Introduction: Heart Applique Shirt

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Turn a plain t into a heart t with this easy, step-by-step applique. I've had women ask me where I got this shirt because they wanted one... it's something about the velvet juxtaposed with the gray t.

Also, my daughter wanted a matching t-shirt for the cactus PJ pants I made her - and it had to have a heart background that coordinated with the bottom ruffle- of course! What could be sweeter than a heart-shirt?


  • Fabric
  • Steam-a-seam
  • T-shirt
  • Thread
  • Tear-away stabilizer
  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Jersey needle for machine

Step 1: Draw Your Heart

Draw your heart first on paper or cardstock. This way you can get the exact shape you want to your heart. Do you remember how to do this from grade school? You fold the paper in half before drawing and then cut it folded as well to get both sides uniform. Unless, of course, you're going for a free-form heart that is not symmetrical - that would be cute too.

Step 2: Trace Your Heart

Once you have the perfect heart drawn and cut, trace that heart shape with pencil on the back of your Steam-a-seam (or Sulky or WonderUnder - whatever brand your local store carries - Steam-a-seam is my favorite brand as it's not too stiff and holds up well). It's a double-stick fusible web that will turn your piece of regular fabric into an iron-on piece of fabric. You can buy a package of several sheets (~10) of Steam-a-seam or sometimes you can buy it by the yard at specialty fabric stores (non-chains). Sulky brand often comes in a roll.

Don't yet cut out the steam-a-seam heart you just traced. First, cut it out with a margin of steam-a-seam around the edges of the tracing as pictured here. This is so that you'll get a nice clean edge with steam-a-seam all the way to the edge of your heart.

Step 3: Iron Steam-a-Seam Onto Fabric

Next you will iron the steam-a-seam onto the wrong side of your fabric. Follow the steam-a-seam directions as to the ironing. It is about 10 seconds, setting the heat of the iron according to what kind of fabric you are working with.

Step 4: Cut Out Fabric Heart

Now that your traced steam-a-seam is ironed on to the wrong side of your fabric, you can cut out your fabric heart following the outline you traced.

Step 5: Iron on Heart to T-shirt

Peel off paper backing to fabric heart and place on T, making sure you hold it up and eye its position - not too high nor too low and looks centered. Another great thing about Steam-a-seam is that it is slightly sticky before ironing it on so it should stick well enough just to hold up your T and take a look. You can see in pic #2 the texture of the steam-a-seam on the back of the heart.

Once you have it where you want it, you will press (following package directions) it on to your T with an iron. This is permanent! (This is a re-enactment of the heart shirt applique so ironing on T is not pictured here.)

For my velvet heart T pictured here, I had to use a press cloth and steam ever-so-lightly to get it in place and then I turned it inside out and pressed again lightly from the back side. It has to be light pressing but heavy enough to get the heart to affix but not too heavy to ruin the nap of the velvet.

Step 6: Sew & Rock Your Heart

The last step is to sew around the inside perimeter of your heart using either a zig-zag stitch or a satin stitch. Sewing gives it a finished look and permanence. If you only used steam-a-seam without sewing, your heart could begin to peel off after a few washings. Use a jersey knit needle in your machine for this step which will push through the layers with its rounded tip rather than cut through.

You will also need to place a tear-away stabilizer behind your heart on the wrong side of the T. This will prevent your T from stretching out around the stitching line. Sometimes you can get away without a stabilizer if you are sure to keep all your stitching within a 100% woven cotton (not knit fabric) heart AND if you are zig-zag stitching and not satin-stitching. In a pinch (like if you're Corona-quarantined or just can't get to the store), it is possible to use just a regular piece of paper to put under the shape to stabilize while sewing. It's more of a hassle to tear it away but it can work.

When sewing, take your time going around the curves and when you get to the point of the heart, keep your machine needle down in the fabric to turn/ pivot to sew up the other side. Also, you'll need to constantly monitor to make sure you aren't catching the back of the shirt into your stitching.

In the example where I put a motif (cactus) from the PJ pant fabric in the center of my heart, I would sew motif on the heart before sewing the heart on the T. It's just easier to handle sewing the curves and turns around the motif that way. You'd have to apply Steam-a-seam to both layers before sewing motif on heart.

It's always a good idea (unless you used velvet or something equally finicky) to press when you're done to set the stitches. It will also give it a professional finish.

I hope you make this super-easy heart shirt and please let me know if you do!

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