January’s Swatch of the Month incorporates Alabama Chanin’s basic reverse appliqué technique with our Paisley stencil. Explore our techniques and build your skills with a membership to our Swatch of the Month Club and follow along here on the Journal.

The photograph above shows one of many options you can create when making your own swatch.

Experiment with your swatch. You can work it in reverse appliqué like we did, or use another treatment: negative reverse, backstitched reverse, quilted, or embellish with beaded stitches. Reverse appliqué can be done by beginners and experienced sewers alike and is worked on two layers of fabric: The top layer is stenciled and then stitched to the backing layer; next, part of the top layer is cut away to reveal the backing fabric underneath.

Each kit comes stenciled and ready-to-sew with all of the notions needed to complete the swatch—just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors. Colorway options include Navy/Black (our design choice), White/Natural, Neutrals, Reds, and Blues.  Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.


10” x 16” cotton jersey fabric swatch for top layer
10” x 16” cotton jersey fabric swatch for backing layer
Paisley Stencil
Textile paint
Spray bottle or airbrush gun, depending on stencil-transfer method
Button craft thread

Basic sewing supplies: pins, needles, embroidery scissors

Transfer the stencil design (instructions found on page 17 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design) onto the right side of your top-layer fabric. Be sure to let the fabric dry thoroughly.

Place the backing layer fabric swatch, right side up, behind the area of the top-layer fabric swatch to be appliquéd, making sure that the grain lines of both fabrics run in the same direction. Pin the two fabrics together.

Straight stitch the two layers of fabric together along the edge of each stenciled shape. Continue to move from one shape of the stencil to the next, stitching around each one. Always tie off with a double knot after completing each shape.

Insert the tip of your scissors into the center of one of the stitched shapes, being careful to puncture only the top layer of fabric. Carefully trim away the inside of the shape, cutting about 1/8” to 1/4″ from your stitched outline. The remaining fabric is wide enough to prevent raveling, and narrow enough to display the reverse appliqué pattern nicely (along with a sliver of the original stenciled design’s paint color).

Never cut closer than 1/8” to any stitched outline. (Note that very small elements in the stenciled design may be too small to trim, so leave them uncut.)



Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Top layer – Navy
Backing layer – Navy
Stencil – Paisley
Treatment – Reverse appliqué
Button Craft thread – Navy #13
Textile paint color – Pearl Slate
Knots – insides


If you choose, you can archive your finished swatches in a 3-ring binder and start your own library of design—just as we do at Alabama Chanin. We cover our 3-ring binders with a double layer of white organic cotton jersey using the instructions for our Book Cover given on page 115 of Alabama Stitch Book.


Binder to be covered
Approximately 1 yard of 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey, depending on the size of your binder
Two pieces of pattern paper, one piece large enough to wrap around binder with 1” border and second piece about 4” wide and same height as binder

Basic sewing supplies: ruler, tailor’s chalk, scissors, pins, needles


Open the binder you’re covering, spine down, on a piece of pattern paper, making sure it is lying completely flat. Using a pencil and ruler, trace a straight line around each edge of the binder. Add a 1/4” seam allowance on the top and bottom of your rectangle.

To provide a flap on each end of the binder cover, measure one-third of the binder’s total open width, and add this measurement to each end of your traced rectangle. For example, the binders we use measure 29” open, so we add about 9” to each side for flaps. Cut out the rectangle for your pattern.

Next, lay your binder cover pattern on top of one layer of fabric. With tailor’s chalk, trace around your pattern’s edges, remove the pattern, and cut just inside the chalked line to remove it entirely.

Lay the cut top layer directly on top of the second piece of fabric. Line up the grain lines. Cut around the outside edge of the top layer to cut the backing layer. (Using the cut fabric piece as a pattern rather than the paper pattern automatically adds 1/16” to the backing fabric piece—exactly the extra amount of fabric that we like to add to a backing piece.)

Center the top layer of the binder cover with the binder-cover backing layer, with the right sides of both pieces facing up. Align the edges and pin together.

Place your binder cover face down, and fold in the flap on each end, aligning the raw edges. Pin the folded edges securely into place.

Using a straight stitch, join these flaps to the outside book cover, making sure to stitch 1/4″ from the edges across both the top and bottom edges of the flaps. Insert binder.

*Instructions for creating headers for your binder can be found here.

Come back next month for our take on February’s swatch.

Follow along on social media and on our Journal with the hashtags:

4 comments on “SWATCH OF THE MONTH: JANUARY 2014

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  1. Lisa van der Roest-Beck

    When I first discovered Alabama Chanin I was inspired by a deep abiding feeling of kinship. I recognized that the creative endeavours of this great team were kindled by a desire to bring beauty and joy to this sometimes bleak world. I immediately ordered both books and a scarf kit and then I dreamed of attending a workshop. This past March I suffered a spinal cord injury and so that dream must be put on hold…at least for now. In the mean time I look forward to receiving the daily journal in my inbox and feeling that in some small way I can experience the Alabama Chanin joie de vivre as we say in Quebec.

  2. indigotiger

    One thing that I have started doing when I do reverse applique, I do before I put the two layers together: I cut a Very Very Tiny Hole in the center of each of the design elements that I will be cutting open after stitching. When I say tiny, I mean somewhere between 1/16″ and 1/8″, just enough to get the tip of a scissors in to start cutting. I began this after my first project, when I had a lot of trouble poking the scissors just through the first layer, and ended up actually cutting into the backing once or twice… now by pre-cutting the starter hole, that doesn’t happen any more… I just thought that your other readers might find this useful…