Monday, December 6, 2010

How to applique ready to wear t-shirts (a picture tutorial)

Okay... I have to start this tutorial by telling you I hate the way my hands look in photos. Ugh.
why? why do they look so weird?

It's like when you hear your voice on an answering machine.... do I really sound like that? No. I don't. And my hands don't look like this either.

Okay.... sigh.... I feel better now.

On to the picture tutorial.

I used to HATE embroidering/appliqueing RTW (ready to wear- or purchased clothing)
I would hoop the shirt/onesie/panties and rarely get it centered up, frequently catch the t-shirt and ruin it or have to cut the shirt up the side and then restitch it. All nasty.

After combining some great tips from other helpful sewers and lots of trail and error- I've come up with a way of appliqueing RTW that is sooo easy and fun......
You will never hoop a t-shirt again!!!

1. Gather materials.

Always use a CUT AWAY stabilizer for knits. This will keep the fabric stable so that it won't stretch. VERY important. Invest in both cut and tear away stabilizers.

This is the kind I buy. It lasts a long time!

Also helpful (but not necessary) is some Sulky iron on tear away.
My favorite place to get this is my Mom's sewing room.... shhhhh.... but it's so expensive. I just can't help myself from filching some. She knows. It's not really a secret.

Your kids and customers definitely want you to have some iron on tricot. It's a lightweight interfacing for knits that you can find at any fabric store. You iron it on over the design so that it's soft and comfy- hiding all the threads and that itchy cut away stabilizer.

2. Hoop stabilizer. Make sure it is super tight with no bumps. If it's not tight and straight- re do it. Don't be lazy. Trust me- I've done it.

3. Prepare shirt for applique.
*Always wash your garment first. Always.
*Iron it out.
*find the center front of the t-shirt by placing side seams together

and shoulder seams together

Press that fold- good.

Yes- you want a big, sharp, crisp crease in the middle of your shirt.

After this you can skip ahead to step 4 or use the optional iron on tearaway for a really foul proof way. I usually skip ahead... unless it's for a customer that's not family. te he he

Step 3 Optional:

Cut a piece of iron on tear away the size of your hoop.

Fold it in half

Fold it in half again

Line it up on your shirt placing it where you want your design to be and matching up the center folds.

Did you match up the center fold on your t-shirt and on the iron on tearaway?

Now iron on the stabilizer.

Chances are- you've ironed out your center crease.
It's okay.

Just fold the t-shirt again in half and then in half again to recreate your creases.
You want them- remember.

Step 4. Placing the shirt in the hoop.

Gather materials.

Must have for applique- Sulky Temporary Adhesive. Yes- it's expensive- but it will make your projects look so much more professional and last longer. Trust me.
Just print a 40% off coupon from Hobby Lobby and get some.

No. I don't smoke! That little daisy ashtray was my Granny's and I just love it for holding extra bobbins and pins.

Spray your hoop with the Sulky.
Then place the t-shirt in the hoop starting with one quarter.
Line up the folds with the arrows on your hoop.

Slowly fold open the shirt- making sure it is centered up with the arrows on the hoop and the folds of your shirt.

Smooth t-shirt out and make sure it's stuck to the stabilizer.

Open up the shirt and begin to pin around the edges.

Keep the pins as close to the edge as you can. They will mess up your machine if they're in the way... ask me how I know.

Don't worry about the creases in the shirt. Trust me.
Just trust me. Leave them.

Step 5. Gather supplies

I use Embroidery needles most of the time, but when I'm appliqueing something knit- I always switch to a stretch or ballpoint needle. Take the time to do this. It definitely makes a difference. As a beginner seamstress, I never changed my needles- it's a very rookie mistake. Make sure your needle fits your fabric and change them if they are old or bent.

and start appliqueing.

Make sure the shirt is not under the hoop or hanging down where you're embroidering.

Step 6. Prepare fabrics for applique.
I use Heat and Bond light on the back of mine.
If I'm in a super hurry- I just use the Sulky spray- but I've found it's worth it to take the time to iron on some adhesive.

After you iron on the heat and bond- allow it to cool for a few seconds before moving it to the machine.

Then peel off the backing and place it on your t-shirt- you may want to spray it with some Sulky first- especially if you are using a cotton. I like to use knits for appliqueing t-shirts when I can.

This is corduroy- so I sprayed it but don't iron yet!

Continue appliqueing until all the pieces are stitched in place.
Remember to use WSS over any fabrics with pile.

Step 7: Now this is the most important part!!!!
Just don't do it.
If you need to pee, get something for the kids, grab the phone... whatever.... pause your machine.

The fabric from the shirt hanging over can too easily shift and get caught under your needle ruining everything you've done.
Ask me how I know.

Just stay at the machine.
Stuff you can do:
*sketch other projects
*make a grocery list
*listen to music
*sing to kids
*play Barbies or puppets- by the machine!
*watch episodes of The Office on your itouch (just be ready to hit that stop button if you need to)
*get up and walk in place to the beat of the embroidery machine- that's fun... but I don't do it as much as I should
*or call one of your sister in laws and chat while it's stitching out

Anything, anything, but leaving it.

Okay good. Step 8: You're almost done!

If you're going to sew on any embellishments, do that now- while the shirt is still in the hoop. I love adding bows and buttons to my appliques.

Now, pull off the tear away stabilizer- if you ironed it on. My kids love helping with this step.

Now carefully... very carefully cut around the cut away stabilizer. Not too close, now.

Now, press the back- setting all the heat and bond.

Then cut some tricot for the back. Don't be stingy- no one wants anything scratchy on their skin.

Turn it inside out and you're done!

Now wasn't that easy.

Now you can make t-shirts easier and faster.

Like these I made for Thanksgiving.


