Restoring old "no-sew" applique
September 29, 2019 2:57 PM   Subscribe

How can I restore 20+ year old "no-sew" applique (using fabric paint to seal the edges) to a usable and washable condition, preferably using traditional sewn applique for durability? Details inside.

Back in the 90s, my mom was really into doing projects of what they called "no-sew applique," where you use fusible interfacing to attach the applique pieces to the fabric, and then instead of sewing around the edges, you use fabric paint (not the kind you brush, the plastic-y kind that comes in a bottle with a thin squeeze applicator and dries in a raised line) to seal the edges. She made a set of matching aprons for her parents to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Flash forward 20 years. My grandparents have both died since then, and my mom got the aprons from their estate. They have great sentimental value to her, but they are in bad condition. They were used and washed heavily by my grandparents, and the paint is peeling off and the fusible is too, so most of the pieces are partially detached. A few have been completely lost. My mom wants to be able to use and wash them to feel close to her parents. My dad tried to take them into several different quilting/sewing/embroidery shops but none of them were willing to undertake the project, so they asked me if I was willing to try.

I quilt, embroider, and do traditional applique, so I have agreed to try to fix them for her, but I've never worked with this sort of fabric paint, especially any that is this old. I'm looking for advice, especially from anyone who has worked with this kind of thing before.

1) In places where the paint is peeing away, can I just pick the rest of it off? what is the gentlest way to remove it?

2) In places where the paint still adheres, can I satin stitch over the line of paint, or should I remove the paint before I sew the pieces down?

3) alternately, would it be better to run a line of straight stitching (maybe with my free motion foot?) just inside the edges of the shapes that are still stuck well down and leave the paint alone?

4) For the pieces where the old fusible web has lost its stick, would it re-activate with heat, or could I use some other mechanism like glue basting to re-attach the pieces?

All the fabrics look to be plain cotton or poly-cotton fabrics, and my mother found the scraps from the original project in her stash closet so I can make replacement bits as needed. Any assistance in doing this would be helpful - it will make my mom really happy to be able to use these again.
posted by oblique red to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know exactly what you're talking about. I did the fusible type with the puffy paint like you're describing as a young teen. As an adult I have done the traditional needle turn appliqué when I was into quilting.

In the places it still adheres I would leave it. For the peeling parts, remove the paint as much as you can (I don't know with. Maybe try acetone? Or scrape as much as possible with a flat edge) and use your machine to sew down or hand sew with a whip stitch or something similar if you're concerned about mucking up your machine.

With the old fusible web you could try to refuse with an iron, or make life easier and add more fusible web -- it could last another twenty years.
posted by loveandhappiness at 3:36 PM on September 29, 2019

I would gently cut off the paint with a flat tipped xacto knife, just pare it down to a flat strip if it doesnt come off the fabric by itself. Dont cut into the fabric. You could get some thin piping and satin stitch over it to recreate the original look. I wouldn't try to reactivate the fusible, the glue is probably shot if it's not still adhering to the fabric,and stitching will last longer anyway.
posted by ananci at 4:53 PM on September 29, 2019

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