With Valentine’s Day upon us I thought I’d make a project that would be a fun gift for your valentine. This mixed media appliqué project was inspired by the “I Love You” fabric used for the man’s face. I found it on Etsy and almost immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. He has “I Love You” written all over his face, as he blushes with emotion — his mood perfectly fits the holiday. The end result looks a little like David Duchovney, doesn’t it?
Photograph or drawing you like You can also download a PDF template of the image I used.
Marker layout or tracing paper
Red, pink, or orange fabric with a Valentine’s-themed print
Off-white silk organza
Wool felt in pink, brown, black, and blue
White cotton canvas
White silk thread
Medium brown thread
Dritz Stitch Witchery
White tracing paper
White wax pencil
Step 1: I began by creating the image. To do this I found a picture that I liked of a man with a shy grin. (You can download a PDF template of the image I used.) I printed it out and traced it. I didn’t like his hair so I drew new hair on him (based on Robert Redford’s from the 70s). I then retraced my image, simplifying the lines so they could be easily cut out in shapes, and then rescanned the image back into my computer. I resized it in Photoshop and printed it out again. My printer wasn’t capable of printing it out in the size I wanted, so I printed it out in halves and taped them together.
Step 2: The next step is to create the pattern pieces. This is where the marker layout paper comes in handy. It’s transparent enough to use for tracing, but sturdy enough to be cut out as a pattern. Trace off the various shapes you’ve simplified down in your drawing, and cut them out.
For the face I’ve made 3 shapes — 2 of which I didn’t actually draw out on the original drawing. In order to tone down the red fabric, I cut out the whole face shape in organza, and for a suggestion of light hitting the left side of his face, I cut half the face out in another layer of organza. Because I wanted the effect of blushing cheeks I cut holes in the organza at the cheeks. I also made holes for the eyes and mouth because I wanted the white of the canvas to show through.
Step 3: Once you’ve created your pattern pieces it’s time to cut them out of the various fabrics you’ve assembled. I used a pencil to trace out the patterns on the lighter fabrics, and a white wax pencil to trace them out on the darker ones.
The organza was a bit oodgy, so I taped it down on 2 sides. What makes this project so smart looking is meticulous cutting. Be very careful that you don’t have jagged lines. Smooth cuts will give you a very polished finish. If you want, you can use a rotary cutting wheel and X-Acto knife instead of scissors.
Step 4: After you’ve cut out all of your pieces it’s time to draw with your sewing machine! Lay your original drawing on the white canvas base and place it pleasingly. Hold it in place and slip a piece of white tracing paper under it where the shirt details are. Trace off the shirt with the tracing wheel.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you to use white tracing paper on a white ground. White tracing paper will disappear when it’s ironed over, leaving no mark on most fabrics. This is important with this project. Traced lines could easily be seen behind the stitching. The white tracing paper should be faintly visible on the white canvas. If you really can’t see it under your sewing machine light, you can go over it very lightly with pencil. Using black thread, stitch the lines to suggest the shirt and teeth.
Step 5: Now you can start building your appliqué. Begin by laying down the bottom layer — the printed fabric face. On top of that, lay the full organza face and then the half organza face. These 3 pieces should fit in the “V” created by the neckline of the shirt you just stitched. Pin the pieces down, and using the silk thread, hand-stitch the pieces in place with a small running stitch. Stitch around all edges, both outside and inside, around the holes cut for the blushing cheeks, the eyes and the mouth.
Step 6: Next you’ll want to stitch the details in the face — the nose and the chin. Trace the details on the appliquéd face using your drawing, the white tracing paper, and the tracing wheel. Then stitch it with the machine. I used medium brown buttonhole twist thread for this. It complimented the skin tone quality of the fabric nicely.
Step 7: Now all that’s left is applying the felt pieces — the hair, lips, pupils of the eyes, and eyebrows. This is done with the Stitch Witchery. Cut the felt shapes again in the Stitch Witchery, then, with the piece on the ironing board, place them carefully on your appliqué with the felt over them. Iron them in place with the iron set at the wool steam setting.
The directions say not to move the iron, but I’ve found that after an initial moment, it’s best to pass the iron over the surface or the steam vents of your iron will be imprinted on your felt. Repeat this procedure with each felt piece, building the design up until it’s done. To finalize the application, press from the back.
Step 8: The last step is to hem the piece on 3 sides and then create a small rod pocket for the top. I used a wooden dowel that had come with a vintage linen calendar that I bought some years back. Alternatively, you can stretch the piece on stretcher bars. Ultimately, with the unfinished edges of the face, the piece will be a bit delicate, with a tendency to fray, so I would suggest making it a hanging of some kind, rather than a pillow.
This technique can be used to create all kinds of different projects. The organza layering can give you many different effects. You can use a variety of different colors to create all sorts of shading on the face or to create other images — organza would give the effect of frosting on a cocktail glass, for instance. For this project you can personalize it by using a picture of yourself — perfect for expressing your feelings to your valentine!
I hope this project has inspired you to explore appliqué. It’s such a fun process and not difficult at all. Happy Valentine’s Day!
About the Author: Brini Maxwell is a domestic guru, television personality, and the face of the Felix Populi brand of home accessories. She lives in New York City.