5 Ways to Customize Handmade Clothing

I love to make handmade clothing and projects for my family.  Most of the time they love it too.  However, the trouble I've had over the years is trying to make handmade look "store bought".  Have you had this problem too?  The trick is in learning to customize clothing and projects with your own personal touch.

How to Customize Handmade Clothing


What do I mean when I say "customize"?  Well, to add your own ideas and design elements to a finished product.  Your children are probably like mine and always want the latest and greatest superhero or pony on whatever top or dress you make.  Or how about those cute ideas you see on Pinterest to make custom tote bags with names on them?

Well, you can make those things!  You just need the right tools.  Let me share with you some of the fun ways you can create custom looks for your family.


*This post contains affiliate links to products I have used and highly recommend.  I do make a portion off any you may purchase.  But I wouldn't link to them if they weren't awesome!


Methods for Customizing

#1 - Freezer Paper Stenciling
This is a great and cheap method for adding a design applique.  I guess it isn't technically "applique" since you aren't sewing.  However, you can add designs to tops easily with freezer paper and a little paint.  We've done this several times here on the blog. 


Butterfly Fabric by GYCT Halloween Pajamas with FREE Bat Template from GYCT 


How It Works:
Using a piece of freezer paper, cut out your design.  You can trace the design and cut with scissors or a knife.  Or you can use a cutting machine.  Iron the freezer paper, shiny side down, to your fabric.  Then paint.  Let it dry and peel back the freezer paper.  

Freezer paper stenciling is also a great way to create your own fabric designs.  Repeat the design in a pattern and then paint to fabrics.


m&m shirt




#2 - Sewing Machine Applique
I love doing applique designs with my sewing machine.  This is such a simple way to add a design without needing a special machine.  I will admit, this is probably my most used method of customizing a shirt.  Because you simply decide on your design and sew it to your top. 


Cupcake Top by Sewing Mama RaeAnna at GYCT  Reindeer Pjs

How It Works:
We've even put together a video tutorial on how to apply applique.  {Includes the free reindeer applique.}  You can see exactly how I do it.  But basically, using Heat'n Bond, I trace the design, iron it on and sew it up.

Or check out this photo tutorial using tshirts for my Mario Cart loving children. {You can grab those cute appliques for free too.}
Mario and Princess peach tees



#3 - Fabric Dyeing
I typically don't have to dye my fabrics because I buy them the color and pattern I want.  But sometimes that doesn't work out.  Or you might have a custom color you want to match for a special event.  That's when fabric dyeing can come in handy.

That's what I did for these cute baby leggings.  I wanted them to match the dress exactly, so I just some dye and they turned out great.

Baby dress and leggings

How It Works:
Dyeing fabrics can be tricky.  Mostly because you have to make sure to use fabrics and threads that will take the dye.  We've got a great tutorial on Dyeing Leggings.  That will walk you through all the steps for perfect results.







#4 - Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)
This is my new favorite method to customize clothing.  Using Heat Transfer Vinyl, or Iron-On Vinyl.  This method does require you to have a cutting machine like a Cricut Maker or Silhouette Cameo 3.  (These are the 2 machines I have. I love them both for different reasons.  But they both do great with HTV.)

If you are looking for HTV vinyl, I personally really like Expressions Vinyl.  They've got great vinyl, fast shipping and lots of great sales and fast shipping!

Heart HTV shirt    Makers gonna make tee

How It Works:
You find an image you like, upload it to your software, send it to your cutting machine, cut it out on HTV and press it to your article of clothing.  That's a super simplified way of explain.  But you can see exactly how in our post on How to Apply Iron-on Vinyl.


Princess Joggers


#5 - Embroidery Machine Applique
For this kind of customization you'd need an embroidery machine.  So go put it on your wish list.

I did, and that is how I finally got mine for Christmas.  I have the Brother pe770 which is pretty amazing.


Hello Sweetie Tee  Potato Chip Skirt

How It Works:First, pick your design and decide where you plan to place it.  Most machines include several designs and you can purchase others online.  

If you are doing a t-shirt, I usually will start by measuring down from the neckline 2-3 inches.  This is where the top of your applique should start. One great method to use to find the placement, is to use a piece of paper or a sticky note to mark where the design will go.  This helps you see where it will go and decide if it is the right placement.


Measuring tshirt  



Each of these methods of customizing can be used on various projects including tshirts, dresses, socks, shoes, bags and belts.  The only limits are your imagination!  You can do so many things with these methods.  I can't wait to see what you make!



Thinking about doing some machine applique?  
How about some free appliques?
We've got a TON!
Free applique patterns
Princess Anna Applique
Pumpkin Applique
Tiger and Duck Applique
Reindeer Jammies
Ninja Turtle Applique
Princess Applique
Bat applique
Turtle Shell

1 comment