Shadow Play Tutorial: How to do Shadow Applique.

Misty morning landscape
Misty morning

Mists of season soften and tend to make for an ethereal quality of the landscape. One misty morning reminded me of a technique that was the rage some years back as well as reconnecting to my patchwork passion days.

That technique is shadow applique and provides an opportunity to use up some of those scraps, especially the tiny odds and ends from felt projects. It is an overlay technique that, like a misty morning, softens shapes and colours .

A brooch made using the shadow applique technique using wool felt,crystal organza and beads
Shadow applique brooch

To begin you will  need

  1. A selection of fabric scraps for the design components. These can be felt, calico or fancy bits and pieces. If working with children I would suggest using wool  felt to make the picture and the background as it is such a friendly, forgiving and easy medium.
  2. A larger piece of fabric for the background such as felt, calico or a plain cotton, homespun, even a scrap of linen. The size will depend on what you decide to make. Here I’ll just explain the technique and suggest using a small square or circle  of calico or pale felt.
  3. A piece of sheer fabric such as fine organza, chiffon, batiste, lace or tulle which needs to be larger that your background. If you prefer all natural fibres you can use cotton organza.
  4. Sewing basics such as needles, pins, scissors.
  5. Embroidery threads
  6. Paper, the back of old envelope or such will be fine, and a pencil. This is for the pattern template.
  7. A design- for an easy option a cookie cutter works well. However there is so much inspiration around, you just need a simple shape such as an animal or flower to try the technique.

Make a pattern.

Trace out your shape and make a paper pattern. Pin this fabric of choice and suitability and cut around. You will not need to turn under or seam so cut to size. Cut out the pieces for the motif.

Place Motif on Background.

Now you lay out your picture on the background. If it has several pieces you may want to pin from underneath.

arranging the pieces on the background,here to make a small brooch using bright coloured felt
Arranging the pieces


Take the sheer organza or another type of sheer fabric and place over your motif, covering all of the background.

Baste the sheer overlay making sure all the pieces are properly in place. Sheers can ladder so use a fine sharp needle and sewing thread for this. You want to just hold the layers together. Stitches can be large and loose as long as it keeps everything together and the design elements in their proper place.

Placing sheer fabric over the felt design
Placing over the sheer,shadow, fabric


To attach use threads to match or to contrast areas of you design. So easy just a  a small running stitch very close the the edge of your shapes. Just outline the shapes,stitching through all of the layers. Now add any detail such as French knots for eyes or flower centres. You can add beads and other embellishments, but in essence it is a simple and easy process that works with all skill levels.

stitchin through all the layers and adding beads to embellishh
Stitch and embellish

Uses and Finishing.

Shadow applique can be used to make pockets or pouches, cushions and baby bibs, also journal and album covers, hanger covers and tote/craft bags.This method  can be  very pretty when used for such things as baby wear. For these types of application it would be best to use washable textiles and to attache the motif shapes onto the background with double sided fusible web or fabric glue before layering.

Shadow Applique is a useful technique in textile art to make pictures. As a technique in art it helps to give a softening affect and transform the energy of a piece.

Furthermore the use of layering and shadow effects can provide other interesting lessons, such as ceating shadow puppets, or investigating how light can create shadow patterns that nature uses for camouflage.

The quilt below was made to represent the Sorceress and is an example of using an overlay. She is covered in a sheer black voile that is speckled with holographic dots to give the illusion of shadow, magic and mystery. There is more about her on an earlier page.

Sorceress quilted panel overlaid with a darkorganza flecked with silver holograms.Beading and applique,as well as handpainted

The sorceress seems an appropriate connection to our trip as we have returned to England from Ireland,lots of mists and mysteries. Soon we will be visiting Tintageland have also seen a littel of  Wales, so veils and myth seem all the more relevant .


2 thoughts on “Shadow Play Tutorial: How to do Shadow Applique.

    • Thankyou hope it works out well for you, travelling has made computer access a bit iffy, so had prepared ahead. In u.k on cornish coast and wow, so much wow and history.

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