reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

I’m still sewing furiously to get everything done for Patternreview’s Wardrobe Sudoku contest, and today, I’m introducing you to item #3.  Here’s my reverse applique drop pocket cardigan.  There’s a lot of work here, so let’s get to it!

Reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

The pattern

Jalie’s Drop Pocket Cardigan is a pattern that I made a few years ago and kind of shrugged off.  My fabric choice was not terribly interesting, and as such, I never wore my version.  I recently found it among my sweaters and have been wearing it around the house a lot.  It really is a comfortable sweater, and it’s a great choice for an extra layer when I’m playing violin because it adds warmth without inhibiting movement.

The pattern is a perfect vehicle for reverse applique because the front pieces are made from a double layer that folds back on itself towards the side seams to create the pocket.

Leaf motif

reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

When the mood strikes, I occasionally sit and sketch flowers and leaves and other things that I might want to use for blockprints.  In my small catalog, I had a rather large leaf that I thought might make a good reverse applique pattern.

reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

First I traced 2 copies of the fronts of the cardigan onto soil separator cloth.  Next, I taped my leaf pattern to a window and traced copies of the leaf all over one of the fronts.  After flipping the pattern, I traced the first front onto the second one so that they would be identical.

Hand embroidery vs. machine embroidery

My fabric choice for the cardigan is a heathered blue poly sweater knit leftover from the fall version of this dress.  I had just enough for the fronts and backs and some sleeve cuffs, but not enough to line the fronts.  To line the fronts and for the sleeves, I used a dusty blue ITY cut from a RTW top.  The two fabrics contrast each other just enough for a tone on tone effect.  They were made for each other!  Next I had to decide if I was going to use machine embroidery or hand embroidery.

reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

I traced a small sample with two leaf motifs.  One is stitched out with hand stitches and embroidery thread, and the other with my machine.  If I had used a triple straight stitch like I did with the hummingbird tee, I might have chosen the machine route.  I do think the stretch of the fabric would have made a mess of machine stitches.  In the end, the hand embroidery was the clear winner.  The texture of the thread makes the leaf pop out and is a better contrast against the very smooth fabrics than machine thread is.

Prepping for the reverse applique

Before starting, I sewed the cardigan up until the pockets were constructed.  At this stage of the pattern, the sleeves are sewn to the back and fronts, the only thing missing are the side seams.  This leaves the fronts free for any kind of embellishment.

I took my traced copies of the fronts and hand basted them to the fronts around each leaf motif so that they would stay put while I was stitching.  The soil separator proved to be a good stabilizer for this fabric which is rather drapey.

Slow sewing

reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

Reverse applique is not a fast sport.  It’s a lot of slow, repetitive work.  Working with ivory embroidery floss, I began the work of backstitching around all 26 motifs.  I did all of this over 2 weeks a little bit at a time when I thought about it.  The bulk of it I did on a couple of weekend days while watching way more TV than is prudent.  After watching both series of Grantchester (beautiful costume work), some Doc Martin, Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina (Givenchy was a genius!), McClintock and probably more that I’m forgetting, I powered through the stitching.

After the motifs were stitched, I pulled off the soil separator.  A hand needle perforates the soil separator well enough that you can pull it right off with little fuss.  With embroidery scissors, I cut around the inside of the leaves to expose the second layer of fabric (hence reverse applique).

Because of how the pockets are created, the lining fabric becomes the outside part of the pocket.  I like how the motifs change from the main body to the pocket with the applique.

reverse applique drop pocket cardigan

This is my first large scale venture with reverse applique, and it won’t be my last.  I’m especially encouraged to try this technique again after Bianca wrote about Terial Magic.  A wash out stabilizer that turns the knit into something as stable as a woven, this stuff would make much easier work of the reverse applique process!

What about you?  Have you ever done any reverse applique?



Elizabeth is a self-taught sewist with a love for all things DIY and creative. Her friend calls her "The Fabric Manipulator" and she's always looking for ways to squeeze the most out of her sewing time in between caring for her 4 kids and husband.


  1. I liked his work and his pockets. I’m going to try my pocket style on a project as early as possible. You are very successful

  2. Hi! Good on you for hand stitching it, it looks wonderfully textured. I am also attempting the Sudoku challenge, though I don’t know if I will make it. And I am doing my first ever reverse applique top at the moment but I am going the quick and easy machine embroidery way. Fortunately my fabric suits the machine technique, it is a stable suede knit that does not fray or pull at all.

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Nice! Suede knit will make a cool reverse applique. Good luck with the challenge.

  3. This turned out great! I love this pattern for this technique. I may need to grab this one. Your color combination of thread and fabric are perfect together. You did such a good job. I am not familiar with soil separator and it sounds like a good tool. Thanks for the shout-out about Terial Magic.

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Thanks Bianca! You’re my reverse applique hero, so your opinion means a lot! Soil separator is great for drapier knits. I use it for tracing patterns mainly, but I’ve used it also to transfer my sons’ artwork onto t-shirts with embroidery. I wrote a tutorial here with it:
      I’m going to the sew expo here at the end of the month–I’ll be on the lookout for Terial Magic!

  4. The reverse applique definitely makes this cardigan! I’ve done a little here and there– one in a t-shirt refashion, and one in a denim skirt. I’d really love to do one of those full Alabama Chanin-style projects sometime, but I haven’t quite managed to get one going yet.

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Thanks Becky!
      I pick up her books at Barnes and Noble occasionally. No doubt that style is beautiful, but it is a time commitment. Definitely a project to be enjoyed in tiny doses with no time pressure!

  5. Pingback: Wardrobe Sudoku 2017 - Elizabeth Made This

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