and work satin stitches for the nose, then 2 fly stitches with short anchoring stitches for the mouth.  Work fly stitches for the eyes.  Refer to the Online ‘Windflower Stitch Guide’ (p 8-9).  

Attaching the Bunny

1. Place the bunny onto the background fabric and pin into position.

2. Stitch into position using a machine thread colour to match the background fabric, stitch the bunny into position with small firm slip stitches – Online ‘Windflower Stitch Guide’ p4.  Make sure you stitch right on the seam line.

3. Work a fluffy tail in turkey knots – Online ‘Windflower Stitch Guide’ p 25. 

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