DIY: Embellished Tees

November 30th, 2009 § 38 comments

While I certainly enjoyed an American Thanksgiving feast, I also indulged in a crafty binge over the holiday weekend. I’ve been craving embellished tees, like these from JCrew, for quite some time, so I finally just decided to figure out how to make some myself.

Armed with $5 tees from Target, coordinating thread and ribbon, and a few beads and jersey scraps from my craft stash, I cut, pinned, and stitched my way to fancy t-shirt ownership. It took a little patience and reverse engineering, but I’m delighted with the results:

Click past the jump for directions to make your own embellished tees!


  • basic tee or tank
  • coordinating ribbon and matching thread
  • jersey scraps in matching or coordinating colors
  • beads

Corsage Tee:

To make this corsage tee, I grabbed an old white t-shirt and cut out about thirty heart shapes to create “petals.” I layered, folded, and pinned those shapes up one side of the neckline.

DIY Embellished Tees DIY Embellished Tees

While hand sewing would have been possible, I decided to carefully maneuver all of these layers through a sewing machine. For most clusters, I unfolded the hearts, sewed a line down the center fold, and then let the “petals” fall. I also ended up hand-tacking a few petals into place later to defy gravity in necessary places.

DIY Embellished Tees DIY Embellished Tees
Ribbon Necklace Tee:
To make this ribbon necklace tee, I folded and pinned a length of ribbon around the neckline of a tee. I made sure to leave excess lengths of ribbon on either shoulder to tie behind the neck later.
DIY Embellished Tees
I sewed the ribbon down using my sewing machine, running a stitch down one side of the ribbon. It took a while — lots of pivoting! — and I had to be careful to stay near the very edge. I was frankly a little at a loss as to what to add for embellishments. I ended up cutting heart “petals” out of some of the eggplant colored jersey left over from shortening a maxi dress.
DIY Embellished Tees
I folded, pinned, and sewed these petals just like I did on the corsage tee. Things still looked a flat, though, and I decided the tee needed some subtle sparkle. For one version, I hand stitched on a couple of pearl beads. For the other, I added little translucent turquoise beads.
DIY Embellished Tees
DIY Embellished Tees
Looped Ribbon Tank:
This tank with the ribbon “collar” probably took the longest of any of these projects. The process was the same as the ribbon necklace tee — loop, bunch, pin, stitch — but because the ribbon was narrower there were a lot more loops to sew.
DIY Embellished Tees
DIY Embellished Tees
I ended up hand stitching about half of the ribbon and then tried machine stitching the rest as an experiment. Next time around, I think I’ll soldier through and hand stitch the whole thing as it does produce a nicer end result. Like the corsage tee, the tone-on-tone color scheme of this tank helps to elevate the $5 tee and $2 ribbon into something special.
DIY Embellished Tees
I think I might have a new obsession. Plain t-shirts, beware!

§ 38 Responses to DIY: Embellished Tees"

  1. Nina says:

    Wow! I am in serious lust of those tees, and in complete admiration of your patience and crafting ability. You’re definitely giving J Crew a run for its money!

  2. A-C says:

    That is so cool! I’m definitely going to try this over X-mas break, thanks for the instructions!

  3. Miss L says:

    That’s awesome!

  4. Kate says:

    You may have to line dry these beautiful tees now, just to warn you — don’t want those ribbons to shrink or the flowers to fray! You probably already knew this, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to say it in case other people didn’t realize. And I would wash cold, maybe on the delicate cycle, and definitely inside-out. :)

  5. Vanessa says:

    Very cool! I have to learn how to sew :-P

  6. Anna says:

    I honestly think these are the cutest embellished tees I’ve seen…and cheaper (and more maternity-friendly).

  7. Christina W. says:

    Wow, these are absolutely amazing! I’m definitely going to try these sometime soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Clare says:

    Wow. Yup, just wow.

