Tips for Embellishing Knits + Knit Appliqué Tutorial

on June 23 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 64 Comments

We’re so happy to have Shelly and Karen here today, from Patterns by Figgy’s! Patterns by Figgy’s has a full collection of fun sewing patterns (you might remember our recent review of the Beach Bum Hoodie pattern… Our reviewer loved it!). Shelly also teaches kids’ sewing camps and Patterns by Figgy’s classes to adults at Modern Domestic in Portland, Oregon. This fall she’ll have classes focused on the new knit patterns. Today on the blog Shelly and Karen will take you through their favorite tips for embellishing knits, featuring how-tos for combining woven and knit fabrics.

Patterns by Figgy’s is the creation of two seamsters, Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage, who met online through a shared love of sewing. Our third collection ‘Fall 2010’ is coming later this summer, and will include two patterns exclusively for knits, one for knit and woven fabrics combined, and one for wovens only. We are here today to share with you a few tips on how to combine sewing woven fabric with knit fabric.

We have really enjoyed experimenting with special touches in our custom clothing line, and the patterns we’ve created for this fall reflect that whimsical and adventurous nature. Our patterns aim to reduce the intimidation many seamsters may feel toward knits. Surprising to some, our sewing with knit patterns don’t require any special equipment, like a serger or overlock machine. Most importantly, sewing with knits and combining them with woven fabric is FUN to make and can add just the right touch to your garment.

Simple Tips for Embellishing Knits
Here are a few simple yet important tips to avoid frustration when adding embellishments to knits:

  • Stabilize really stretchy knits. You can achieve this by stay stitching curvy edges inside the seam allowance, or fusing a thin, lightweight strip of interfacing to the edges most likely to stretch.
  • At important junctures, pin more than you normally would. Even while pinning, be sure to handle the knit as little as possible.

  • Work with, not against, the power of the feed dogs when combining fabric types. Use stable woven fabrics on top and stretchy knits on the feed dog side. The feed dogs naturally pull the fabric forward, and in doing so take up any slack you might have from pinning and handling.

  • Practice always make perfect.
  • Probably most important: Keep as much of your work as possible on top of the table where you are sewing, not hanging off the edge. (Ask me how many necklines I’ve destroyed by drooping the rest of a t-shirt onto my lap!)

Examples of Knit Embellishment
Bearing our initial tips in mind, let’s move on to some examples of embellishments with (and on) knits!:

Appliqué Woven Fabrics onto Knits: Save your scraps! Sometimes the coolest appliqués can be found in your own scrap bin. We especially love Japanese fabrics for this purpose. Not only is this a way to get the most value from your purchase, but I just love the prints and the texture of linen/canvas blend.

To make this yourself, select a scrap of fabric for your patch. Grab some double-sided fusible web and remove one of the protective sheets to expose a sticky side. Press to the WRONG side of your scrap and then trim to the desired size and shape. After you have your patch made, remove the other protective sheet to expose the second sticky side and place in the desired location on the shirt. Blast it onto your shirt with a steamy hot iron (according to package instructions, naturally!) and you’re ready to finish. You can use any stitch to attach the patch, but I like a bold straight stitch, or an even zigzag. Mix it up with contrasting thread!

If you allow toddler input when creating garments for your little ones, what can you do about inevitable ruffle requests? It’s very simple to use a woven ruffle trim on knit pants, and can be just the right detail to bring an outfit together.

To achieve this, simply measure the circumference of a pant leg where you’d like to attach a ruffle. Cut a woven strip 2-3 times that length, in the width you like and finish the raw, long edges. WRONG sides together, match the short edges and sew the strip into a circle. Gather using a long basting stitch down the lengthwise center of the strip. Next, tack the seam to the inside leg seam (with hand stitching, a pin, or a bar-tack on your machine) and pull the gathering stitches to fit. Pin the ruffle in place and attach by sewing a zigzag stitch over the basting stitches around the pant leg. Remove the basting stitches and you’re done. Another option is to make a knit ruffle on knit pants– No edge finishes necessary!

Migration Tee by One Girl/Boy Circus, Karen LePage

Appliqué Knits onto Knits:
You’ll be surprised by how simple it is to appliqué knit onto knit. You may never throw away a stained shirt again, once you discover the easiest way to save one.

