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A freshly popped t-shirt!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

I’ve been on a t-shirt wearing kick—mainly because t-shirts are comfortable to wear in the summer.  But instead of mass market t-shirts that everyone is wearing, I’ve opted to embellish my own.

Years ago I wouldn’t have tried, because I was afraid of the effort to hoop and that the embroidery would turn out crooked.  But with the tools and technology available today, there’s no excuse not to try.  Bargain t-shirts can be found for as little as $4.00.  Plus, the benefits of continued practice include an increase in confidence and an improvement of skills.

Another fun bonus:  the shirts become conversation pieces.

In the last month, I’ve stitched 4 new t-shirts and every time I wear one of them I get compliments.

The most memorable was while ordering my drink at Starbucks.  The barista said, “I like your t-shirt.” My reply: “Thank you, I made it last night.”  He looked at me with awe and asked, “You just whipped that up last night?!”

His reaction made me smile, but I also realized I had transitioned into a more experienced, confident embroiderer.

Whether you realize it or not— you have developed and improved your embroidery skills with every stitch made on a garment, quilt block or even a scrap of fabric.  It’s easy to forget or dismiss this gradual progression but it should be celebrated and encouraged.

When I consider the work of our contributing writers and Editor, Eileen Roche, it’s hard not to assume projects get whipped up in no time.   But as I’ve learned, it’s a function of continued practice, experiments, a willingness to try new ideas and yes… to fail and learn from mistakes.

So, readers, grab a t-shirt and an embroidery design and start stitching!

About the featured t-shirt:

  • The Popcorn design is from Baby Kay’s Appliques.  You get multiple sizes with your purchase.
  • The website suggested inserting a monogram but I decided to add text:  “I’m here for the show” using embroidery software.
  • The only shirt I had available was this brown one— I didn’t think it would work but with a careful selection of bright colors, I think it looks wonderful.
  • To help guarantee success, I stitched the design on similar colored brown fabric to make sure the colors would pop sufficiently.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog


This week’s assignment:  Achieving a goal is often easier to complete if you write it down. Who is the next person you are going to embroider a project for?  What will you make? Post your comments and 4 random people will receive a $25 gift certificate for use at Baby Kay’s Appliques!

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  • Donna Fecteau

    my grand daughter. A new gymnastics bag.

    • Denise Holguin

      Oooh! I like that!

  • Shelly

    2 of my grandsons, 4th of July t-shirts, already have one done but got to hurry with the next 2

    • Denise Holguin

      You can do it!


  • Barbara King

    A bridal shower gift for a friend’s daughter.

    • Denise Holguin

      Wonderful idea! A handmade gift at pivotal times in a person’s life are always special.


    • Bruce

      I love this idea.


  • Sharon Haltom

    I love the t-shirt. I really like the idea of wearing them in the summer…much more comfortable

    • Denise Holguin

      Thank you, Sharon! Texas summer heat requires t-shirts! Eventually I will graduate to wicking t-shirts for an even fancier effect! Thank you for commenting. 🙂


  • Greta Kanegae

    Funny enough, 2 tee shirts for my daughter for field hockey practice

    • Denise Holguin

      That reminds me– I want to stitch a shirt for the my workouts at the gym!


  • Belinda Germsin

    I am gathering supplies for making Angel Gowns. They are baby gowns made from recycled wedding dresses for stillborn or recently deceased newborns. They are made by volunteers, given to hospitals free of charge to give to the families. I want to embellish them with embroidery.

    • Denise Holguin

      That is time and energy well-spent. The embroidery will be a very special touch.


    • Karen W

      What a lovely thought to help a grieving family.

  • Rita

    Christmas hand towels for my daughters

    • Denise Holguin

      I admire your ability to get ahead of the Christmas frenzy! I need to follow your example and start stitching Christmas gifts now.


      • Karen W

        Amen!! I did better last year, but to get going as soon as we get home from our vacation. Thanks for the reminder!

        • Karen W

          Almost forgot – Xmas stockings for first great-grands: twin girls, visiting now. So tiny, but beautiful & healthy.

  • karin callander

    I’ve got a wedding dress to recycle into a christening gown and some band crocheted lace to add to some embroidered towels. Your shirt was definitely a success, perfect for wearing to movie night!

    • Denise Holguin

      You’ve got some beautiful projects lined up!


  • Shirley Henson

    My great-granddaughter but I’m going to make me a shirt like this next!!

