Saturday, January 30, 2016

Girl's Heart Applique Shirt for Valentine's Day

I’m pretty excited to share this project with you! I was thinking of making my children a Valentine’s outfit this year, but I also wanted something that could be worn past the 14th. The Martha Pullen Company came to the rescue when they sent their weekly newsletter with the little gem pictured below. Here is a link to the tutorial on their website for the “Sew an Adorable Heart Applique”.

The instructions are simple and the heart template is provided on the website. This applique can even be done with a store-bought shirt. I didn’t have all the supplies on hand to make this exact cutie and I had no desire to drag my two children to the fabric store, so I  decided to improvise with some of the details. Here is a list of the materials I used:
  1. Butterick Pattern B5877, View A - The great thing about this pattern is the lining, which allowed me to hide the stitches of the heart ribbon between the two pieces of fabric. Any pattern with a flat bodice should work, or a store-bought/already-owned shirt.
  2. Fabric - The amount needed will depend on the size and width. I used fabric from my stash; a light blue chambray for the bodice, top ruffle, and straps for hearts and pink cotton for the bottom ruffle and heart appliques. The ruffles in the pattern are highly, highly and did I mention highly gathered. If you are short on length, no worries there is plenty of wiggle room.
  3. Lace/Ribbon - Martha Pullen’s tutorial calls for Ric-Rac Trim to be used, however I didn’t have anything that coordinated with the fabrics I chose. Instead I swapped the mini Ric-Rac that holds the hearts with self-made straps. I swapped the large Ric-Rac that goes around the bodice with white ribbon that I already owned.
  4. Four ½ inch buttons - Again I used buttons from my stash. These particular buttons I had removed from a shirt that was stained. In general, I remove all hardware (buttons, zipper, D-rings) from clothing and save.
  5. Fusible web - Another stash item. I don’t know the brand or type of product I used, the box has long been gone, but it is probably something similar to this.
  6. Stabilizer - All I own is a tear-away stabilizer by Sulky. It says it is iron-on, in my experience the only thing it sticks to is my iron if I accidentally touch it. I have never gotten this product to temporarily adhere to the fabric, but it still works great, tears away nicely and I am not wasting a whole roll to find something better.
  7. Marking tool - I use these Pilot pens. As I have said before, these pens are not designed for fabric, but the markings disappear when steam is applied. With that said, there is still invisible ink left behind that can become visible at cold temperatures so use caution. In my experience the ink has always disappeared with steam and never reappeared in New Jersey cold weather. Until I find something better, these are my favorite.
  8. Heart applique template - This can be found on the Martha Pullen website here.
  9. The usual sewing items - Sewing machine, scissors, thread, iron, etc.

For the most part I followed the tutorial on Martha Pullen’s website here, with some modifications.

  1. I needed to make my straps for the hearts since I didn’t own Ric-Rac. I cut a 10 inch by 1 inch strip from the chambray. I folded the strap in half and created a crease with an iron. Then  I folded the raw edges inside the strap and ironed again. The result is a ¼ inch wide strap. I sewed the long open end of the strap along the edge, but I did not sew the short edges. I cut the strap into three pieces, two 2 ½ inch and one 3 inch.  Lesson learned: I wish I would have sewed both long edges to make the stitch lines symmetrical.

I used a special foot to sew close to the edge


  1. I printed 3 heart templates and traced them onto the pink fabric. I sandwiched the fusible webbing between the two pink fabric layers. I deviated from the tutorial here and did not fuse everything together before cutting out the appliques. Instead, I put a pin in the middle of each heart and cut out all 3 layers.

The order of items from bottom to top is pressing cloth, pink fabric, fusible web, pink fabric, heart templates and pattern weights


  1. I placed a strap between the pink fabric layers and fused following the manufacturer's instructions. I placed the longer strap in the heart that would be in the middle. Lesson learned: Since my straps are a darker color than my hearts, you can see them. I would suggest trimming the end that is going to be put inside the heart to a point, and ensuring that the straps go in evenly, in the middle and at the same depth. I imagine you could use interfacing or a third layer of pink fabric but that is a lot of additional work and more layers to fuse.


  1. I used a satin stitch around the raw edges of the heart, encompassing the straps when I was at the center.  For the bottom point of the heart, when I was about 2 stitches away from the point I reduced my stitch length, did 2 stitches, picked up the presser foot (while needle is down) and rotated the fabric a little and repeated the 2 stitches until I came around the point, then I returned to the previous stitch length and continued sewing. Be careful not to do too many stitches at the point since you are using the same spot for the needle to go into the fabric. This  could create a lot of bulk or put a large hole in the fabric. For the indent of the heart I went into the fabric 3 stitches (it may be different for you depending on your stitch length), then pivoted the fabric.
  2. Moving on from the applique I started working on my pattern. I trace all my patterns now which is a huge extra step but for me it works. I traced the 5 pattern pieces onto pattern paper and cut them out. Then I cut out my pattern pieces from my fabric, the bodice and upper ruffle from the chambray and lower ruffle from the pink cotton.
  3. On the bodice pieces I measured 1 inch down from the armscye and drew a straight line across, ensuring it was level across all three bodice pieces (this will be the sewing line for the ribbon). Be careful that you consider your seam allowances when deciding where the trim will go. Lesson learned: I should have placed the trim all the way to the edge of the back center pieces, but instead I stopped about ½ after the fold line for the facing. This misstep did not interfere with the look of the outfit, the only thing it would have done is make the inside look pretty too.

  1. Next I sewed the top of the white ribbon onto my front bodice piece (not the lining), leaving the bottom free to insert the straps. PLEASE NOTE if you are using Ric-Rac or thin ribbon you will skip the top row of stitching. I then measured where I wanted the hearts to go and ensured they did not have an awkward placement on my daughter. I pinned the hearts into place and sewed the bottom of the ribbon down, going over the straps. The tutorial mentioned bar tacks to better secure the straps. Instead, once I sewed over a strap I went into reverse and sewed it again. I  think this worked for me because of the ribbon I was using.
  2. I then sewed the ribbon to the back bodice pieces, ensuring everything was level all the way around.
  3. That’s it for the applique! From here I sewed the pattern together as written. There were two things that tripped me up while sewing this. The first was the wording “sew invisibly” in step 13. I found this blog post by Sew Essentially Sew to be helpful. The next problem which was my fault, was ensuring that the center backs were matched up and that I had enough room to sew on the buttons. On the shirt I made, the last button is barely on the back piece, so be careful.

This outfit came out super cute, and the best part is I have my own skirt I made myself that matches this shirt, if I feel inclined to have us match. To style this shirt for cold weather I placed a long sleeve shirt underneath. Happy Sewing!!

View of inside front

View of inside back

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