  9. Elena says:

    Wow! I’ve been lusting after those JCrew beauties, too, so thanks for this post! While I’m not too gifted with sewing machine, I may beg for these as gifts from my fashion-design-major sister. :)

  10. Melissa says:

    If the flower petals are jersey, the edges won’t really fray. They’ll just curl a little. (Although every once in a while, you may have to trim threads.)

    And pre-washing before you sew should fix any problems with shrinkage. I’d put the ribbon in a bag of some kind to keep it from getting too tangled — I’ve heard of people putting embroidery floss in trouser socks, maybe something similar would work with ribbon.

    Very pretty shirts!

  11. Rose says:

    WOW and YAY!!
    I love these and am going to try something myself!

  12. Wow! These look great. You’re so creative and crafty!

    I’ve been trying to find embellished tees for my daily steals for a couple of days. Here’s a JCrew one on a good sale:

    I’ll feature two more tomorrow from NY&Co.

  13. Franca says:

    I love these! the grey and brownm one is my fave.

  14. Erika says:

    These are beautiful–particularly the first and third. Good for you!

  15. Christy says:

    I’ve been dying over those shirts from J. Crew too! I’m so glad you did this. I can’t wait to try it on my own.

  16. This is awesome! I love that you did this on your own and it just came out great. How did you gain your sewing skills? Classes or just trial and error?

  17. PS- you should sell these on Etsy!

  18. what a cool project! i am tempted to try, too…

  19. Audi says:

    Wow, great ideas! I definitely have to give this a try.

  20. Trisha says:

    how fun! I had bought these from Etsy with the idea of doing something similar but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Your shirts turned out terrific! I will have to try that this holiday season.

  21. Kelly N says:

    I have also longed for the JCrew Tees but been turned away by the high price, but I love the white T you made! I will definatly have to try it!

  22. M.E.J says:

    Congrats, E.! You really can sew! I too used to make or fix clothes, at first by hand, to the point my fiance bought me a sewing machine for Christmas some years ago!
    But then I started my masters and… well, you know how it is.
    But those tees are great, maybe I´ll try it during Christmas break.
    Hope baby e.´s doing great, but he surely is, judging from the last pictures you posted.

  23. [...] creative, clever, and imaginative like that. E. never ceases to inspire me with her flair for making things special, making them her own, and having fun with whatever tasks she’s set out to do. E, I hope you [...]

  24. [...] Embellished tee – Made by E [...]

  25. [...] Embellished tee – hand made by E. [...]

  26. [...] And, if your drawers are overflowing with loads and loads of tees, you could always choose a few of those with which to experiment and try some DIY. E. picked up a few basic solid colored tee and added embellishments along the neckline with just a few stitches, some ribbon, and extra jersey fabric. For the full instructions, go here. [...]

  27. [...] love the applique detail of this top, and it’s making me want to go on a new spree of DIY embellishment projects. This is a dangerous situation since I’m supposed to be reading for my qualifying exams, not [...]

  28. [...] again a white eyelet top yesterday, I decided to try  the cardi with a darker neutral today. This hand-embellished top E. made for me is of a dark gray, perhaps slate?, color and I love the way the darker neutral comes [...]

  29. Awesome work and awesome web site! I´ve found you only now!!!
    I´m writing a post about embellishing tees project you can findi on the net in my blog, and I will write about this post too! Come and visit if you want, I will continue to follow you!

  30. [...] plethora of sources lately to flex my DIY muscles a bit more. I will long not be the DIY queen that our E. is but I’m hoping to get better at handling a needle and thread (I don’t have a sewing [...]

  31. Somebody essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and up to now? I amazed with the analysis you made to make this particular post incredible. Great job!

  32. foodfacts says:

    whoah this weblog is great i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You understand, a lot of people are looking around for this information, you can help them greatly.

  33. Generally I don’t read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very nice article.

  34. vpn says:

    Hi-Ya! our household simply adore your exceptional write-up thanks and please keep the idea on

  35. micro jobs says:

    Magnificent beat ! I would prefer to apprentice while you amend your website, how can i subscribe for a blog internet website? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a bit bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear idea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>