Emily M said...

Great tutorial - thanks so much!

Jana M. said...

THANK YOU!!!!!! Your appliques always look so good. Thanks for sharing your steps.

Shannon H said...

Nicole, Thank you soooo very much for taking your time to share this with all of us!!! I get so chicken with not hooping T's but I'm going to give this a try.

Mary said...

I've ruined a LOT of shirts and onesies by walking away or just turning my head for a split second. I really need to hit the pause button!

Mrs.Fitz said...

I know I'm not around you that much but those don't look like your hands. Love the shirts very jealous of Wyatt and Allie!

Cooda's Corner said...

This is exactly how I do it except the cut away. I just use tear away and I put fusible mesh on the shirt first before adhering it to the stabilizer in the hoop. Great tute!

Macy said...

I stopped hooping my shirts a while back and thought it was easy, but this makes it WAY easier- and I never thought to fold the shirt in half and press it- Thank you for this tutorial!

Viagra pharmacy said...

It's all about imagination... there are to many ways to show up your inspiration: this is one of the best. You should add more tips every week, shouldn't you?

southernseams said...

Great Tutorial! Finally found one that actually helps. Thanks!

southernseams said...

Great Tutorial! Finally found one that actually helps. Thanks!

Rosy said...

That is the best tutorial I have read. I don't do many t shirts as something always goes wrong. Now I hope I can print YOUR instructions and do it correctly. Love your site, and pictures. Thank you for your help

Nickie said...

You are hilarious! Thank you for this entertaining tutorial that will no doubt help this beginner out!

Nickie said...

You are hilarious! Thank you for this entertaining tutorial that will no doubt help this beginner out!

Nickie said...

You are hilarious! Thank you for this entertaining tutorial that will no doubt help this beginner out!

Liz Sims said...

I am fixing to applique my first t-shirt using your tutorial. I've read and read(at least a month, cuz I'm scared to do this) and yours sounds like the best info so far. Ya'll wish me luck. L

Anonymous said...

I have embroidered on my machine, but I am still too chicken to applique even though I have spent close to $100 on patterns. I still have a question...between Step 6 and 7...When do you cut around what has been "sewn"? after each piece of material or wait until the end? Do you have a suggestion for what type of scissors? I saw you have the curvy pair. Is that what you use? I am really nervous about this and I havent found the answer yet and I have been looking for over a week now. TIA!!

Avery's Nah-Nah said...

Great tutorial! How do you keep the excess away from the center of the hoop on a tiny tshirt?

Mormishmom @ Funky PolkaDot Giraffe said...

This was so helpful! I had a terrible experience the other day with my machine and was sure it was broken. Then I found your tutorial and got new needles and did hoop my shirt and everything is fantastic!

I have a question - when you say "hoop stabilizer" is that a specific kind of stabilizer or are you just using the cut away or tear away stabilizer you mention above? Thank you!

mormishmom at gmail do com

Mormishmom @ Funky PolkaDot Giraffe said...

Um, that would be "didn't hoop" :)

D Walker said...

I have been so afraid to use my embroidery machine because I have not found a great tutorial! Thank you for this!

Addie alexa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Addie alexa said...

This is really an awesome and a productive information that you have shared.

Maggie Witt said...

What is your suggestion for my first embroidery machine? I have a very basic beginners Brother machine now but want to get into embroidery and machine applique - I have basic sewing skills that I taught myself - far from an expert tho. Thoughts?

Colleen said...

This tutorial was easy to understand, now I need to try it out.

Patricia Barber said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!! I am on old fashioned seamstress, taught by my Grandmother. I sewed all of my boys clothes when they were young, but took a 20 year break. NOW, I have a grandson. I will be doing a great deal of appliqueing, but I am new to knits. I have searched for several days and finally found your site. Also, you did the best job explaining the products to use. NOW, I can finally make my Joann's list and get going!!!

Lindsay Whyne said...

Can you email me at I loved this tutorial but have a question about pinning small shirts for toddlers. They are difficult!!!

Richard C. Lambert said...

It's like when you hear your voice on an answering machine.... do I really sound like that? No. I don't. And my hands don't look like this either.PlayStation

jowdjbrown said...

How funny, I have two too-tight Metalicus tops too! Unfortunately mine are too tight at the bust. I have been thinking of a stripey inset at the front and back.Accessories

Alex Moore said...

Machine Embroidery designs are available in most of format but widely used embroidery format is DST format which is not editable once you have created the design. The editable format of the design is EMB format which is widely used by embroidery digitizers worldwide.
Thanks for sharing.....

Custom Embroidery Digitizing

jowdjbrown said...

I would hoop the shirt/onesie/panties and rarely get it centered up, frequently catch the t-shirt and ruin it or have to cut the shirt up the side and then restitch it. custom t shirts columbia sc

Victoria Shklanko said...

Celebrated annually around the globe, Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 ... Pink Shirt Day aims to create schools, workplaces and communities where all ...

jowdjbrown said...

This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses.

tim adam said...

nice information. Glad to see this informative stuff.
generic viagra online usa

David William said...

This is the great and informative post and thanks for sharing such great post share with us.
Thanks and Regards
Buy Best Viagra Pills

jowdjbrown said...

Very good written article. It will be supportive to anyone who utilizes it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – can’r wait to read more posts. find out more about windbreakers

Onlinepillsshop net said...

Thank you so much for this informative post.
buy cheap generic viagra online

Danuel James said...

I read this information it is the best information ever when all the important knowledge is good and take some medication for health like Online Generic Viagra.

safegenericrx said...

Nice blog thanks for sharing this informative blog with us.
Buy cheap nucynta USA

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family. know more

Robert D. Lennox said...

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include. womens distressed hoodies