Learning to sew is much like learning any other thing. You start out slow, practice often, and soon become much better at it. If you haven’t been sewing all that long there are still many projects you can do by yourself. If you’ve recently learned to do a zig-zag stitch you have even more options. One fun project you can do that uses nothing but a zig-zag stitch is to attach cloth letters to garments like t-shirts and sweat shirts. It’s much easier to do than you would think even if you’re a beginner.
The most challenging thing about attaching letters to clothing isn’t really the stitching itself. Other factors come in to play such as the cutting and positioning of the letters. Another factor is the fabric you choose to use for the lettering. Beginners will have lots of luck if they use felt but you can also use other materials. Choose fabric that isn’t stretchy, bulky, thick or that unravels easily. Also, make sure the material you use for the letters won’t allow the shirt color and design to shine through. For example, if you use white lettering on a blue shirt the letters might have a bluish hue if the fabric is too thin.
You’ll make the perfect letters when you use stencils to create them. You’ll find stencils that feature block letters, balloon lettering and more at a craft store. Choose simplistic letters for best results. Remember that, if you’re writing an entire sentence or more on the shirt, you might need to select small letters. But, if you’re only attaching a couple of letters or so you can use much larger ones. Use the stencils to draw the letters onto the chosen fabric. Take great care when cutting the letters out; they need to be perfectly cut to look their best on the garment.
No one says that letters on clothing have to be perfectly aligned. That is, there are different designs you can do, if you choose, so that you don’t have to worry about positioning all the letters exactly. One such design is done when you pin one of the letters to the garment, then add the next one, but make the second one higher or lower than the first. When adding the third letter, etc, you’ll do the same thing again so that the letters go up, down, up, down rather than straight across. A different design is done by placing letters randomly on the garment. For instance, if your daughter’s name starts with “B”, and you want to put “B’s” all over the shirt, you can position them wherever you want.
If you are going to do a set of letters, word or sentence in an aligned manner it’s important to get them perfectly aligned. To do so, use a ruler and chalk or disappearing ink marker (found at sewing supply stores) to draw lines. Position the lines to be horizontal and parallel across the front of the shirt. Now you can place the letters between the two lines to make sure they are accurately positioned. As you pin the letters to the shirt pay attention to how much space you leave between each letter as well.
After all your letters are pinned onto the shirt you can then begin sewing them on. Use a zig-zag stitch, and choose the width as well as the length of the stitch. Stitching that’s wide and far apart will give you a much different finished look than stitching that is close together but very narrow. Although it’s really your choice as to the type of stitching there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Fabric that unravels easily will need a stitch that’s close together. Something that simply will not unravel, like felt, can sport zig-zags that are far apart. If the stitching will also be for effect, like you’re using a different color for the stitching than the lettering, you might want to select a stitch that’s close together. As far as the width of the stitch that only has to be wide enough to go from the edge of the letter to the clothing just beside it. However, the wider stitch is easiest for beginners.
Do the zig-zag stitching around the outside of the letters before the inside. Take a “B” for example. Sew around the perimeter of the “B” before stitching around the circles inside the “B”. As you zig-zag, go slowly, and make sure one stitch hits the letter and the next stitch grabs the fabric. Continue on, going around curves and more. When you get to a corner of a letter, like with an “L”, it’s easiest if you go ahead and come off the letter, then trim the threads, reposition the foot to go the other direction, then start again. It’s easier to get crisp stitches around corners if you don’t try to turn the corner while stitching.
Every time you start a new zig-zag stitch, sew a couple of stitches forward, then one back, then go forward again. It’s imperative that the stitches overlap each other exactly so pay close attention to where the needle lands. Every time you stop, go back a couple of stitches, then forward one or two. If needed for accuracy, turn the handwheel rather than trying to travel only a couple of stitches by using the foot pedal. Trim away excess threads really close to the fabric. You’ll be surprised at how easy is to attach cloth letters to garments once you get them positioned correctly. If you do well at sewing on the letters you’re then ready for most any zig-zag stitch project! Have fun!