Embellish Away!

Embellish Away!

One of my favorite things to do is to hit yard sales (or tag sales, as they call them on the East Coast) in search of vintage sewing supplies. I've found precious caches of patterns, fabrics, and even a dress form or two.

But by and large, the most common treasures I plunder are buttons, thread, and trims like rick rack, lace, and  ribbons. I have shoe boxes full of the stuff, and I get infinite pleasure just sifting through it. I've also used these items to decorate both readymade and handmade garments or accessories, anything from skirt hems to pillows.


Here's a great little project from Stitch Spring 2009 by Kirsten Coplans that uses up those odd ends of trim and thread.


by Kirsten Coplans

Stitches & Trim Shirt


– Solid color button-down or snap-front shirt with collar

 Other Supplies
-Contrasting sewing thread
-Scraps of ribbon and trims (such as rickrack, lace, and embroidered ribbons) in a coordinated color scheme

 Choose Shirt, Thread, and Trims
1. A wide or pointed collar works well for this project because it will show the most detail. Now, consider a color scheme that will be either a striking contrast to the solid color or a pretty color complement. Sticking to a color theme will make the finished piece look intriguing, without appearing visually overwhelming.

2. Select a thread color that will show off the stitching easily. Bright orange, hot pink, jet black, and sunny yellow are some of my favorites. Then choose all those bits of leftover ribbon and trim that are too short to do much else with. Use different textures, patterns, and shapes or vintage woven trims, rickrack, patterned ribbons, velvet, satin, or anything else you have in the color palette you have selected.

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Embellish Collar
3. Pin a ribbon down on the shirt collar in a random spot and topstitch over it to anchorthe ribbon in place. Continue placing and topstitching pieces of ribbon and trim in this manner, overlapping them and mixing up the shapes and textures that are placed next to each other, until your collar is completely covered with overlapping pieces or until you are happy with the result. Remember to put your favorite pieces of ribbon or trim near the collar points so they will be the most visible.

4. After all the ribbons are anchored in place and the collar is covered in rows of ribbon and trim, topstitch back and forth in rows to create a smooth finished texture. Start at one end of the collar and sew back and forth to the other end with pretty tight rows, leaving the needle down as you turn so that each row of stitching ends with a point. This ensures that the stitching is a key part of the design and the trims lie flat against the collar.

5. Press with a cool iron to make the finished piece look neat.

6. Want to add more detail to your shirt? Add rows of zigzag or straight topstitching around pockets and shirt cuffs to pull it all together, but just make sure that you only sew through one layer and keep the rest of the shirt fabric out of the way of the needle as you stitch.

For more oldie, but goodie, patterns and projects, check out the Stitch Back Issue Sale in the Sew Daily Shop. And let me know on the Sew Daily blog what your favorite embellishments tricks are.


Happy stitching!


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About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

3 thoughts on “Embellish Away!

  1. one of my favorite trims is the pre-made corded piping made by wright’s. i use it as insert to
    trim out collars, sleeve hems, design seams, pillow edges, and anywhere a little
    pop of color or texture would help. i prefer it to making my own because it is uniform in width, but will occasionally make some out of bias and cotton cord
    if i just can’t find any that’s suitable. a zipper foot makes the neatest application.

  2. I also love yard or garage sale-ing for vintage notions. The old wooden spools and sock darners are nostalgic. The darners remind me if mares cad. Happy treasure hunting

  3. I also love yard or garage sale-ing for vintage notions. The old wooden spools and sock darners are nostalgic. The darners remind me of maracas. Happy treasure hunting