SC Johnson Family Economics Blog
Monday, July 16, 2012

Doily T-shirt Embellishing | Family Economics

By Cathe

I have two fashion savvy fifteen-year old daughters that are perfectly content with the occasional thrift shop or modified apparel. The latest endeavor was to turn plain T-shirts we found on sale at the department store into unique tops by using vintage doilies. 

These crochet and tatted lovelies can be found quite inexpensively at most thrift stores and vintage shops. Smaller doilies work as individual embellishments or in clusters anywhere on a T-shirt. Wide crochet lace is perfect for extending the length of the cotton dress my tallest isn’t quite ready to part with. Doilies and lace can be machine or carefully hand sewn into a T-shirt. In some instances, they can also be glued on with a strong fabric bonding glue.

Our project today was a peek-a-boo lace window on the upper back of a peacock-blue top. Here is how it was crafted.

The doily was positioned between the shoulder blades and eye-balled for center placement.  


I used a very small amount of craft glue to tack the doily down in a few spots to keep it from shifting while being fed through my sewing machine.

use craft glue to hold in place

Once the glue was completely dry, I stitched around the large inner circle area, and also around the outer petals of the doily, to keep them from distorting when going through the wash. I was very careful to only sew through the back of the T-shirt. It’s easy to accidentally snag the front layer when sewing, so be careful when sewing embellishments on to small shirts.

stitch in place

When my stitching was finished and all hanging threads trimmed, I turned the shirt inside out. I pulled up the center area of the T-shirt fabric within the sewn circle and made a cut with my scissors. From there, I cut outward to the stitch-line and trimmed out the inner circle of fabric, careful not to cut the doily itself. 

carefully trim out inner fabric

Here is the final shirt on my daughter, Jamie. We’re both happy with the results. The shirt will be machine washed, but line dried. 

finished shirt

How do you like to modify apparel? Do you have a favorite T-shirt trick?

20 Comments so far

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On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, Amy wrote

This is darling. Not 100% positive but this looks like bobbin lace. It's an old technique using bobbins. My mom makes it very darling.

On Saturday, September 21, 2013, Michelle & Nadya from F.F. wrote

We are FripeFabrique, a Montreal store with DIY workshops. We felt in love with your embellished t-shirt and made our own! Thanks so much for your post and for inspiration! :)

On Monday, July 1, 2013, Nadya Dushonok wrote

I used your instructions to embellish my shirt, and it turned out super well! here is my post with the shirt: thanks so much for your post !!!

On Friday, February 8, 2013, Kristen wrote

I love this! Such a unique idea!! :)

On Friday, November 23, 2012, Kitty wrote

Remember, ladies. If this isn't for a young enough child, keep in mind where one's bra will be!

On Friday, July 27, 2012, nana from chatham wrote

what a great idea!!

On Sunday, July 22, 2012, your friend from Canada wrote

This is a great idea. You should put it on Pinterest. People would love this idea

On Saturday, July 21, 2012, Lisa wrote

This is a great idea! Definitely going to remember this for when i find myself a doily

On Wednesday, July 18, 2012, Tracy from CA wrote

Wow! I love crocheting doilies & other lace, but never knew what to do with them later. (out of table space & no one sees them but me.) Ow I can use them, show them off, & keep cool in summer. All at the same time! Edgings on the sleeves, neck & hem too? Might be a bit much all on one shirt, but "doodling" with inserts & edgings on a t-shirt should be fun!

On Tuesday, July 17, 2012, Carol wrote

So cute! Thanks!

On Monday, July 16, 2012, Lauren wrote

So cute! Thanks!

On Monday, July 16, 2012, diane wrote

What a cute shirt! I ♥ what a wonderful difference the cut out & doily makes. Thank you so much for this tut Ü

On Monday, July 16, 2012, Two Dog Pond wrote

That is so clever! Thank you!

On Monday, July 16, 2012, LeAnne wrote

Wow, this is awesome! I know I have some old doilies laying around the house....but I can't say I have ever embellished a shirt with one, or anything, for that matter! You've inspired me!

On Monday, July 16, 2012, Lynn wrote

This is the perfect project for all of those doilies I can't leave behind when I'm throbbing. I am going to try this for my 13 yr. old niece. She loves those type of peek, thru shirts and tanks.

On Monday, July 16, 2012, Elizabeth from Merced wrote

My daughter just made a dress out of one of her dad's old tee shirts. I am going to show her the doily idea! xoxo

On Monday, July 16, 2012, B. wrote


On Monday, July 16, 2012, Louise from Canada wrote

thanks for the brilliant idea...I love it and it uses all my favourites..vintage, sewing and fashion ideas ...I am planning on using this TODAY....:)

On Monday, July 16, 2012, Sara | Colorado Springs, CO wrote

I've never modified any clothing, but this seems very doable and I cannot wait to try! So beautiful :)

On Monday, July 16, 2012, Sarah wrote

Super cute! Super easy!


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