Appliqué Tutorial for T-Shirts

finished shirtI have an addiction. I can’t seem to stop buying digitized appliqué designs and have way more than any one person should EVER need. Every time there is a sale, I get excited. Then, there are the freebies! I just can’t help myself when it comes to freebies!
My son recently turned turned 2 and I  decided to make him a birthday shirt to wear to school. I dug through all my birthday-themed appliqué files and found one suitable for a little boy. I have also come to realize that I have a lot more girl-themed appliqués then boy. More reason to shop!

So as promised… here is my appliqué tutorial. Yep, I know there are plenty of them out there but I have noticed that everybody does it a little differently. Here is the way I am currently doing it for my shirts:

Supplies needed:


  • Embroidery machine 😉
  • T-Shirt
  • Appliqué design file
  • Fabrics
  • Iron-on tear-away stabilizer
  • Cut-away stabilizer –  I like Sulky tender touch because you can also iron it on the inside of the finished shirt to keep toddler skin from being irritated by the embroidery.
  • Embroidery thread
  • Scissors – I have a pair of small curved Fiskars scissors that are perfect for this. The curved edge helps you cut really close to the edge of the appliqué fabric.

I borrowed major parts of my process from Cole’s Corner and Creations. Her tutorial is a lot more involved. I am always looking for ways to cut corners with my projects so I have eliminated some of the steps that didn’t work for me. I also am not making shirts for anyone but my children so if you are making a shirt for a gift or profit, I suggest you use her tutorial instead!

All right, here we go!

First, I iron a vertical crease down the front of the shirt.

ironed crease

I then cut a piece of tear-away stabilizer slightly smaller than my hoop. Fold it both vertically and horizontally. Line up the vertical crease of the tear-away with the vertical crease in the shirt and iron it to the inside of the shirt. (Pay close attention to which stabilizer I am using where in this tutorial. I know it can get confusing! I have underlined each type to help you.)

creased stabelizer

If you have ironed out the crease, then re-iron it.

Place a piece of cut-away stabilizer in your hoop and pull on the edges until it is tight.

hooped drum

Use the creases you made in your shirt to align it evenly within the hoop and then pin the shirt to the cut-away stabilizer that is tightened in the hoop.

pinned to hoop

Make sure the outside of the shirt is facing up when you place your hoop in your machine.

And make sure your sleeves are not tucked underneath!!!

sleeves out

If this is your first time using an appliqué design file, there are 3 parts to each section.

  1. The First Outline – lets you know exactly where to place your fabric
  2. The Second Outline – sews down your fabric
  3. The Final embroidery – puts down the decorative stitches

Let the machine run the first outline and then place your fabric.

first outline

Run the second outline. Use your curved scissors to cut the fabric off as close to the stitched edge as possible without cutting the thread. You may have to remove the hoop from the machine to do this. Be careful not to shift your hooped material.

second outline

cutting away fabric

Run your final embroidery.

final embroidery

Repeat with the rest of the design.

Please try not to be discouraged if you run into issues. I always seem to have a problem of one type or another. You can usually figure out what is happening by reading your machine’s manual or searching for help online.

This time it was that my needles kept breaking.

needle breaking

I was pretty frustrated until I finally realized my kids had been playing with my machine and had turned the tension dial too tight! I loosened it and didn’t have another issue! Luckily, I also had plenty of extra needles.

After finishing the appliqué, I decided to embroider my son’s name underneath the design. To do this, I unhooped my finished design, tore off the tear-away stabilizer and cut off the cut-away stabilizer. I then started back at the beginning by attaching the folded stabilizer and continuing on through the steps I used to prep the shirt the first time around.

I do have quite a few fonts I have downloaded but I found it easier to use the ones that came pre-installed on my machine. I suggest you run a few sample sizes on a scrap piece of fabric so you can determine the right size lettering for your project.

practice font

Once you have determined the correct size and placement, re-hoop your shirt centered on where you want the middle of your text to be and embroider away!

