How to Custom-Embellish a Shirt

comments (5) December 6th, 2008     

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leethal Lee Meredith, contributor
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This is much better than that boring blue shirt with the white buttons!
Using a custom fabric ink color, rather than plain black or white, makes for a more personal print.
You could also do a few lines with different-colored thread for more excitement.
This is much better than that boring blue shirt with the white buttons!

This is much better than that boring blue shirt with the white buttons!

Photo: Lee Meredith
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I love clothes, but I don't love spending tons of money on them—my favorite clothes are the ones that came from thrift stores, which I then cut up and reconstructed, added embellishments to, and/or printed on. If there's a person on your gift list who also loves original clothes that have been touched by crafty hands, a remade or drastically embellished shirt will be a great present! There are tons of ways to embellish a shirt—I'm showing you three here, and at the end I'll talk about some more options.

For the embellishments I did, you'll need:

  • A button-down shirt
  • Fabric paint and printing supplies, which depend on printing method
  • Buttons the same size as the original shirt's buttons
  • Needle and thread
  • Sewing machine with thread contrasting to the color of the shirt

You have two options for getting the right shirt to start with—if you live with the person or have sneaky access to their closet, find a boring shirt that you never see them wear but you know fits well, or pick a shirt that they do wear because it's comfy but they complain that it's boring... you get the idea. If you already know they like the fit, then that's one obstacle with a clothing gift that you've avoided. If raiding their closet is not an option, you'll have to go shopping and find a shirt that you're pretty sure will be the right fit—good luck!


My example project was made for myself, using a boring shirt I used to wear to my old day job but haven't worn since I left.

Now on to the fun stuff! I started with a screen print, made with stencils from Lotta Jansdotter designs.


I chose to place my print so it wraps around the side of the shirt to the back, for a more three-dimensional look.

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posted in: fabric, wearable, thread, buttons, shirt, top, printing

Comments (5)

Jennia writes: Great idea!!! Your top stitching is really beautiful. I would have to practice many hours to work as well as you do!
Posted: 12:31 pm on June 18th
sophiecai writes: talented......thanks for sharing
Posted: 11:15 am on February 15th
whimsy_chidori writes: Awsome idea. Thanks for the how to's on sewing loops and swirls. :D
Posted: 11:44 pm on May 7th
popoagie writes: Cool idea. I may make some version of this to jazz up some hand me down men's shirts for my teenage son playing off his personal interests.
Posted: 8:46 pm on January 25th
sigridsoto writes: Hi One of a kind is always the best. You have talent
Posted: 5:37 am on January 25th
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