These turkey shirts are a labor of love I tell you! I make them every year. Sometimes we’re able to pass last year’s down to the siblings, but most often they’re stained or out grown. My kids love these turkey shirts, that’s one reason we hardly ever reuse them-they want to wear them all year long! My son paired last year’s turkey shirt with his bright blue and red crab applique shorts this summer. Forget Christmas in July, he was ready for Thanksgiving.
Over the years I’ve made these turkey shirts several different ways. I added fabric eyes, beaks, feet and even a wattle. Fabric marker works really well for the eyes. I used ribbon instead of fabric for the feathers, but that look seems more for the girls only. So make these your own, this is just a simple tutorial-feel free to embellish to your hearts desire.
Various Fabric Scraps; fat quarters* are great if you don’t have a lot of fabric on hand.
Sewing machine, thread, scissors, ironing board & iron.
Download and print your turkey and feathers template.
Cut out the size turkey body you need and the feathers you prefer. I’ve included a small turkey body for young babies, newborn to 1 year. I used the larger body for my 2 year old through 10 year old shirts. I also added two different size/style of feathers, so take your pick. You only need to cut one out to use as a tracing template.
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Prepare your appliques:
Trace as many turkey feathers as needed on the paper side of your Heat ‘n Bond. I made 6 shirts at once so I traced a bunch here.
Lay your fabric right side down and then lay the Heat ‘n Bond with traced feather(s) on it. The shiny side of the Heat ‘n Bond should be touch the wrong side of your fabric. Follow the directions on the Heat ‘n Bond package.
Use an iron set on low-medium heat to lightly iron the fabric onto the Heat ‘n Bond feathers. This will adhere the shiny side to the fabric. Do not place your hot iron on the shiny side of Heat ‘n Bond directly.
Once prepared, cut the feathers out.
Peel the paper backing off of your fabric feathers. This is the side you traced your feather on. It’s a bit like peeling off a sticker. It can be tricky to get that first corner up, but after that it’s a cinch. You’ll be able to see the shiny glue on the fabric feather as you peel away the paper backing. Repeat for the turkey body.
Now the fun part-arrange your turkey feathers. The Heat ‘n Bond will not stick at this point, so you can rearrange as needed.
Be sure all the feather ends are tucked behind your turkey’s body. Using a medium setting, iron feathers and turkey down on to the shirt. This will keep them in place until you get them sewed down.
Sew down the turkey body and all the feathers using a 1/8″ seam allowance. This will allow the edges to fray in the wash, but that’s a good thing since it’s a turkey! If you prefer a more secure stitch, then use a satin stitch or zigzag stitch to enclose the edges. If you’re new to applique read on for more details.
Be sure to back tack when you start and stop sewing.
For each feather I started sewing where it met the body. Start by back tacking to lock your stitches.
When approaching the curves, go slowly. Stop and lift the presser foot and turn your fabric slightly to follow the curve of the feather.
Lower the presser foot, sew a few stitches slowly. Continue to lift and adjust as you work around the curve.
Be sure to back tack at the end of one feather (I stopped where one feather met the next feather. Pull your thread loose and then move to the next feather.
Continue sewing each feather in this way until all edges have been sewn down.
Pull your threads to the back of your shirt.
To do this pull lightly on the threads that are already on the back side.
Pulling the thread will loosen this loop, keep pulling.
Keep pulling until the thread comes all the way through to the back.
Now tie the loose threads together and snip. This will help secure those many curves where back tacking wasn’t just a straight line.
If there are any that won’t pull to the back, then they were probably well secured when back tacking and can be snipped close on the front.
Flip it over and admire your handiwork!
I embroidered the eyes and beak with thread. I used a yellow for the beak and just sew two small lines to form the beak. For the eyes I tied little knots in blue and secured it with a stitch.
Now make a few more!
Let me know if you have any questions!
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