Hey you…..wanna fight? (Handpainted Applique Tutorial)

I’m so excited to be a part of No Big Dill’s Once Upon a Thread this month!

Earlier this year in the first series of Once Upon a Thread I made a dress inspired by The Giving Tree….it was one of my favorite books growing up. This time around I let Boo pick the book and she chose The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carl.


So I made her a Grouchy Ladybug-inspired outfit:



I used hand painted fabric pieces to create an Eric Carle-inspired applique:


Boo loves The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle because I always do a really “grouchy” voice when I read it to her:



We’ve read it so many times she can now “read” it to me without even reading the words:


I love the book because it’s taught Boo how to tell time:


She loves the dress:



She paired the dress with pipe cleaner antennae which added the perfect accessory:


Here’s how I made the dress! First I made a plain white dress from my Sweet A-Line pattern.….but you can use any basic t-shirt or dress for a boy or girl. I have a great starter set of Setacolor Transparent Fabric Paints that I got from Dharma Trading.



I took some plain white cotton knit fabric and started unevenly painting it with colors needed for my collage. Here is green for the grass:



I mixed different shades of green to overlap and added different quantities of water:


Green for grass, red and black for the ladybug:


I sprinkled some salt over the paint and sprayed it with water to add a “crystallize” effect in places:


I used fabric markers to add some texture to my fabric too. These are SetaScrib Fabric Markers which blend very well…..also from Dharma Trading:



After my painting was finished and the fabric was dry I ironed the fabric to heat set it so it would be colorfast for washing:


Then I added paper-backed Wonder Under to the back of the fabric to prepare it for applique:


I cut out all my little collage pieces:


I peeled off the paper backing from the applique pieces and worked on my collage:


Once all my pieces were where I wanted them I laid a damp cloth over the entire design and steamed them into place so the fusible web (Wonder Under) locked the pieces into place:


Lastly I stitched all the pieces into place using my sewing machine:


The finished dress!



Make sure to check out the Giving Tree!



  1. says

    I love this so much!! I have to make this and the apple dress for my daughter. I love how you blend painting into a dress. It really looks like Eric Carle.

  2. says

    This is amazing as always. I have to say that you are such a great talent. If I tried this (and I have tried to reproduce an Eric Carle picture before) it would probably look like something a two year old made. Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    This is precious! I’m going to make one for my granddaughters and give them the book with it. What a perfect Christmas gift. Hope you’re feeling better every day!
    Blessings to you and your family,

  4. says

    This is fabulous! Very Eric Carle inspired indeed. I love his website, by the way. There’s a video of him making one of his collages. It’s fun to watch.

  5. says

    That is SO fantastic! It is brilliant the way you figured out how to make it look so much like the book, and the dress is super darling.

  6. Linda L says

    Wow! You have the most creative mind!! I am constantly amazed at the ideas you have! Such a cute dress!

  7. Letha says

    I am in LOVE with this dress. I’m planning a Very Hungry 3rd b-day party for my daughter and this technique will work wonderfully for her party dress! Thank you for the tutorial and I hope you’re feeling well today!

  8. says

    I just found your blog and am blown away! This dress is amazing!!! I really want to make some for my girls…they would absolutely love them. We are huge Eric Carle fans and I just love the idea of the hand painting for the appliques.

  9. says

    This is absolutley brilliant! I love your creativity …thank you so much for sharing you great ideas! Hope you are feeling much better! Best Regards!

  10. says

    awww so adorable. my girls are now too old for lady bug dresses…..making sad faces right now…. they are 25, 23 and 18…..but maybe i can make this for a gift for someone. too cute!

  11. Bev says

    oh, I see a Hungry Caterpillar in my future! Just got my PDF of the dress over the weekend – hello Black Friday – everyone else shops and I get to create!

  12. Shannon says

    LOVE THIS!!!! I teach 2nd Grade, and my class goes through basically the same process to make “Eric Carle Art”. I’m going to try this and make an apron for me to wear while my class reads The Tiny Seed, and completes their art project. Thanks for the FANTASTIC idea:)

  13. Kassie says

    You make everything look so easy! This looks like a fun project…and yours turned out looking JUST like the book!


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