Embroidered owl and Giraffe stencil tees

eye detail

Lately I’ve been thinking about making an Alabama Chanin style top.  The idea came to me as I wanted to make the asymmetric top in a recent Knipmode mag, but couldn’t find matching plain and print fabrics.  So it  would be a good excuse to make my own print or embellished fabrics.  I’ve always wanted to make an AC style garment.  But I’m not sure if I can actually pull it off.  Partly because I live in a rural area, and I don’t want to look like I’ve just stepped out of the paddock in my ripped ‘mufties’.  The other reason, I’m hesitant is that I adore good craftsmanship and some of the AC techniques look a little rough ‘n’ ready.  So the question is,  how to make arty and not like I lost a fight with the lawnmower?

I’m dipping my toe in lightly….

Exhibit A – Owl embroidered T-shirt

This uses the “beaded fern” technique (p121 of the AC book).  Essentially it is a wide satin stitch with a bead added every 2 or 3 stitches.  The design I’ve used is a tribal owl tattoo – using beading for the owl and a backstitch for the leaves – on a single layer of cotton rugby jersey.  It was fun and quick to do.  I’ve used two strands of embroidery cotton and Delica seed beads.

face detail
backstitch leaf detail
backstitch leaf detail

I quite like the result  but the knots and long thread tails on the inside of the shirt are irritating – visually and physically.  I’ve tried a few other ways to start a thread – standard embroidery techniques such as using short or split stitches, burying it under previous stitches etc.  So far the T has been through the wash 4 times and is still intact.

Owl embroidered Tee


Exhibit B – Giraffe stencil T-shirt

I did this t-shirt to see how I’d go cutting the stencils and applying the paint.  I made the stencils up to use two colours and give myself a bit of a test in lining them up – especially around the eyes – where I tried to avoid creating islands for the iris. For the nose on the orange layer, I couldn’t avoid having to use an island to mask out the inner part of the nose.

cut stencils

My paint application wasn’t as even as I would have liked, but I started to get the hang of it with the second stencil.  Part of the problem with the black layer was that I mixed in a metallic copper paint with the black.  They were different brands, but both ‘fabric paints’, and didn’t mix evenly.  I went back over the neck area as second time.

face detail
Giraffe stencilled Tee

The next step is to try the appliqué techniques – and try not to be a neat-freak with the raw edges 🙂

6 thoughts on “Embroidered owl and Giraffe stencil tees

  1. Your two shirts are gorgeous Treefrog!

    I’m also on the fence with some AC techniques, although I love the style. I don’t like the knots on the outside, nor the hand sewn seams and edge finishes. On my top, seen in my avatar, for 95% of it I ended the threads in between the two layers, with a double backstitch to start and end. For the last part, on part of the front and a sleeve, I used knots and loose threads on the inside. So far, and several machine washes and dryer cycles later, it’s all holding up well. Although the paint has faded a lot. I also constructed by machine. I look forward to seeing what you’ll create.


    1. Thanks. That is great to know how you did your gorgeous top. I think using the backstitch to start and end the threads would be the way to go. I was also planning on doing the seam construction by machine. It’s weird, but when I start searching on AC stuff, I always end up going off on a tangent to Eastern European embroidery, or couture appliqués or Japanese shibori. I read that you were planning an AC style jacket for the SWAP. I’m looking forward to seeing what you make.


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