Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Home-Made Christmas II

This Christmas season, create unique and fashionable clothing pieces for your friends and family using scraps around the house. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be able to tailor to your loved ones’ different personalities and styles from the comfort of your home. You can match them to the fabrics you used for your homemade belts from the last session or start anew! Once again, Lisa (Schwabauer) Poblenz ’02 shows us how . . .

Appliqué Shirts

Ever feel like your stash of T-shirts is getting a little boring? That’s what got me started using appliqués for T-shirt embellishment. The great thing is that these shirts make fun and unique gifts, and you can apply this skill to other fabric items too.


• A T-shirt, new or used (I’ve typically used 100% cotton).
• Fusible webbing like Stitch Witchery (This can usually be bought very inexpensively by the yard).
• Fabric to make the appliqué shapes with—knit and woven fabric will both work well; the amount depends on the size and number of shapes you plan to put on the shirt; ¼ yard is probably a good place to start, or you can use scrap fabric or scrap T-shirts for material.
• Matching or contrasting thread, as you desire, to go around the outside of the appliquéd shapes if you are machine sewing; thread or embroidery floss for hand sewing (You choose which way you’ll want to attach the pieces).
• Template to make shapes or a sketchbook, pencil and eraser to draw your own shapes.
• Transfer paper to transfer your designs onto your heavy paper (optional).
• Heavy paper (like cardstock) or thin cardboard (an empty cereal box is thick enough) to draw on and cut your shapes out of.
• Pencil, pen or marker to draw your shapes with.
• Separate scissors for paper and fabric (don’t use your fabric scissors to cut paper; it will make them dull faster).
• Iron and ironing board.
• Sewing machine or hand sewing/embroidery needle.


• Machine wash and dry all fabric. Make sure you don’t use a fabric softener sheet in the dryer with your fabric or T-shirts (It can keep fusible interfacing from adhering, should you need it in the future, and may interfere with the fusible webbing adhering as well).
• Prepare your templates. Draw out whatever shapes you want to use to your satisfaction in a sketchbook or find shapes to trace (I’m including a few with these directions). Then cut out your shapes and trace onto your cardstock or cardboard, or use your transfer paper to trace the designs onto your cardstock or cardboard. Cut out your templates from the cardstock/cardboard.
• Using the templates you’ve just made, trace your designs onto the dull side of the fusible webbing. The dull side is the one that feels most like normal paper.
• Cut out the general shape of each design from the fusible webbing using your paper scissors. You don’t have to bother with cutting it out exactly just yet.
• Attach the fusible webbing to your fabric. Turn on your iron to the cotton setting. While it is heating, position the pieces of fusible web with the designs on them onto your fabric with the dull side of the fusible web (the side you drew on) up and the shinier, smoother side down on the wrong side of the fabric. Then, iron over them. They should adhere to your fabric. If they don’t, run the iron over them again, letting it rest on top of each design for a few seconds. Once they are staying on reasonably well, let them cool.
• Cut out the appliqué patches. Using your fabric scissors, cut out your shapes exactly from the fabric and fusible webbing that you’ve ironed together.
• Attach your appliqué pieces to your T-shirt. Arrange your appliqué pieces as you’d like them on your T-shirt. One thing to consider is that if you will be using a sewing machine to stitch them to your shirt, it will be very hard to stitch in the sleeves, so you’ll have an easier time if you stick to the body of the shirt. Once you have the pieces all arranged, peel off the paper from the back of your fabric pieces. The back should now have a surface on it that can be ironed onto your shirt. Iron the pieces onto your shirt.
• Let the pieces cool for a few minutes.
• Sew/embroider around the edges of your pieces. To ensure that your pieces stay in place permanently on the shirt, you’ll want to sew around the outside of each one using a decorative stitch or a zigzag stitch on your machine. Instead of this, you can also choose to hand embroider around each piece. I’ve always used the machine for speed, but you should choose what will fit your skills and sense of style best.

You’re all finished! Now you have a unique shirt to give (or keep).

To see more of Lisa's work, visit

1 comment:

Heidi said...

This is SUCH a great idea and having seen some of your own t-shirts, I know how great they turn out. I'm excited to try this on a shirt that I really love that has developed a couple of tiny holes. Thanks also for the inspiration for homemade gifts. I love that your ideas are heartfelt and green.
xoxo, heidi