Hand embroidery brings a unique touch to any piece of clothing. Embroidered accents embellish so many apparel and home pieces lately, but my personal favorites are the amazing detailed ones made by creatives and fiber artists. It’s actually really easy to get started with a little hand embroidery yourself, although it does take time to master. I made this cute DIY hand embroidered shirt in just a few hours. The succulent was inspired by a few little guys in my garden and a weekend visit to our friend over at Sucs for You. She has so many cute plants going in her garden, and her site is a great resource if you’re looking to learn more about how to care for succulents.
You can make any hand embroidered design of your own, or find one for free or purchase online. I just freehanded a succulent on a shirt and stitched it. Living in Texas, I love everything that has a Southwestern feeling, and this spring denim is all my everything. This cute shirt from Tobi.com had a fun raw fringe hem that makes it a little different than your usual chambray shirt.
DIY Embroidered Shirt Materials
Tobi Vernon Denim Shirt
DIY Embroidered Shirt Directions
First, choose where on the shirt you would like to embroider. I put mine above the breast pocket. Use a pencil, stitch marker, or other water soluble pen to draw your design on the fabric. There are also a few transfer papers for fabric out there that you can use if you want a very precise drawing. I just free handed my succulent on the shirt. One of the great things about drawing plants is that there’s really no way to mess up – they’re just blobby little leaves.
Secure the embroidery hoop on the area you’d like to stitch by lining the smaller hoop up on the opposite side of the stitching space and screwing the larger hoop on the front of the fabric. The hoop should secure the fabric with no puckering. You don’t want it pulled to tight on the hoop though, or the piece will pucker when you remove the hoop. The hoop should just flatten the fabric.
Next, set aside the threads you’ll use to stitch with. I chose a warm and cool midtone green, as well as a light and dark green for creating contrast.
Thread the embroidery needle. This is tricky for some. I usually fold the thread twice or wet the ends to flatten and firm them before sending it through the needle eye. Once threaded, it’s time to stitch! Pull the needle through from back to front at the point you want to start. I started stitching in the middle of the design and worked one leaf at a time around in a spiral.
Think of embroidery as drawing light with thread. You can be super traditional about it, or go your own way. I did a combination of both. To help define the shape of the leaves, use the darker thread to backstitch the outline of the inner leaves, and lighter thread to highlight the edges of the outer leaves. Backstitching is one of the most basic stitches to create a solid line. Pull the floss up through the fabric and send the needle down one stitch forward. Space the needle out a stitch and pull it back up the fabric. Send it down at the base of the previous stitch to join the two stitches in a line. Repeat.
To fill the leaves use a “satin stitch”, single long stitches side by side across a swatch of solid color. You can also stagger these stitches in long/shorter lengths across with a new color on each row to create the illusion of color shading with thread. Fill the body of each leaf with pale thread in the highlights and newer leaf growth, lighter cool green in the mature leaf growth, warm darker green in the shadow of mature leaf growth, and dark green in the shadows. Go your own way and be creative – there are no rules, really.
A few words of caution: keep it clean on the back. Every time you have to start a color in a different part of the piece than where it last left off, send the thread under the existing stitches and out on the side you are about to start stitching. Be careful where you stitch. Move threads you’re not using to the opposite side of the piece, and watch out for sewing through it while you’re working. It’s easy to make a big tangled mess back there, which makes it hard to care for later.
Sew until you’re done! To bind off your threads, tie them in a little knot, send them through some stitches on the underside, and trim off the excess. Embroider the shirt, and wear it out in style! I love the way this cute denim fringe shirt turned out with the embroidery.
You can do so many cute things with custom embroidery on clothes. Some of my favorite pieces out there are little embroidered touches on hems and colors. The smaller and more narrative, the better. For inspiration, a few of the coolest stitchers out there are on my Pinterest board. Check out my Embroidery Pinterest Board here for more ideas.
Like it? Here’s a pin to save for later: