Bow Tie Sweater DIY

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 INSPIRATION
Bow Sweater on April and Jess

Left: Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation (Source)
Right: Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (Source)

I adore trompe l’oeil (despite having to look up the spelling and/or pronunciation every time I use the term), so this bow sweater with detachable collar is right up my two-dimensional alley. Its whimsy weirdly suits the polar personalities of both Parks and Rec‘s April and New Girl‘s Jess, and I think it would suit me too. Unfortunately, some quick internet-ing tells me that this is an Alice and Olivia sweater, and that it’s sold out universally. Even when it was in stock, it retailed for a few hundred bucks—which far exceeds my financial allocation for Eccentric Sweater Purchases. And it’s almost certainly beyond the means of both April and Jess, but that’s a diatribe for another day.

Inspired by the Alice and Oliva version, I decided to take a stab at my own trompe l’oeil effect using a homemade stencil and a sweater that I bought at Salvation Army for $5. Huzzah for projects in which there is very little to lose even if I totally screw them up! If you’re interested in trying this project yourself, you can download my template below.

 

MAKING THE STENCIL

Tools
stencil_tools

a) Stencil Paper, available at art supply stores. Honestly, you could probably get away with using contact paper instead.
b) Cutting mat
c) Stainless steel straightedge
d) Your chosen design. You can download the collar and bow-tie template that I created for this project here. Alternately, you might want to add just a bow, rather than the whole collar; in that case you can wear a button-down underneath your sweater and the final result will be closer to the original inspiration piece. Here are a couple of bows by themselves, if that floats your boat.
e) X-Acto knives and blades. I used standard #11 blades for straight lines, and the X-Acto Econo Swivel Knife for cutting curves.
f) Removable double-stick tape

How-to
cutting

1) Print your chosen design. I roughly trimmed out my template, just to get the excess paper out of the way.
2) Use double-stick tape to apply the template to the stencil paper, avoiding placing the tape directly behind the outlines of the design.
3) Carefully, using the X-Acto knives and straightedge, trim out the black shapes. Only cut against a cutting mat.
4) Remove the paper template. Your stencil is finished!

 

 STENCILING THE SWEATER

Tools
paint_tools

a) Removable double-stick tape
b) Stencil brush(es)
c) Sweater
d) Paint tray
e) Fabric paint
f) Stencil
g) A piece of cardboard or an old magazine to protect the back of the sweater from paint bleeding through

How-to
painting

1) Make sure the sweater has been washed and is completely dry before proceeding. Place the piece of cardboard inside the sweater.
2) Using liberal amounts of double-stick tape, position the stencil in place.
3) Use the stencil brush to dab paint in the design area. Be sure to use only a straight up-and-down motion. It may help to hold the stencil down with your fingers as you work. Pay particular attention to the edges.of the design.
4) Once the entire area has been filled in, carefully remove the stencil. You may want to go back in with a fine paintbrush and clean up any problem areas.

 

 Not too bad, eh?
finished_stencil

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Picnic Napkins

Picnic Napkins

These napkins are incredibly easy. I started by selecting a few coordinating prints in bright colors from the fat quarters section of the fabric store. I used the same fabric for both sides of each napkin, but you could use two different fabrics for each, and voila—reversible!

To make each napkin, cut two squares. Mine were approximately 9″ x 9″, but you could make larger dinner napkins or smaller cocktail napkins. Be careful to cut along the grain and to keep the corners as square as possible. This REALLY helps down the road when you fray the edges. Some of mine—those that (ahem) maybe weren’t so square—turned out worse than others. You learn as you go, you know?

Pin the two squares together back-to-back, with right sides facing out. Sew around all four sides, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance. I used a zig-zag stitch, because why not. You can use thread that matches your fabric, or, assuming you are confident in your ability to sew a straight line, choose a bright, contrasting color for some drama. Gettin’ crazy here.

Then comes the never-ending fraying. Use a pin to remove individual threads along the edge of the fabric. The best way for me to describe it is to not describe it at all, but to instead show you a very close up picture:

Fraying Edges

Yeah. Thread by thread. You will do this to both squares of fabric, along all four sides. It will take a long time. I suggest you pop in a movie or two, depending on how many napkins you’re making. I find that BBC’s 6-episode Pride and Prejudice is a wonderful go-to for just such an occasion.

Anyway, this is the thread pile that was accumulating on my couch. And my coworkers wonder why I have bits of thread stuck to my clothes all the time…

Loose_Threads

And then you are done!

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