Upcycle your Own Shirt!

It's been way too long since I last posted to my blog! So I'm going to try and post more updates where I can :)


This week I've teamed up with Sew Over It for Fashion Revolution week, to show you how you can update your old shirts! With this step by written step guide and the accompanying videos, learn how to get the best results with free-motion embroidery using a regular domestic sewing machine.


Upcycling is a great way to update old clothes that you no longer love, or hide stains and holes! (If you are using this project to cover any holes, make sure you have stitched a piece of scrap fabric to the back of the garment, covering the hole by at least two mm all the way around).


In this demonstration I use a mixture of basic free-motion techniques, including back and forth motions, a satin effect obtained with the zig-zag setting, and a circular motion technique.




For this project you will need:

  • A garment you wish to upcycle

  • Sewing machine ~ mine is the Bernina 1008

  • Free-motion foot

  • Embroidery Hoop

  • Small Embroidery Scissors/snips

  • Pins

  • Tear Away Backing

  • Water-soluble Film Topping (or an air erasable pen)

  • Regular pen (if using the film)

  • Pins

  • Threads for Embroidery








You can use any colours you would like to re-create this flower and make it your own! The colours I used were:

  • Lilac ~ GUNOLD Sulky 1193

  • Purple ~ GUNOLD Sulky 1194

  • Pastel Yellow ~ GUNOLD Sulky 1067

  • Gold ~ GUNOLD Sulky 1025


Step 1:

Print out the drawing provided to trace or copy from - you can change the scale of the flower in your print settings if you need it enlarged for a statement, or reduced to fit on a smaller collar.


The shirt I have used for this demonstration has an oversized collar, which gave me more space to embroider - For a smaller collar, either make sure to reduce the flower size when printing out the template, or use the same sized flower and embroider just below the collar on either side of the chest.










Step 2:

Cut out a piece of tear away backing, and a piece of water-soluble film (if using) both bigger than the design and your embroidery hoop.


Place the film over the template, and trace using a ballpoint pen ~ alternatively, use an air erasable pen to copy the design onto your garment in the desired placement.


Sandwich the collar of your shirt to be embroidered between the tear away backing and film, with the backing behind the embroidery area and the film with the design on top ~ pin in place.


If you're using an air erasable pen for the design, just place the backing under the embroidery area and pin this in place.





Step 3:

Frame up the area of your garment that is to be embroidered and make sure that your machine is ready for free-machine embroidery. That is:

  • Feed dogs down

  • Stitch length set to zero

  • Embroidery foot on the machine

I started with the lightest purple. Firstly pulling the back thread through to the front, doing a few stitches to secure and cutting away the excess threads before outlining the petals by moving the hoop around under the machine needle while it's sewing.





To create the satin effect edging of the petals, the zig-zag setting on the machine is set to 5 to slowly trace the outlines of the petals, and filling most of their area.


Using the satin stitch effect for free-motion can be tricky, so if you're not confident in using this technique ~ just use regular free-motion, by filling in the area with no zig-zag and using back and forth motions.







Step 4:

Shading the petals of the flower using the darker purple (or a darker shade of whatever colour you're using) Helps to create a more realistic embroidered image with depth.


Set the zig-zag and straight stitch settings to 0 to fill in the shaded areas, using the basic back and forth motion of basic free-motion.





Step 5:

To get the bobbly effect of the inside of the flower, keep your machine set to basic free-motion settings. Use your hoop to create lots of small circles in the middle of the flower using the lightest colour you chose of the centre (mine was the pastel yellow).


Start with the outer circle first, and gradually move in whilst embroidering the small circles.





Step 6:

With your final colour (for me this was the gold coloured thread), use basic free-motion in circular motions to outline each and every small circle you made with your previous colour to give them more definition.


Carefully cut away the threads attaching the piece to your machine, and pull away all of your backing and topping materials before giving it a press and repeating the steps on the other side of your collar!