Home sewing How to make applique birthday t-shirts

How to make applique birthday t-shirts

by Clare Mansell
How to make applique birthday t-shirts

I first came across the idea of applique birthday t-shirts about 8 years ago. Since then I’ve made a few for friends and family in different designs and then when Theo started primary school I decided they would be a really easy gift for every kids birthday party he was invited to (and minimal thinking for me!)

I’m always slightly nervous about giving handmade gifts, but the feedback so far has been really good. Theo gets involved by picking the fabrics and I do the sewing and then attach a small tag which explains we’ve customised the t-shirt together.

If you want to make your own it’s not difficult at all. You need…

  • a computer and word processing software (or Photoshop)
  • T-shirt
  • scrap fabrics
  • Sewing machine that does blanket stitch or zig zag
  • cotton thread
  • Heat & Bond
  • Scissors (I use two pairs, one for paper and the other for fabric… it ensures the fabric ones stay sharp)


Good quality nicely designed t-shirts make all the difference to the finished result. Beware of thin cotton which can tear or get chewed up in your machine when you add the applique. The striped t-shirts I used recently came in a three pack from M&S and were great, in fact I should have bought more cause they’ve stopped selling them!

Next is also a good place to hunt for suitable tops and Fruit Of The Loom (try eBay) usually produce good quality although the t-shirts are fairly basic in design.


I haven’t found any amazing boys t-shirts yet, although as two thirds of Theo’s class are girls that’s not too much of a problem. The dark one above came from H&M and was ok, but I’d like to find something better.

If you fancy trying making applique t-shirts yourself I’ve produced a short video tutorial showing you how and you can download additional fonts to use from dafont.com

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Amber May 27, 2016 - 12:08 pm

Bookmarking! I really, REALLY want to applique the girls’ names onto some bodysuits for when we announce their birth,

Deepali October 18, 2016 - 12:18 pm

Hello, went through ur tutorial of stitching applique on T shirt. Was really cool. Just wanted to ask whih needle is best for stitching applique on T shirt as it a stretchable fabric. Normal machine needle isn’t working on T as per my experience.


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