    Gather your supplies:

  • Scraps from all the t-shirts you have been making, or pieces of old t-shirts begging for a purpose.
  • A knit garment or a garment that needs an embellishment.
  • Lightweight fusible web
  • Marker or pen
  • Sharp scissors
  • Ballpoint needle and coordinating or contrasting thread for your machine.

1. Remove the backing from the fusible web and stick on your scraps.
2. Cut away excess fusible and save for another project.
3. Using your marker or pen, draw shapes on the paper side of the scrap you have prepared. For best results, wait for the ink to dry.

4. Cut the shapes into individual pieces, leaving them attached to the paper backing.

5. Remove the paper backing and arrange how you’d like on the garment. The shapes won’t stick permanently until you press them with an iron, so rearrange until you’re happy. Press in place.

6. Set your machine to an even zigzag stitch, I like 1.5 long and 1.5 wide for these little shapes. This way, your stitch will stretch with the knits. Also, adjust the presser foot tension to lighter than normal, so you can guide the fabric easily without stretching too much as you go.
7. Start stitching.

When you reach a point, leave your needle in the fabric, lift your presser foot, and pivot.

That’s it! Your garment can be washed and worn as usual.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our tutorial, and we look forward to seeing many examples of embellished knits in the coming seasons!

Shop News:
New Knits by Patty Young for Michael Miller are available for preorder in the shop! We’ll begin shipping these orders on 6/28.


We’re giving away fabulous prizes this month from SINGER, Ottobre Design and Sew,Mama,Sew!

1–Comment Here

Comment in any post this month to be entered into a weekly drawing for great prizes from SINGER and Sew,Mama,Sew!

2–Enter the Make It, Wear It! Challenge

Submit a photo of clothing you make this June in our Make It, Wear It! Challenge photo pool or in this thread in the Forum. You might win a SINGER sewing machine or a subscription to Ottobre.

See this post for details about all the prizes this month!

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64 Responses to Tips for Embellishing Knits + Knit Appliqué Tutorial

  1. Bailey says:

    Thanks for the tips!

  2. Sarah says:

    Adorable! Great ideas and techniques. Can’t wait to try it!

  3. ~Helena~ says:

    Thanks, great tute.

  4. Trish B. says:

    That’s a great idea… they can be made so personal with pictures of something that a child likes…

  5. PeachRainbow says:

    Beautiful Applique!

  6. Wonderful work ladies – of course. & thanks also for your work in demystifying sewing with knits, which can be very tricky for beginners.

  7. KT says:

    Great tips! Now to get some fusible web and start embellishing my daughter’s shirts! Thank you!

  8. Corvus says:

    Can it be “Make it, Wear it” month forever? Such good information.

  9. Joke says:

    I’ve been wanting to make a t-shirt for my boyfriend with some appliques, so this tutorial is very welcome 🙂 Thanks!

  10. Rochelle says:

    Thanks for the tips! This is one area I haven’t read much about.

  11. Carmen says:

    The migration tee is adorable! Thanks so much:)

  12. Jacqui says:

    I’ve been wanting to try applique on tshirts for awhile now but the idea makes me nervous – but these tips seem so straightforward I’m feeling a bit braver. I’m not going to show my daughter the ruffles on the bottom of the pants though, guaranteed every pair would need to have them from then on if I did 🙂

  13. Ramona says:

    Wonderful tips. Thank You!

  14. Jessica C says:

    I’m always so nervous about working with knits like this. I need to try out your tips, I could use some more confidence there.

  15. I needed this, thanks!

  16. Ange says:

    Thanks, this is very helpful.

  17. Thanks for the tips!

  18. Teresa says:

    Putting applique over a stain or using it to revamp a knit is such a great idea.

  19. Kate says:

    This is fantastic! I have just started to think about applique. I can’t wait to give it a try!

  20. janedancinmachine says:

    I love this new pattern designer! What a super tutorial. Can’t wait to boogie down with my knits.

  21. Heidi says:

    I haven’t tried applique, but this is a great tutorial. thanks.

  22. Sylvie says:

    I think I am going to try knit appliqué. Thank you for the tutorial.

  23. Elaine Barnett says:

    Excellent advice and tips!


  24. Unity says:

    I am going to have to try this for my girls.

