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Embroidery 101: Luck On My Side T-Shirt (Backstitch)

by Jessica Marquez

Today’s Embroidery 101 project is inspired by a great friend who has “Luck” tattooed down her ribcage, just so she always knows that luck is truly on her side. Bold move my friend! While we’re using a different kind of needle, we’ll have the same confidence boosting outcome.

This project is a great way to spruce up an old tee. T-shirt material can be difficult to stitch on, because it’s spongy and stretchy. I’ll show you a really simple technique to make it a whole lot easier, so now you can stitch on all you tees. We’ll also be learning the backstitch today. It’s a simple outline stitch that makes smooth continuous lines, which makes it perfect for text. There are an amazing amount of stitches and stitch variations, but honestly, you can make just about any project with the backstitch. So get to making, fortune favors those who stitch. –Jessica

The full how-to is after the jump…


-Template (download the CURSIVE template here and the BLOCK LETTER template here)
-Iron transfer pen or pencil
-T-shirt, washed
-Sewing pins
-Sewing thread
-5 x 8” piece of jersey cotton or any light weight cotton fabric
-Embroidery thread, Sublime Floss Red Dwarf (red), Bell Pull (yellow) & Tassel (orange)
-Embroidery needle, size 5
-4” Embroidery hoop
-water soluble pen (optional)


1. Print template and trace with your iron transfer pen or pencil. It’s in reverse so the when you flip it over to transfer your pattern will read correctly.

2. Try on your shirt and mark with sewing pins the top and bottom where you’d like the pattern to be placed.

3. Iron fabric to prep it for the transfer. Lay pattern face down on t-shirt in between pins. Remove pins and now pin the paper pattern to the shirt. Iron with even, firm pressure. Before you remove the pins carefully take a peek to make sure the pattern is fully transferred. It’s so hard to line up the pattern once it’s moved and easy to make a ghost print if the pattern moves while ironing.

*Note- If you have trouble seeing your transfer trace with a water soluble pen

4. With sewing thread baste your 5 x 8” fabric piece to the inside of your t-shirt. This acts as a stabilizer to add some stiffness to the stretchy t-shirt fabric. While this step is not necessary, it’s oh so helpful to making stitches that lay flat and aren’t bunchy.

5. Hoop your fabric and use the backstitch to complete the pattern. To start, tie a knot and come up through the back of the fabric with a simple forward stitch. Then come up through the fabric again a stitch-length ahead. Then go back down into your last exit point. Repeat, trying to keep your stitches uniform in length.

Start and end lengths of thread with knots with 1” tails. Remove hoop in between stitch sessions so it doesn’t mark your fabric.

* Note- A super easy way to end a length of thread is to split the ply evenly on the reverse side and knot the two pieces of thread.

6. When you’re finished stitching cut away baste stitching and trim inside backing fabric close to your stitches, careful not to cut your fabric.

7. Wear it! Especially, whenever you need a little extra luck.

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