How do I sew this type of applique?
August 14, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Master Seamstresses and Tailors: I have the dress. I have the applique. Help me sew them to make them one!

Hi hi! This is a follow up question to this question.

Sorry if this is basic, but how do I sew the applique to the dress? Do I just place strong strategic stitches along the back? Is there a "best" way to do it? Should I trim the tulle? I cannot mess this up, so your guidance is much appreciated, and "just do it" is not an option. The applique consists of various types of metal chains sewn to a tulle backing. It will be going right in the middle of the top, mid-sweetheart neckline.

I've looked up "how to sew applique" and other various related searches, but I'm only finding things related to fabric appliques or ones that iron on. Can you help me?

Thanks in advance!
posted by two lights above the sea to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure that you can do this with all the draping on the dress without a lot of hassle. I'd make it so you can remove the metal thing when you get the dress dry-cleaned.

The tulle is there so you can make a slit in the dress and attach the tulle to the inside of the garment--don't just sew it onto the front. You would make a slit, turn the raw edges under and then attach the applique with strong, hidden stitches to the underside. I'd strongly urge you to take this to a dressmaker or tailor shop.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:28 AM on August 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do you want to tulle to be attached at the edges, or would you be okay with the tulle being attached only around the chains and loose at the edges? The latter is pretty much the only way it's going to be invisible (plus I think it could look cool).

Assuming that you're going with the second option, first baste (sew with very large stitches that are meant to be removed) the applique on, preferably in a color that matches neither the applique nor the dress. Do this multiple times if necessary to make sure you have the placement right. Then get some thread that matches the tulle as closely as possible and make very small stitches either through the tulle and the top layer of dress (less strong) or through the tulle and all layers of the dress (more strong), as close as possible to each outermost chain. If possible you basically want the stitches under the outermost chains. Do not, whatever you do, sew through the links of the chain. It will be tempting, but resist! It'll be pretty visible and look bad.

If there's no way to get stitches under the outermost chain, make a stitch entirely within a link, every few links. So for example: tie a knot in your thread and insert the needle in the inside of the dress, having it come out inside the top link. Then pull it all the way through, and reinsert the needle in the exact same link. Then do the same thing 4-5 links down.

Then do the same thing between two inner chains--the rhinestone chains (4th in from each side) look most promising for getting stitches in without being visible. Again, though, make sure you don't cross those shiny metal things connecting each rhinestone, or it'll be visible.

Do this all the way down the tulle but definitely don't go past the tulle--you want the chains to dangle at the bottom.

Memail me if you need any help! You can do it!
posted by mchorn at 11:30 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was *hoping* to not have the tulle visible at all.
posted by two lights above the sea at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2012

Then yeah, given the draping, best bet is tailor. You could fold back the tulle (I wouldn't just trim it lest you end up with ragged edges) and follow the same instructions, but it will be tough to get it perfectly hidden.
posted by mchorn at 11:46 AM on August 14, 2012

Do you mean the draping at the top? I wouldn't really call it that because, although the effect is pretty, it's fairly flat and tight. There was previous a bow there (also seen in the picture), and the dress is originally from David's Bridal. So yeah, the "draping" is not real draping, I don't think. It's got boning and the fabric is a thick polyester...

Does that change anything? Tailor is definitely an option for me, but I'd like to see if I can do it myself first.
posted by two lights above the sea at 11:51 AM on August 14, 2012

Even though it seems flat and tight, there are a lot of layers going on there, so you'd either have to cut through all of them in such a way as to be pretty seamless, as Ideefixe describes, which is not a job for an amateur (like, at all--I'm a medium-advanced amateur and I wouldn't do it in a million years, even on a dress that wasn't my wedding dress), or you'd have to fold the tulle back as I describe and sew many more very small stitches very close to the edge of the tulle (but not at the edge of the tulle, because then the stitches will be visible) such that it is held perfectly flat to the layered fabric. Otherwise it's going to look quite sloppy and homemade.
posted by mchorn at 12:00 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I wasn't planning on cutting the dress open--I wouldn't even allow a tailor to do that!

Thanks for the advice so far!
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:01 PM on August 14, 2012

Not a master seamstress, but just looking at the thing from a structural point of view-- you're not sewing the applique on anything that's going to be moving a lot, or that needs to hold up from a bunch of different angles. So as long as you have the chains stably affixed along the very top, they should hang downward naturally (in fact, you might not want to have a ton of fixed points below that, because the more of them you have, the more you'll run the risk of the tulle pulling or draping weirdly when you get the dress on, making the chains lie oddly).

Given that, one option might be to cut a piece of heavyweight white interfacing that's ~2cm wide and the width of the applique long, and firmly stitch it to the back of the top 2 cm of the chained part of the applique (making sure it's firmly attached at the top and side edges of the chains, especially). At that point, you could also fold all four edges of the tulle back/under the chains, regular-applique-style, and tack them down firmly, so they woudn't be visible from the front.

After that, you could carefully position the applique and focus on stitching the interfacing-backed top portion down to the fabric below. This might be partly possible by sewing between the chains, as mchorn describes, but the advantage of the interfacing layer is that it'd also give you the option of doing some hidden stitches where you bring the needle up from the back, catch a bit of the interfacing, and dip back down into the dress fabric, all without ever "surfacing" through the chain layer. As mchorn points out, it'll be most stable to sew the applique all the way through the draping, but that David's poly satin is so crazy stiff and heavy that I suspect it'd also be perfectly stable sewn just through the top layer of the dress (maybe with a little extra tacking-down of the draping itself, if it seemed inclined to flop open under the weight of the chain).

At that point, the applique itself should be more-or-less supported, so the only remaining thing would be to lightly tack the rest of it down with a few stitches here and there between the chains, to prevent slipping or flapping. If you wanted it to be really stable, you could try an invisible ladder stitch (couldn't find a good link offhand, but Google it) around the folded edge of the tulle, but I think the difficulty might be finding a thread color that doesn't contrast unpleasantly with either the dark tulle or the white dress.

The nice thing about this procedure is that it should be pretty much completely reversible if any step goes horribly wrong-- just snip the thread and try again!
posted by Bardolph at 1:04 PM on August 14, 2012

I just took a look at the dress as it looks when worn. Before doing anything permanent, have you tried how the look and feel of your applique will work on the dress when worn? If not, then the tacking approach (with the backing concept described by Bardolph) and wearing the dress to see if this works as well in real would go a long way to the final decision on the choice of remix given you want to wear it for a formal event.
posted by infini at 2:06 PM on August 14, 2012

Wow, thanks for the excellent advice, folks!

Unfortunately, I think the appliqué is too green. I just received it today, and in the picture it doesn't look green at all! It's nuts. Here's the pic. I may still wear it as a necklace, but against the white it's VERY green. Blah.

I think I can use it on another dress or shirt, so all your advice is still helpful! Thanks so much!
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:10 PM on August 14, 2012

Sorry this particular applique didn't work out-- but for what it's worth, looks like you've got about~$5, tops, worth of readily available craft store/thrift store chains there. Moving forward, if you really like the idea of metal embellishments, it would be very very easy to acquire some similar jewelry and sew or glue it onto the dress. And the DIY version might produce a much nicer final product, as well, because you'd be able to arrange the chains in a way that fits the pattern of the underlying dress (matching the top to the V of the sweetheart neckline instead of having it go straight across, for instance, or even having individual chains follow the horizontal lines of the draping instead of hanging straight down). Good luck!
posted by Bardolph at 4:33 AM on August 15, 2012

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