diy reverse applique shirt

diy reverse applique shirt

remember awhile back when i showed you how to make a glittered heart shirt?  well…. it turns out i used the wrong paint.  since it wasn’t designed specifically for fabric, over time it got a little, uh, crunchy.  and stiff.  so i hardly ever wore it.   total bummer because i loved it.  i may try it again, but next time with this paint.

but i came up with a solution!  i have been wanting to try reverse applique for awhile and i figured why not just try it on this shirt since i wasn’t really wearing it anyway?

don’t know what reverse applique is?  well, the name pretty much says it all.   standard applique is done by applying a piece fabric onto another piece of fabric.  reverse applique is done by applying a piece of fabric under another piece, then cutting away the top fabric to reveal the applique’d piece.

and if you’re new here, i like to use a lot of pictures for tutorials.  a lot.  because i want my directions to be really clear.  if you have any questions, please ask away!

diy reverse applique shirt

unless you’re redoing a shirt that you already painted a crunchy heart on {ahem}, your steps will look a little different than mine.  first you need to decide what shape you want to reverse applique.  for an easy starter, a heart is perfect.  but you could do a leaf, flower, arrow, bird … really any silhouette thats not too detailed.  start by turning your shirt inside out (very important!).   lay out your shirt and finding the center point.  you can do that by folding it in half and pressing it with a hot iron, making a crease down the middle. (read through the first part of this tutorial for pictures and more detailed explanation)

trace your design with a water soluble fabric marker.

diy reverse applique shirt

choose the fabric you want to have show on your applique.  i chose a heavy lace.  make sure the piece of fabric you use is large enough to cover your outlined silhouette, plus an inch or so on each side.

although you won’t see it in any of my steps, i ended up adding another layer to my applique since a sheer chested shirt turned out to be a bad idea!  i thought with a tank top under it would be cute, but it just looked funny, so i added another layer of cream fabric.  if i were to do it again, and still chose lace, i would have also cut out a solid piece of fabric to go behind the lace and applique it all on at one time.  is this getting confusing yet?

diy reverse applique shirt

although i’m not usually a fan of pinning, you really need to do it on this project.  lay out your shirt as flat as possible (remember, inside out), with your fabric, right side down, spread flat against your design.  pin all around the edges, just outside of where you’ll run your stitches.

diy reverse applique shirt

this is definitely a project you could do with a machine, but since i was doing this over the holidays, i had the luxury of taking my time by the fire and hand stitching with embroidery floss.  and i also love the look of the thicker thread for this project!  i used a single strand of floss for this.  doubling up for a thicker stitch could be cute, too!

diy reverse applique shirt

a quick peek on the inside of your shirt lets you see how good its coming along!  my stitches are about an 1/8 of an inch away from my outline/glitter heart, but i would recommend doing them closer to 1/4″ out.  you can make the stitches any size you want, but the smaller you make them, the more secure your applique will be.

diy reverse applique shirt

i started and ended my stitches with a couple knots, as you can see at the v of the heart.  super easy.

diy reverse applique shirt

before trimming away your shirt, be sure to check your stitches from both sides to make sure you’re happy.

diy reverse applique shirt

with small, very sharp scissors, slowly trim along your silhouette/outline/glittered heart ;)

diy reverse applique shirt

now is the fun part!  peel back the shirt and you can see the reverse appliqued fabric underneath!

diy reverse applique shirt

how cute is that?!

diy reverse applique shirt

with the shirt inside out, trim the appliqued fabric down to about 1/2″ from the stitches.

diy reverse applique shirt

easy. peasy.

diy reverse applique shirt

this is what my shirt looked like at first…

diy reverse applique shirt

and then i decided to add another row of stitches, and i love it even more!

diy reverse applique shirt

 see what i mean by moving your first row of stitches closer to 1/4″ out rather than 1/8″?  once i washed the shirt it rolled and got awfully close to the edge!

diy reverse applique shirt

 this would be a great project to try out on an old graphic tee that you want to revamp, just applique right under the graphics and cut them out entirely!  i also think this could be fun on the back of a sweater or oxford shirt.



  1. 1

    I loved the glitter paint but this is adorable too. Great idea!

  2. 2

    This. looks. awesome! I can’t wait to try this.

  3. 3

    I love this! I haven’t tried reverse appliqué yet, but I think I will be soon!

  4. 4

    OMG that is SO CUTE. I’m totally going to try it on a few of my tees!!

  5. 5
    Melanie Townley says:

    Oh so cute!!! I love both versions!

  6. 6

    Oh that is genius. I love the way it turned out! Super, super pretty. The extra row of stitches really gets me – such a cute detail.

  7. 7

    cute lindsey!

  8. 8
    cara martin says:

    This is perfect timing! Back when you made the glittered heart shirt I loved it so much I made one too. I only wore it a few times too because like you said it was hard and crunchy! ;-) I really liked the way it looked but not the way it felt. Now I’m going to “fix” my shirt to be like this. Thanks for another cool idea!

  9. 10

    Super cute!!

  10. 11

    I LOVE This! SO perfect for Valentines day xo

  11. 12

    That is so awesome.

  12. 13

    You are really an amazing seamstress. Love the post.

  13. 14

    Great idea, I LOVE how the shirt turned out.

  14. 15

    Oh man…I wish I could sew. I wish I had talent enough to just read those directions and not get lost. I keep friends like you so I don’t actually have to know how to understand all that! :) But it is SUPER cute!


  15. 16

    I love this tutorial a lot. My question is you stated at the end this would be great on an Oxford shirt, well I was given my hubby’s work/suit/Oxford shirt last week when he noticed a hole starting in the back. I kept it thinking I could look up how to do ‘something’ with it…a summer dress, rags for my painting…until I saw your statement. Would you discuss your idea further? I still don’t quiet understand how you’d use any appliqué or reverse appliqué on an Oxford but would love your ideas as well as any you might have for a use for the shirt I have. Remember, the hole is at the back off to the left side. Thank you.

    • 17

      hey staci! i was thinking that for the back of an oxford shirt you could have a large panel of lace or a big heart or another shape, just like i did on the front, but the back instead. i hope that helps!

  16. 18

    Loved this idea and my daughter came to me tonight asking me to do something on her shirt for her school party tomorrow. It took about an hour and love it. Thanks for the great ideas.

  17. 19

    OK, this is so darn cute:) Tell me tho please, with the lace inset, are you wearing a layering t because of lace being see through? Thx

  18. 20

    So sorry, I just went back and reread instructios…the step I was curious about, missed it….lol that’s me.

  19. 22
    Susan Seal says:

    Great Tutorial! Love the idea, since I’m a huge fan of lace.

    I’ve actually done this before, but not on purpose lol. I qpplique’d a tshirt then realized I put the design on the INSIDE of the shirt! So I cut it out, flipped it, added a layer of same color fabric behind it leaving 1″ around it, stitched around it adding some rick-rack and voila’ I have a “reverse appliqué” shirt and didnt even know it till now :)

  20. 23
    Shyrell says:

    Imagine I’m saying this with Oprah’s voice, “AWWWSOMMMM!!!”

  21. 24
    Margret says:

    So if you’re doing this on a tee shirt, how do you keep the knitted fabric of the tee from ravelling?

  22. 25

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