Reverse Applique

It’s another strapless dress! I like the simplicity of the strapless shift as a canvas for embellishment. The idea for reverse applique came from The Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin. She works almost entirely in jersey, but I could use her ideas even though I don’t sew with knits. Oddly, when I first read the book, it did not influence me heavily. Then I found my new favorite magazine, Selvedge. It seems like they mention Chanin in every issue, so I finally started thinking seriously about reverse applique. I’m a bit worried about fraying. I may have to do a buttonhole stitch around the applique if it starts to fray badly.

The outside fabric is a silk dupioni in a deep red color. I underlined it with a cream silk suiting, which shows through where the outside fabric is cut away. I love this color combo, but I’m a bit concerned because the silk bleeds color like mad. I’m hoping dry cleaning will keep the cream color intact. If not, I guess it will be a red and pink dress.

The design for the applique came mostly from The Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. This book is a wonderful design resource. I have the jumbo edition, which is worth every penny of the rather steep cover price. Actually, it’s such a great book that I think it’s actually a bargain. It’s full of beautiful pictures of sometimes malevolent specimens. I took the tree thing from the front cover, and 2 birds from inside the book.

Here’s the back view of the completed dress.

This is a closeup of the applique on the back. I used the flash so you can see detail, but the color on this photo is really off. It’s really more of a wine color, as in the initial photo above.

A closeup of the applique on the front.

This is the original photo that I traced for the bird on the back

I took the tree and the bird and poked and prodded them in Photoshop until they gave me what I considered a pleasing outline.

Alabama Stitch Book, giving advice and inspiration for reverse applique

Albertus Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities book

I used this pattern from Burda WOF 5/2002. I turned the skirt from a slit to a slight A-line. I like pencil skirts, but I can’t wear them because as the mother of 2 toddlers, I spend a disproportionate amount of time sitting on the floor.

OK, are you ready to be green with envy? The Crochet Coral Reef is in London! I’m going to see it this weekend!! I’m so excited. Check it out here:


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  1. […] for the jacket.  I then copied on a stencil that I got from the Alabama Chanin site (thanks to Claudine I had heard of these people).  I hand-stitched around the motifs and carefully clipped out the […]

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