  • Sandi Cunningham

    Going to start some wedding things for my daughter who I have a sneaking suspicion is going to get the engagement ring pretty soon! WhooHoo! Love the Mr & Mrs embroidery designs!

  • Shirley Clark

    I’ve been working on burp cloths because I had 3 baby showers to make gifts for, and burps are always a nice gift around here. Luckily, they are all girls as I just love girly stuff! I’m not done yet!

  • susan ayers

    My first grandbaby who will arrive around December 15th!

  • Kelly Sasman

    I’m busy making a quilt for a dear elderly friend who is very active and will be celebrating her 90th birthday. I think that requires a special gift!

    • Denise Holguin

      90th birthday! Please send our best wishes to your friend and take lots of photos to capture that special day.


  • Sally Kane

    Lap quilts for my grown twin daughters featuring whimsical cat fabric and free motion mice pattern for the quilting.

  • Shirley Gray

    My next project will be for my next door neighbor’s niece who just had a baby. I am going to make a pillow with the baby’s name, weight, date and time of birth for her nursery.
    I love making gifts for friends!

  • Donna G.

    For my first grand baby to be, a quilt!

  • C.K.

    I will make a very small tooth pillow for my granddaughter. I have been gathering a few designs and forming some ideas for the project.

  • Tari

    Denise, the T-shirt is cute and so are you! Love it!

    • Denise Holguin

      Thank you, Tari!

  • Pam

    Granddaughter! Cute dresses.

  • Francine Meyer-Drasutis

    My son & his best friend want matching hoodies. I thought I replied hours ago. But now I don’t see it.

  • Francine Meyer-Drasutis

    My 16 year old son and his best friend. They picked out matching hoodies. They are still trying to decide what they want on it. I thought of it.he did it with the finger pointing to the other. Or thing 1 & thing 2. Ok so these are the PG ideas.

    • Denise Holguin

      I love that idea! If you think of it– send photos of your finished projects. [email protected]


  • Lorraine Allen

    I am going to put lace from Eileen’s Embroider It Yourself – Little Black Tee on a t-shirt for myself plus embroider a t-shirt for my youngest daughter.

  • Ellen Perry

    Brand new granddaughter 4 th of July onies

  • Carolyn H

    I just finished 4 Simply Chic T-shirts

  • Brenda

    Acute summer tee for myself!

  • Terri

    I will be making a machine embroidered banner for a local handbell ensemble celebrating their 10th anniversary as a group. I am having their logo digitized and will proceed from there. No pattern…just design as I go!

    • Denise Holguin

      How fun! I am very much a design-as-you-go type of person too. Send a photo of your finished work, I’d love to see it. [email protected]


  • Becky Thompson

    My husband! I just received my DIME ball cap clip in the mail and I embroidered a fish on the front of it last night. It turned out great!

  • Susan Spiers

    I’ve been wanting to put initials on a nice dress shirt for my two boys-either on the pocket or sleeve.

    • Denise Holguin

      I was standing in line waiting for my drink at Starbucks (I’m always at Starbucks!)– when I noticed a man wearing a long-sleeved, button down shirt with his monogram on the cuff. It looked so classy. It’s such a small detail but it elevates a shirt.

      I think your two boys will look very handsome in their shirts!


  • Valerie Kuhn

    You did a great job! I will try it

  • DJ

    My grandson Charlie. He loves firetrucks. I did two t-shirts for him and his Mom said that is all he wants to wear. Found a jeans jacket at a thrift store and I will embroider a firetruck on that and a few more t-shirts.

  • Alicia Key

    I’ll try one for my hubby- not sure he’ll wear it but I found st fishing Alpha at Baby Kay’s that fits his current passion perfectly!×4-5×7-6×10-8×8/

    • Denise Holguin

      The fish design is fun! When I was planning my design, my coworker and I agreed– it’s all in the selection of fabric. I bet with the right colors/prints your husband will be proud to wear the shirt.


  • Nancy Weber

    I am working on FSL nativity ornaments to use inside a glass block with lights to make a night light for my Mom. Also stitching Christmas designs on toilet paper for my sister, since we try to outdo each other with a tacky gift each year.

    • Denise Holguin

      Wow, I bet the nativity scene will look beautiful.

      You had me with the toilet paper until I kept reading and you mentioned “tacky gift”. Too funny!


  • susan james

    an apron for a friend with a university logo

  • Karen S

    I have to put a name on the back of a baseball hat for my niece and nephew’s band director.

