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How To Make Embellished T-Shirts

embellished tee

A wide variety of decorative details takes the humble knit t-shirt to a whole new level of designer style. All you need is your imagination and a few simple embellishment techniques to take your favorite tee from functional to fabulous. Most techniques are simple and quick enough to be done in less than a day; some techniques require little or no sewing, perfect for beginners.


Since t-shirts are made of tightly-knit fabrics, they don’t ravel and don’t need any hemming or finishing when you cut into them. Cut a fringe into your tee and add beads for a fun and funky hem finish.

Beaded Hem Fringe How-To’s:

  1. Slash from lower edge of shirt hem 3” (7.5cm) at 1/2” (1.3cm) intervals to form fringe.
  2. Slip each fringe piece through one or more pony beads, knotting the end of each fringe. Make sure the knots are large enough to keep the beads from slipping off.


T-shirts come in a wide variety of necklines, including crew, vee and scoop styles. Embellishing your neckline is a great way to draw the eye upwards to your face, and is easily visible on its own or peeking out from under a jacket or cardigan. Sprinkle rhinestones, sew-on beads, small appliqués or pearly novelty buttons along the edge of the neckline. You can use a single row for subtle sparkle, or make a bold statement with more buttons or beads, fading out the pattern as you move away down the front of your tee.

TIP: Rhinestones and appliqués are available in both sew-on or iron-on varieties. You can also use iron-on rhinestone motifs to embellish your neckline.


You can create a no-sew work of art using fabric paints, widely available in sewing and craft supply stores. Fabric paints come in an array of colors and types, such as dimensional puffy, glitter, iridescent and slick. Always read manufacturer’s directions before use for best results. Some ideas for using fabric paint:

  1. Create a border design along the neckline, hem or sleeves – you can also add in rhinestones or beads to give your design some extra interest.
  2. Find a motif you like and transfer it to the front of your tee using dressmaker’s chalk, marking pen or pencil. Once your motif is traced, you’re ready to paint.

TIP: Always test your marking method first on an invisible spot of your shirt. Use light marking pens on dark fabric and darker marking pens on light fabric. Some helpful painting tips:

  1. Pre-wash and dry your t-shirt before painting, to remove any sizing that may be on the garment. This will ensure that your painting sticks to the surface of the fabric.
  2. Work on a large flat surface covered with plastic.
  3. Slip a piece of cardboard, preferably covered with plastic, inside the flat tee-shirt, separating the front and the back. This will keep any paint from seeping through the front to the back of your shirt.
  4. Fill in solid areas first, and then paint in the details.
  5. Avoid air bubbles by squeezing paint onto another fabric or piece of paper to get the flow going before you begin to paint on your shirt. Keep the same pressure on the fabric paint tube as you work, to keep the paint coming out in a continuous flow.
  6. For larger areas, squeeze paint out onto a palette or paper plate. Water down paint just slightly, so it can be spread with a paint brush. Since the paint will be thinner, you may need two or more coats to get the look you want.
  7. If you make a mistake, try to lift off as much as possible, using the corner of a palette knife. After the spot is dry, paint over the mistake with your shirt color, allow to dry, and try again.

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