Here is Calder (with his big sisters) wearing the finished shirt on his birthday! Can you believe this is the only thing I have made for him. I really need to come up with more little boy sewing projects soon!school Calders bdaysmall


Triple Ruffle Pants

By far, the one thing I have sewn that gets the most attention are the triple ruffle pants I made for my girls. Every time they step out of the house wearing them, I get tons of compliments and inquiries as to where I bought them. I get the biggest rush when I get to say “I made them”!girls with TRpants

The pattern is from Foo Foo Threads on Etsy. I already owned the fabrics from that unused stack of single yards I bought back when I first got my sewing machine. I needed a pattern that I could make twice while only using three different yards of fabrics together and this one was perfect.

Here are the fabrics:

They are all Michael Miller fabrics but they are a few years old so they may be hard to locate.

  • Multi Gnomes
    black gnomes
  • Multi Handy Gnomes
    green gnomes
  • Black Summer Mushroom

The pattern came with a .pdf with photos to walk you through the construction process! Perfect for someone like me still trying to figure things out.

Since I bought the pattern and tutorial, I do not want to give away too much about their construction. I can talk about my mistakes though since there were plenty of them. I might also add that none of them were the fault of the pattern or tutorial!

3rufflesMy first mistake was that I only made 3 ruffles for the first pair instead of six (three for each leg) and then panicked because I was afraid I didn’t have enough material left. Luckily I did!

ripping ruffle hemThen, when I prepped those six ruffles, I hemmed both edges! I have NO idea what I was thinking when I did that. I then had to pull out my seam ripper and take half of them back out. Ugh!

I also have had to reopen and close the waistband on both pairs because either I measured my kid’s waist wrong or they both shrunk overnight!

Because my daughters have different size waists and leg lengths, I made each pair to fit a specific girl. Of course, even though I let them choose which fabric they wanted in the beginning, they now want to wear the other’s pair! I just can’t win!

I will say the scariest part of the whole process was getting to this point…

whole pants

and then doing this to them!!EEK!

cut pants

It was all worth it though. Check out the movement these pants have!M chasing ballM on trikeN riding bike

Pants are Sooooo Easy… and Appliquéd Shirts to Match!

heart drops and pantsMy girls keep growing by the minute and outgrowing their pants. The weather went from hot to cool almost overnight last year and I found myself without enough cold weather clothes for my kids. I then remembered coming across a kid’s pant tutorial once on a blog I regularly read, MADE . So I pulled out some fabrics I had sitting around, printed out her free pattern and got to work. I decided instead of making both pants at once I would do one at a time. That way if I messed up, I wouldn’t ruin both pairs at the same time. Believe it or not, I didn’t need to worry! Her tutorial was so easy to follow and the pants so easy to make, that I whipped them up in no time! I was very pleased with myself but the best part was my husband’s reaction when I showed them off and he looked surprised and said “You mean you actually made those?” He was as shocked as I was.

Dana also has some other cute pant tutorials available on her blog and I have plans to make more soon! My kids need some new clothes and I am not sure if I can justify paying for pants ever again!

Here is my fabric list:

Both fabrics were 100% cotton and from Brother Sister Design Studio which I found out is a private label brand for Hobby Lobby.

  • -Phyllipa Lattice
    green fabric
  • -Ainsley Swirl
    brown fabric

Now all I needed was matching shirts! I bought two long sleeve pink shirts at Target and the cutest appliqué design called Hanging Hearts from Hang to Dry.  I used an extra layer of the fabrics for each heart. Then after the machine finished sewing, I wet and ran my fingernail along the edges to fray them. I used some of the same fabrics as the pants but also used some from a quarter bundle from Joann’s, so I have no idea what they are called (sorry!).

hearts appliqueUnfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the process because I actually made them before I decided to start blogging about my sewing. I promise I will do some appliqué tutorials in the future!

Here is a close up of the finished appliqué. I think it turned out pretty cute for my first shirt!