DIY T-Shirt Embroidery

DIY T-Shirt Embroidery

Did you know that there are thrift stores full of really inexpensive used clothes looking for a second life? And did you know that all it takes is a few dollars worth of supplies and a few evenings of stitching in front of the television to transform an unremarkable thrift store t-shirt into a classy, one of a kind wardrobe addition.

I'm working toward my ultimate goal of owning a wardrobe that consists only of clothing that is either handmade by me, used (or "upcycled"), or from a small sustainable clothing company that I am obsessed with.  Handmade clothing is a time investment and sustainable clothing is a financial investment, so I particularly love a project like this because it's both CHEAP and (relatively) QUICK.  

If you have similar wardrobe goals, raid your closet or hit up the thrift store and let's get started!


-Embroidery floss
-Embroidery needles
-Straight pins, safety pins, or tape
-Ruler or tape measure
-Embroidery hoop
-Pen (optional)
-Iron-On Fusible Interfacing (optional)


diy embroidery tshirt how to instructions

1. Try your t-shirt on.  With pins or tape, mark the area you want to embroider.  I marked an area 2.5" on each side of the shoulder seam and 4" from the neckline.  I used pins to mark the general area while the shirt is on, then I took the shirt off and measured and marked more accurately with tape.  

2. Cut a length of embroidery floss 10-12" long and separate into 3 strands.  Thread your needle 3-4" down the floss, and knot your floss at the opposite end.  

3. Put your shirt into the embroidery hoop and secure, making sure the fabric is tight in the hoop. 

Note: If eyeballing the placement of all these stitches makes you nervous (it's so easy, I swear!), you can mark your t-shirt lightly with a pen or thin marker. I find this to be much more work than it's worth, but the option is yours!

Another Note: 
If the fabric you're working with is thinner than a regular t-shirt, you may want to iron on some fusible interfacing to the inside of your t-shirt where the stitching will be.  This stabilizes the fabric and helps prevent puckering and rippling that can sometimes happen with thinner fabric.  See the materials list for a link to the type I typically use - although I did not use any interfacing for this project.

This project uses a combination of three easy stitches: Star Stitch, Lazy Daisy Stitch and the beloved French Knot (my favorite).


embroidery star stitch how to

Stitch #1: Star Stitch

1. Bring your needle up from below the hoop and pull to the knot. 

2. Pull the needle and thread down about .5" from where you pulled the needle up. From below, bring your needle and thread up below and in the center of the line you just created.

3. Insert the needle the same distance above the first line you created. 

4. Continue in this manner to create 2 diagonal lines that cross over the + you just created.

5. When you're done, your needle and thread will be at the underside of your work. Tie a knot and cut the thread.

Use this stitch to fill in the area, leaving lots of space for the next 2 stitches.  Less is more in the beginning, because you can always go back and fill in more.

diy embroidery tshirt how to instructions


diy embroidery tshirt how to instructions

Stitch #2: French Knot

1. Bring the needle and thread up from back to front.

2. Pull the thread to the knot.

 3. Hold your needle in one hand. Using your other hand, wrap the thread around the needle towards yourself twice, keeping the floss tight as you do so. 

4. Hold the floss tightly and insert your needle as close as possible to your starting point. Do not use the same hole or your knot may slip through.

5. Pull the needle and thread through your fabric. Use your free hand to keep the remaining thread taut.

Use this stitch to add to the area, leaving space for one more stitch.


diy embroidery tshirt how to instructions


diy embroidery tshirt how to instructions

Stitch #3: Lazy Daisy Stitch

1.Bring the needle and thread up from back to front.

2. Pull the thread to the knot.

3. Bring the needle back down and insert it as closely as possible to the original hole. 

4. Pull the thread down, leaving a loop of thread. Use your other hand to hold it flat to the fabric.

5. Pull your needle up about .5" from the original hole, inside the loop.  Pull the loop to tighten around your needle.

6. Pull the all the way thread up.

7. Insert the needle as close as possible to the outer edge of the loop, securing the loop to the fabric.

Alternative among these 3 stitches until the area you marked is completely filled to your liking.  Trim any long ends and tidy up the backside.

And you're done!  Enjoy your new favorite t-shirt!


 The idea for this project started with finding the perfect cream wool sweater at a thrift store.  I used all 6 strands of embroidery floss for this sweater, and I ditched the hoop since the fabric was much thicker.

This project would also be awesome on a jacket or hoodie!



This article contains affiliate links. I include links for supplies to make it more convenient for you to get what you need to start your next project.  I only include affiliate links for products I use personally and highly recommend.

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