Brighten up a t-shirt with a free flower embroidery pattern (plus a bonus design idea)

Embroidering designs on clothing is a definite thing—again. (Insert flashback to covering jeans in colorful flowers in the 1970s here.) Inspired by designs they were seeing at retail, designers Leslie S. and Lisa H. decided to DIY their own garments: “Lisa and I both love embroidery and were wanting to spend a day embroidering in the sun,” Leslie told us. They shared instructions, and turned Lisa’s design into a free flower embroidery pattern. Download and have at it!

Shirt Embroidery |


  • Pre-washed t-shirts (Leslie: We both chose sweatshirt-weight, cotton tees this time around—they were both easy and cozy to work with. We also considered doing denim jackets, chambray, and linen.)
  • Embroidery floss (the better the quality, the smoother your sewing)—for the floral designs, we used DMC Embroidery Floss 986, 734, 351, 312, 353, 948
  • Embroidery needles
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Scissors
  • For floral design: Free flower embroidery pattern, carbon tracing paper, hard-tipped pen or pencil or stylus
  • For parallel lines design: ruler, fabric pen or white pencil
  • For thin or stretchy fabric: tear-away or water soluble stabilizer

Shirt Embroidery |
Make a t-shirt with the free flower embroidery pattern

  • Download and print the pattern.
  • Sandwich the tracing paper between the pattern and the t-shirt, pin it in place, and trace the design with a hard-tipped pen or pencil or stylus.
  • Pop the shirt into an embroidery hoop and start stitching. This design uses a chunky satin stitch and French knots.

Pro-tips from Leslie: 

When picking color palettes, I always try to keep them fairly limited, but then choose different hues of the same color to add range. For example, the three colors of pink are ultimately close to being the same color but have lighter and darker options to play with. I wanted to choose something bright and fun that would really pop on whatever color shirt I chose.

I love drawing florals, and thought having a large-scale floral would create a big impact. I placed it up by collar, as if the flowers were growing out from the neckline of the shirt.

This pattern is full of organic shapes, so you can stay loose.  Have fun with it!

I started at the top of the design and worked my way down which helped as I followed the neckline.

If you want to add extra ”puffiness” to the petals and leaves, you can cut out pieces of felt in the same shape, tack them right to the shirt, and satin-stitch on top of them. It gives a little added height.

Make sure you hand wash your garment after you wear it. The washing machine won’t be kind to your beautiful stitches!

Shirt Embroidery |
Shirt Embroidery |

Stitch some simple parallel lines

Leslie explains how she did it.

I’m a minimalist. I like things simple and edited. So I picked a summery color palette and set to work on some parallel running stitches. The design was inspired by quilting.

I wanted my embroidered lines to be evenly spaced, so I measured them out with a ruler, and used a white charcoal pencil (because that’s what I had on hand that would show up on dark fabric) to mark the top, middle, and bottom of each line as a guide. The marks came out the first time I washed it.

My design is strictly running stitches with no-frills, basic knots at the start and stop of each running stitch. I truly enjoy repetitious, structured crafts because the process becomes meditative after a while. I totally got lost in these running stitches!

Shirt Embroidery |

That’s it! Two super-simple, perfect-for-summer, up-cycled t-shirts. Why not make both? And show us, obvs—tag us @Think.Make.Share on Instagram.


Leave a Comment

  1. 8.7.19 | Reply
    Marsha Ess wrote:

    LOVING the simply embroidered parallel lines. Such a fun and inexpensive way to dress up a plain tee!

  2. 11.5.19 | Reply
    Tsport wrote:

    These t-shirts look amazing! I love embroidery pattern so much and I am so inspired by your work. I can’t wait to try these tutorials. Thanks and keep sharing.

  3. 4.7.20 | Reply
    tinali wrote:

    I’m having a hard time getting the embroidery thread through my needle and then through the fabric. Am I using the wrong thread or needles?

    Love this one!!
    Kind regards,

    • 4.10.20 | Reply
      Trish B. wrote:

      Maybe! A few things to try:
      —Separate your embroidery floss into two pieces with three threads each—this might help you get the thread through the needle more easily.
      —Use a needle threader.
      —The eye of your needle or the needle itself may be too thick to get through the fabric—try a thinner needle.
      —Poke the needle into a bar of soap to make it go through the fabric more smoothly.

      Hope something here helps!

  4. 4.28.20 | Reply
    Katrina Linzmeyer wrote:

    Where were the shirts purchased? They look like a nice weight. I tried doing the flower design on a light t shirt and the fabric stretched. 😥

    • 1.28.22 | Reply
      Trish B. wrote:

      Hi, Katrina! Both of the shirts were ones the artists had on hand, so we don’t have up-to-date info on where to purchase. We do know they were both sweatshirt weight, so look for something on the thicker side and use stabilizer!

  5. 11.23.21 | Reply
    Jodie Bassett wrote:

    I am very upset with the project. I have ordered all needed to do the project, but where did you get the t-shirt in short sleeve. I tried to do it on a poly/cotton shirt and it made a mess with the tread. I have done many embroidery pictures and never did that. I have spent a lot of money on this project with not ending well.(floss, tracing paper and $35. for a shirt from online)

    Jodie B.

    • 1.28.22 | Reply
      Trish B. wrote:

      I’m so sorry the project didn’t work for you, Jodie! Both of the shirts in this project were heavier: “sweatshirt weight” is the way our artists described them. Thin, stretchy knits can be tricky—using a tear-away or water soluble stabilizer will make it much easier!

  6. 12.7.21 | Reply
    Alyssa wrote:

    What do you do to the inside of the t-shirt? Do you just knot off your stitches or did you add a type of backing or stabilizer? Thanks!

    • 1.28.22 | Reply
      Trish B. wrote:

      Knotting the stitches will work!