  • Lex Appel

    My next project will be roller skates on t-shirts for skaters at our rink.

    • Denise Holguin

      Oh, I love that. I would imagine there are some cute roller skate designs out there.


    • Tina


      Here is a roller skate design from Baby Kays Appliques…×4-5×7-6×10-8×8/

      • Denise Holguin

        That design is super cute!


  • Saundra Romanus

    I always make shirts and dresses for my Grandkids. But my next project is embroidered towels for my Master Bath. I have been going to do them for a while now, but they seem to get pushed back to the bottom of the list. Now something for ME!

  • Carol M

    Tea towels for 3 weddings this summer – all bicyclists. The design will be bride and groom bicycles.

    • Denise Holguin

      That sounds charming! Send photos if you can find the time. I’d love to see them. [email protected]


  • Brenda Rhinehart

    I am embroidering a tiger on the back of a t-shirt for my nephew’s ninth birthday.

  • Karen Roop

    I am embroidering a wall hanging for my youngest grandchild. It is the “Under the Sea” collection from Anita Goodesign. He loves the aquarium and it is turning out so cute! Love your t shirt want to make one for me after I finish this.

  • Kathryn Skelton

    My 2 month old granddaughter. A onesie!

  • Pat Lambert

    Took my grandson to the Dinosaur Museum in Fruita, Colorado. Now I am going to make him an appliqued dinosaur tee shirt.

  • Angie P

    Still working up the courage to try t-shirts! Yikes… this looks like fun, though!

    • Denise Holguin

      You’ve got to try. If I can do it you can too. Last year it took me 2-3 hours to hoop and embroider a simple pillowcase. I over-analyzed it and worried I would mess up. A year later, I’m hooping t-shirts like it was second nature.

      If all else fails, you’ve stitched a night shirt!


  • Katherine Weaver

    For my father in law, he bought his wife one of the first embroidery machines “a century ago” in hopes she would monogram his dress shirts. I am going to monogram hankies for him since he is long retired.

    • Denise Holguin

      Oh, that’s so sweet! I love that.


  • Ennis A

    GATOR t-shirts for my grandsons who live in Florida!!

  • Cheryl L

    I am going to do onesies for my new grandson Samuel. His mommy likes to show him off with clothing and other baby garb time bibs, blankets, burp rags, & towels to name a few things I have embroidered for them. I love love doing it and she loved to receive it..,perfect arrangement.

    • Denise Holguin

      It’s a wonderful arrangement, indeed!

  • Barb

    I always make a list n projects I need/want to be working on. I get a charge out of crossing them off the list when I am done. Right now the list includes 2 pillows, a table runner, and a new embroidered t for me!

  • Joanne Hudson

    Well, I just came back from camping and saw your article and thought how cute would it be to embroider or applique a camper on a shirt or something related to camping. Thank you for the idea.

  • Berenice

    Going to applique some custom pockets on pantaloons for my girls to wear under their hoop dresses.

  • Deb

    A quilt for my 3 yr old grandson who’s getting a new baby & a new “big boy” room & hooded towels for baby gifts.

  • Sara Redner

    A baby blanket for a friend’s great-grandson due this month. I have already embroidered 3 bibs for him – just waiting to find out what name to put on them. And I love embroidering tee shirts.

  • Susan

    4 memory pillows for my friend who just lost her dad

  • Denise Latour

    My niece – tablerunners.

  • Karen W

    Normally I stay so busy making things for others, but this talk of t-shirts reminds of a whole stack of shirts I set aside to repair with applause/ embroidery. They still look nice except for some tiny pinholes just above the waistline, so I have to use a design that will cover that area & perhaps travel up towards the shoulder. I’m thinking a repeated design that gets smaller as it moves up (stars, bubbles, etc).

    • Sue

      Ok why does that happen? Is it the button from your jeans wearing through from standing at the sink doing dishes?

      • Karen W

        I haven’t figured out why. Thought it might be my belt or button, but it’s above there… I’m short, so it could be the countertop edge standing or table when I sit/ sew/ assemble embroidery. Who knows!, but I’m not tossing them anymore! I probably have color imaginable, so designs can run the gamut.

  • Ashley henriquez

    My girls and back to school shirts

  • Nicole

    I’m finally going to make myself a shirt! It is going to be an anchor monogram. I’m soo excited!

