Reverse applique, as the name suggests, is just that – Applique done in reverse. Where, in applique, the applique pieces are kept on the face of the fabric, in reverse applique the applique pieces are kept on the back of the fabric and stitched in place and then the top fabric is cut to expose the applique pieces underneath. The peek of the applique fabric through the cut windows in the fabric is beautiful and fascinating.
What fabric to use for Reverse Applique?
You can use any fabric compatible with the main fabric as the applique pieces. Contrasting texture, colour etc are preferred.
My favourites are velvet, sequin fabric and other textured fabric and lace and such sheer fabrics. When the applique pieces are sheer or transparent like lace, eyelet fabric etc it can result in a peekaboo look which is intriguing.
One thing to note though, you need an applique piece bigger than the design
Other than the purely decorative way in which reverse applique is used to embellish fabric, one very functional use is to patch holes in clothes. You can find this and other methods to patch holes in this tutorial.
1 Reverse applique – hand stitched
In this method of reverse applique, the main fabric is cut with some seam allowance to the inside of the design line and the raw edges are turned under to expose the applique pieces underneath and then it is hand stitched carefully, holding the folded edges in place
How to do this hand sewn reverse applique.
To do this applique first draw the design on the main fabric. Draw another line 1/4 inches to the inside as well.
Now clip all along the second line to the design line (just under is better) every 1/2 inch or lesser. Do not cut beyond the design line. Keep the applique fabric under the design and pin around.
Now carefully with a needle turn under the edges and finger press in place, to make the design. Hand stitch in place
You can make whip stitches all along the edge. I like to do small straight stitch underneath the folded edges joining the turned under edges and the fabric underneath so that no stitching show outside. Another option is to do blanket stitches to enclose the folded edge.
2 Reverse applique – Machine satin stitch
This method is very easy and you need a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine to do this. It is done exactly the same way we do applique. But instead of keeping the fabric for the applique on the top, we keep it underneath the fabric.
Draw the design on the main fabric.Keep the applique piece under the design and pin in place.
With the applique fabric kept under, stitch satin stitches ( very close zig zag stitches on your sewing machine) all along the design line.
Now make a snip on the inside of the design, only on the main fabric. You can pinch the top fabric and then make a small snip. Do not ever cut the back fabric, of course, you know that.
Now carefully cut through the inside of the satin stitching line with very very sharp scissors. The applique will reveal itself in all its glory from underneath as if you are looking through a window.
3 Reverse applique technique – stitch and slash
This method is best done with a non-fraying fabric like your t-shirt knit. This method is very easy to do as you do not have to deal with cut edges at all.
Decide on the design you want. Draw it on a piece of fabric or take a print out. Cut it out. I hope you will choose something simple without too many thin tight corners or swirls, if you are a beginner.
Keep the paper on the main fabric and draw the design.
Keep the applique fabric on the back of the fabric. Pin this in place
Now with your sewing machine ( with short stitches) sew through the design line. You will have to carefully manoeuvre your sewing machine, pivot the fabric in places like corners with the needle still in the fabric etc. Nervewrecking if the garment is precious. Do not worry, keep the seam ripper handy
Now start cutting the front fabric inside the stitching line. This will reveal the fabric underneath ( Ensure that you are not cutting the applique fabric at all). With the knit fabric you do not have to worry about the fabric cut edges – they just roll into themselves and make its own beauty
Learn more about the stitch and slit method here.
4 Reverse applique technique – stitch and slash variation
This technique uses running stitches or back stitches made over fabric painted borders with the reverse applique.
I have coloured over the design and then kept the applique fabric ( I have used velvet) on the back and made running stitches along the design line. Then cut the inside of the design so that only a small border of 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch remains of the fabric paint. It creates a pretty outline border for your design, especially if you choose the colour combinations right.
When using fabric paint do keep something between the two layers of the garment like newspaper or cardboard so that the paint do not seep to the back. It will take some time for the paint to dry so be patient. Learn more tricks on how to fabric paint here.
Learn other ways to refashion old tops and t-shirts here
An inventive use of reverse applique was found in this blog; the blogger uses the applique pieces cut from the reverse applique to make another altogether different but similar and very beautiful applique handwork. I love.