How to make a fabric leaf

I’ve been making fabric leaves for the past couple of days. Part of the setting for the doll I’m making for the Alaska Fiber Festival. Here’s a quick and dirty tutorial on how to make them ….

These leaves are made in two parts – the top part is your ‘fantasy fabric’ which you make from scratch and the bottom is wool felt. I used felt because I wanted them sturdy. You make the top piece by taking a piece of heavy water soluble stabilizer (I used Badge Master from OEM) and you use a Sharpie marker to draw out your leaf. Then take various colors and textures of yarn – the fancy stuff – and cut pieces so they overlap the leaf you drew. Lay the pieces down side-by-side on top of the stabilizer, covering the outline. Now take some Angelina fibers, some thread snippets, maybe some fabric snippets, and sprinkle them over the yarn. Then take a piece of fine tulle (I used green) and lay that over the whole thing. Pin it down in spots – outside of the drawn leaf. Or, if you use a light stabilizer put it in an embroidery hoop. Now – flip it over and slide it under your sewing machine needle. Sew around the drawn outline a few times and then sew a grid pattern so it holds everything down. You are sewing on the stabilizer. You want your grid pattern to sew into the outline so it all holds together. When that is done – flip it over so the tulle is on top and free motion embroider to flatten everything down and add more color. I used a variegated thread. When you decide that’s enough – change colors to a dark green and sew your vein lines. Great! Now just cut the leaf out (cut around the sewn outline) and soak your leaf in water to dissolve the stabilizer. The first two leaves in the photo are what I’ve described up to this point – you can see the yarn on the back side of the first leaf.
Is your leaf dry? Good – now place it on some felt – I used wool felt. Put it on a piece bigger than the leaf is. Take some floral wire (no thicker than 20 gauge) and bend it to fit the curve – cut it to size. Don’t try to use one piece for the whole thing – make each side separately. There are two ways to sew the wire in – one easy, one hard. The easy way is to zig zag (satin stitch) the leaf to the felt leaving an opening at the bottom to slide the wire up into. Slide the wire in and push it against the side. Use your zipper foot and sew a straight stitch next to the wire – the foot will push up against the wire. It will look like a casing on the back side of the leaf. The hard way is to use an open toe foot and a short zig zag and sew over the wire. I did this and broke lots of needles because you can’t see where the wire is – you have to guide it by feel. But I like the look of the back better. The bottom leaf in the photo is finished this way. Whatever way you sew it – when done – trim off the excess felt around the sewn outline. It’s done.
I imagine you could make two pieces of the fantasy fabric and sew the wire between them if you didn’t want a solid background. Just make sure one piece is much bigger than the leaf. You could also make fairy wings this way.


6 Responses to How to make a fabric leaf

  1. Awesome, Judi! Love these leaves! You should be teaching this stuff and not just giving it away!

  2. ~Edna~ says:

    Thanks Judi…love your blog and beautiful work!

  3. Betty says:

    That fabric looks lovely. Love the colors and yes, I can see how lovely wings would look made like this.

  4. shashi says:

    Hi Judi,
    Those leaves are beautiful. And it is a wonderful tutorial. Perhaps you should put it in DollStreet as a mini class.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have a tutorial on my website too from July 2005 that has more tips and hints for this technique too! Love the effects you got with yours!

  6. Mel Terpstra says:

    Does anyone know if it is possible to preserve real leaves on fabric for use in a quilted wallhanging?

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