  • Holly

    My daughter will be starting preschool next month so it’s time to start making her some back to school shirts 🙂

  • Nicoletta Piacquaddio

    Pre-school Princess t-shirt and a pair of ruffle capris

    • Denise Holguin

      That’s so cute! I love ruffle capris for the little ones.


  • Toni Pettit

    I need to make some baby girl things for a gift. I will use lots of Baby Kay fonts. I love her designs.

  • Kristen Pittman

    Great design for family movie night, too! My next project is actually the monogram fishing pail from Baby Kays–used it once and baby’s name was changed, so will be using it again for same baby.

  • Pam Watts

    I’m making a July 4th kitchen towel for a friend.

  • Dee Maxson

    Beach bag!

  • Jan Timmerman

    You’ve inspired me to make something for me!

    • Denise Holguin

      Excellent! My mission is accomplished!


  • Lisa hickman

    I’m making my granddaughters all July 4th shirts and my granddaughter a birthday finding dory outfit also for her bday on Saturday.

  • Sue Jackson

    Great great niece Kendall. Making pillowcase dresses with monograms.

  • Brenda

    Sock monkey alpha e for grand daughter

  • Elisabeth

    I’m going to make some gifts for my sister’s first baby – some days of the week bibs and I’m going to put his name on a quilt.

  • Janie

    My granddaughter’s third birthday is next week. I will be making her a Dory tshirt to go with her Dory party.

  • Jeannie

    Love how your shirt turned out! I usually just make them for my son, but will have to do something fun for me! Maybe bubbles it a gun all machine.

  • Diane W

    A birth announcement for my granddaughter. It’s only a year late but at least I’m getting it done.

  • Christine M.

    I am going to make some shirts for kids and some towels for my house 🙂

  • Barb Jolly

    My granddaughter a birthday shirt!

    • Denise Holguin

      Love those shirts! I stitched one for a my godson and it was a big hit.


  • Joyce Brown

    I am embroidering onesies for my new Grandson who is growing like a weed! Will do some fun designs for the summer. I’m also planning to embroider Days of the Week design sets on dish towels for all 3 of my daughters…reminds me of the ones my dear Mom used to do by hand for our craft sales…

  • Nancy Paulmenn

    I’m working on a girl mouse hooded towel and Big Sis shirt-Big Sister gifts!

  • Barb Mitchelson

    Baby gift for a dear friend. (Burp cloths and bib, pacifier clip) got them designed, just need to get them on my machine!

  • Julie

    Something for my Braxton #one grand! Truck, turtle or super hero!

  • Teressa Paulk

    A blanket for a customer

  • Tina

    My grandchildren. Love Baby Kays designs.

  • Sherry Smith

    I am going to make a superhero shirt for my son, I have made my girls several things but haven’t made my son anything yet and he keeps asking for me to make him a superhero shirt.

    • Denise Holguin

      Yes! Every son needs a superhero shirt!


  • Cynthia Heng

    Sew for my girls! Hopefully something nice for them this Xmas 🙂

  • Ashli Pitre

    I have some designs to do for my daughter and brand new nephew that I can’t wait to stitch

  • Gwen

    Embroidering two caps for my brother.

  • Cindy Hurt

    My granddaughter. She just moved to a new town and will be starting a new school, so she need loads ad new cute things!!!

  • Fay Williams

    Will be doing things for my 6,4,and 2 year olds grandkids and for the new one due in August. Love my embroidery machine.

  • Heather Davis

    I am doing a quilt for my cousin who has terminal Cancer, with the scripture that has kept her going embroidered on it and a few school shirts for my little girl.

  • PatO

    A fun summer t-shirt for my brother and his boys.

  • beth d.

    really, just myself. an embroidery design on a dish towel for a contest held at my machine embroidery club meeting this wednesday night.

  • Joan Shriver

    A “Princess” onsie with added skirt for a friend who saw the one I made for my Great-Great Niece who is 5 months old.

  • Virginia

    A sunhat to protect my bald little granddaughter’s head.

  • janice thompson

    I’m Working on a quilt for a new baby girl. Going to put machine embroidery on the label.

  • Tanda Jolley

    I’m working on burps for a baby shower gift. using lots of Baby Kay’s alpha’s since I purchased the Alpha for life!

  • Frances Bobo

    Embroidering onsies for my 3rd granddaughter who is due any time.

  • CJ

    I have two that need to be done next (good thing I have two machines!):
    Wedding garden flag for son’s friend and fiancée, and Baby gift for another friend of my son.