  25. Tina L. says:

    A neat way to create an outfit that go together using a scrap from the bottom to decorate the top.

  26. Ginger says:

    great idea to cover a stained shirt.

  27. Joy says:

    Great tips…especially the knit on knit tips. Thanks!

  28. Christine says:

    Cute, cute, cute

  29. Danielle says:

    Ooh, one question. Do you drop the feed dogs so that you can move the fabric freely or keep them raised. I think the tension foot question answers this for me (you leave them raised, right??) but again, I’m such a novice I thought I’d make sure!!

  30. Danielle says:

    Thank you, thank you. I want to start trying appliques but have yet to see a tutorial that specifies what type of foot, stitch, width, length and tension settings!! I am a total novice at sewing so these things are so helpful to me. I *hate* when tutorials say “Sew applique on.” Um…How?!? Can’t wait to try again with a bit more guidance 🙂

  31. sy says:

    thanks for the tips. i have been wanting to try applique, appliqe woven on knits sounds hard, and knits on knits..

  32. Rebecca says:

    I love applique!

  33. Deb Cameron says:

    Love the echino fabric used as patches, I’ll have to try that for my boys 🙂

  34. Mama Lusco says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I haven’t tried combining knits & wovens yet but plan to 🙂

  35. Trish says:

    Oooooh, just what I needed! I wasn’t sure how to tackle applique on knits. Thanks so much. x

  36. Joanna says:

    That’s good to know. The fusible webs and interfacings make things easier.

  37. Victoria says:

    Thanks so much for the easy instructions! Now I need to dig through my “gonna do something with these stained t-shirts” pile!!

  38. Michelle Balletti says:

    I wish I had read this earlier!! I appliqued some t-shirts (and I know they are not knit) but this would’ve really helped!! I SO LOVE THIS BLOG!

  39. Sara says:

    Great tutorial, very clear instructions, thanks!

  40. Marcia W. says:

    Very cute knit appliques

  41. Nichole says:

    Great tips here. Thanks for the encouragement to work with knits.

  42. Emily says:

    I love applique and knit on knit can be so frustrating! Thanks for the tips.

  43. Danella says:

    Love the car appliques.

  44. Kelli says:

    Ooh, thanks for the tips. I’ve worked with knits some, but I need to just bite the bullet and go for it. You’ve encouraged me greatly!

  45. nopinkhere says:

    I really need to do this more often! Thanks for the tips!

  46. Natacha says:

    Those are excellent ideas, and who doesn’t have kids with stained T-shirts!

  47. Sara says:

    1.5″ long and 1.5″ wide got it!! Thanks for more tips!

  48. Wendy says:

    Another great article! Thanks!

  49. Leisel says:

    Loving the tips and ideas for knits

  50. omama says:

    Great idea for rescuing stained t-shirts.

  51. Sally says:

    Love it!

  52. Thanks for the information! I’ve never really had any problems with knits, but will keep your tips handy when I try a new knit project. Happy Sewing! 🙂

  53. Doris says:

    I did some applique tees last Fall for my nephews’ birthdays…HUGE hit!

  54. Andi says:

    Fun! I definitely want to try some knit-on-knit applique. Thanks again for all the great ideas!

  55. Sarah says:

    I love that last applique! So cute!

  56. craftytammie says:

    thanks for the pointers – i have a pack of onesies waiting for some fabric love! i’ll have to try these tips out!

  57. Sam says:

    I love the appliques on the shirt! I have a toddler, so I think every shirt of hers has some sort of stain. I can’t wait to try covering the stains with little shapes!

  58. susan hwang says:

    i’m loving the clouds and the bird silhouettes. great ideas, thanks!

  59. Sara Hemmeke says:

    Great ideas to save an otherwise good shirt which might have a small stain (and which kid doesn’t have a shirt like that?). Thanks!

  60. Sinje says:

    Thank you for these great ideas! I neven considered aqqliqué-ing knits onto knits but after seeing your photos I’ll definately give it a try!

  61. Sade says:

    Great tips to embellish clothing!

  62. Melinda Redding says:

    I need more practice with appliques but I love the versatility.

  63. Tong says:

    Great tips, love the applique!

  64. qsogirl says:

    those knit appliques are so cute! what a great idea for a unique piece of clothing 🙂

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