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Decorating Baby Clothes with Peel-and-Stick Appliques, Dye Sticks, and Pens

I just co-hosted a baby shower for a friend and I chose to be in charge of a “onesie” decorating activity. I thought my notes and my shopping list might be useful to others.

I got the basic idea from several posts like this one about using Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Peel & Stick Sheets to make fabric appliques. Based on this review of fabric markers, I decided to purchase Pentel Fabric Gel Roller Pens in black for fine lines (2 packs of 2) and Pentel Arts Fabric Fun Pastel Dye Sticks (15 color set). The dye sticks are just like crayons, but a little softer, and can be blended, but they do smear easily. The nice part is they clean off of stencils with just a little rubbing with dry paper towels. I purchased some stencils with words like “giggle” and “play”, basic alphabets, sun/clouds/moon, and leaves.

Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Peel & Stick Sheets are 4.25×5 inches, so I figured that quilter’s charm packs (typically about 40 assorted pieces of 5×5 inch fabric squares per charm pack) would be almost perfect. I wanted a variety of prints. This baby’s nursery theme is woodland animals, so I tried to find some fabrics that went along with “nature” and had “boyish” colors, whatever that means. I’m a quilter, so having extra charm squares leftover was not a big deal to me, so I purchased two Moda charm packs.  I washed the fabric squares in a lingerie bag, ironed them, and picked out the ones I thought would work best.  I applied the adhesive to the back side.  I found clip art online of a fox, an owl, a squirrel, a rabbit, a bird, an acorn, a crescent moon, circles, stars, and assorted mushroom caps and stems, and added some freehand clouds.  I traced these onto template plastic and traced the templates onto the adhesive-backed fabric squares.

I purchased pieces of inexpensive white, yellow, and light blue bodysuits, shirts, and bibs in sizes 3 mo. through 18 mo. Light colors were recommended for the dye sticks, and this shower was for a baby boy. I did test runs on a blue shirt and a green bib to see how the dye sticks would work out. I decided that ironing freezer paper on the inside of the clothes and the back of the bibs might be helpful for stabilizing the fabric to make writing easy and to keep the pens and dye sticks from bleeding through. I ironed and washed my test shirt and bib, and the appliques did well, only unsticking on thin parts like an acorn cap stem and a lightning bolt, and one cloud wrinkled. The dye sticks faded, but not too badly. The pen looked almost as good as it did before washing.

Here’s the shopping/source list.  Our estimate was that a maximum of 28 people would show up for the shower, and in fact the total count ended up being about 16.  I purchased enough to make about 30 pieces of clothing, and it was just the right amount for our 16 people with only a few left over.

  • About 30 pieces of light colored cotton clothing in various sizes

various sizes and colors of t-shirts from the Dharma Trading Company
various colors of bibs from the Dharma Trading Company
various colors and sizes of bodysuit from the Dharma Trading Company

  • 6 packs of Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Peel & Stick Sheets
  • One charm pack of fabric (I chose to purchase two for variety, but one would have been more than enough). I chose Moda – Wren & Friends and Kate Spain for Moda – Sunnyside.
  • Pentel Arts Fabric Fun Pastel Dye Sticks, 15 Color Set
  • Two packs (total of 4 pens) of Fabric Gel Roller Pens 2/Pkg
  • stencils to use with the pens and dye sticks (alphabets, sayings, etc.)
  • search online for clip art or buy stencils for making the appliques
  • a piece of template plastic & pencils or pens for tracing templates – available in most sewing and craft stores (I traced the stencils before the party)
  • scissors for cutting out appliques (I cut out the appliques before the party)
  • freezer paper (I cut pieces and ironed onto the back sides of clothing before the party)
  • cardboard rectangles and pins
  • an iron for ironing the fabric squares, adhering the freezer paper, and setting the pastel dye sticks
  • clothesline and clothes pins for display at the party (we draped our clothesline over a curtain rod)
  • paper towels to clean the stencils and to put between the pieces of clothing when you pack up to prevent the dye sticks from transferring from the front to the back of the clothes
  • scent free, dye free laundry detergent for washing the finished products

Check out some of the finished products!  With the exception of the blue t-shirt with a rain cloud and thunderbolt and the green bib with the acorn, these have not yet been ironed or washed.


UPDATE: despite my test run, these did NOT wash well.  The peel-and-stick appliques came off, some entirely, some only partially.  It was a huge disappointment.  I have since decided to do raw edge applique with just plain fabric cut outs using plain running stitch a mm or so in from the edge or blanket stitch at the edge. I did use some of my leftover peel-and-stick shapes and tried to sew through them, but I don’t recommend that – sewing through is painful, although they wash up great!  Also, a friend lent me Stained by Sharpie fabric markers, and they work wonderfully, although the tips are soft so it can be difficult to do fine lines on knits. For that the Fabric Gel Roller Pens are better. The Sharpie Stained markers wash well – the colors stay dark.

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