How to appliqué on a sweatshirt

By on December 5th, 2021
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how to appliqué on a sweatshirt
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If you are looking for the perfect personalized gift for a little girl that she will actually love, I have the project for you. A single initial appliqué on a sweatshirt is one of my favorite go-to projects for a little girl. In fact, this year I made two appliqué sweatshirts for my nieces featuring the first initials of their names, and I’m still swooning over how they turned out.

Stitching out an appliqué design on a sweatshirt is actually pretty simple once you learn how to properly position your sweatshirt on your embroidery hoop and use the right combination of stabilizers and topper. Want to learn how?  Keep reading.

Why appliqué on a sweatshirt?

If you look in almost any clothing store this winter you will likely find plush cozy looking sherpa sweatshirts in about every shape and style.  And when I see them, I’m always tempted to buy another for myself or my girls.  This year, Target has some plush fuzzy sweatshirts in delicious colors and patterns – perfect for little girls. And lucky for me, I have two little nieces who would absolutely adore them. But, I wouldn’t dare give them these sweatshirts unadorned. These cozy sweatshirts are the perfect canvas for some appliqué

I’m a big fan of appliqué. While it does take a little extra time to choose a fabric and trim it in place, appliqué gives you an opportunity to use some of your favorite fabric scraps in a new way.

Appliqué is especially appropriate technique for personalizing one of these fuzzy sherpa sweatshirts because the material is super nappy. And the plushness of the fabric tends to obscure regular embroidery. So, if you want to personalize one of them, you definitely need to use a water soluble topper, choose a very thick font, integrate a knock down stitch, or stitch out an appliqué. Any of these methods will help to ensure that your embroidery or appliqué work does not get lost in the nap of the fabric.

Why appliqué a single initial?

Personalized gifts are great, but I’m not always a fan of monogramming clothing for kids. Once the kid grows out of the item, who is able to reuse it? What’s the likelihood that another kid will have the same monogram? Not likely at all.

However – if you stick with personalizing clothing with a single initial, there are a lot more potential recipients for hand-me-downs.

Check out the personalized single initial tunics I made years ago.  This is another one of my favorite single initial appliqué projects.  And you can get these tunics at Walmart for $7!

What to appliqué on a sweatshirt?

You can find quite a few appliqué letter set designs that would work well stitched out on a sweatshirt. But for this project, I decided to use one of my own designs that I had made for my girls when they were little. My set of appliqué letters incorporates two flowers on each letter which gives them a sweet feminine and unique look.  These appliqué letters also provide an opportunity to use more than one appliqué fabric which is kind of fun as well.

So are you ready to see how I made these appliqué sweatshirts?  Here we go!

How to appliqué on a sweatshirt



Prepare your appliqué fabric

Before you appliqué anything, it’s always a good idea to wash your garment and your appliqué fabric. If these two items shrink at different rates then your resulting project will have an ugly puckered look.

In addition to washing my and drying the clothing and the appliqué fabric, I also fuse a piece of HeatnBond Lite on the back of each piece of appliqué fabric. Then, I peel away the paper backing. The HeatnBond Lite helps prevent fraying of the appliqué fabric. It also has kind of a clingy texture that helps the appliqué fabric stick when you float it on the garment.

Determining the center of your design.

The first thing I do when I’m trying to position a design in the upper center of a t-shirt or sweatshirt is to simply lay out the t-shirt or sweatshirt and stick a pin in the front where I want the center of the design to be. I use a ruler to help me visualize where the top and bottom of the design will hit if I center it in different spots.

positioning appliqué on sweatshirt

Next, I turn the sweatshirt inside out and fuse a piece of fusible poly mesh (at least an inch larger than the total size of the appliqué) on the inside of the sweatshirt centered on the pin that is poking through. Then I draw a horizontal and vertical line on the fusible poly mesh through the pin.

positioning fusible poly mesh on inside of sweatshirt

Preparing the embroidery hoop

You are now ready to prepare your embroidery hoop.  Hoop a piece of sticky back tear away stabilizer. Make sure that it is securely locked into the hoop. Then score around the inside edge of the hoop using a pin to create a tear in the paper topping of the stabilizer. Peel away the paper to expose the sticky surface of the stabilizer. Use a disappearing ink pen to draw a horizontal and vertical line through the center of the hoop.

marked center point on hooped stabilizer - appliqué on a sweatshirt

Position your sweatshirt on the hoop

With your sweatshirt still inside out, fold the sweatshirt in half along the vertical line you drew on the fusible poly mesh. Then align the fold to the vertical line on the hooped stabilizer. Press the folded sweatshirt onto the sticky back stabilizer. Gently unfold the sweatshirt, sticking the rest of the embroidery area down on the sticky surface of the stabilizer.

folding sweatshirt onto hooped stabilizer for appliqué

Push the sweatshirt material out of the way so that the front center of the sweatshirt is exposed and clear for you to start stitching out the design. Before you start embroidering, lay down a piece of water soluble topper over the front of the sweatshirt.

water soluble topper on top of sweatshirt prior to appliqué

Stitching out the placement line

While every appliqué pattern is different, most begin by stitching out a placement line. This placement line shows you where to lay out your appliqué fabric. Stitch out this first thread color, and when it is done, lay your appliqué fabric over the placement line – completely covering the entire stitching.

placement stitching for letter appliqué on sweatshirt

Stitching out the tack down stitching

The next round of stitching is intended to tack down the appliqué fabric to the sweatshirt. Start stitching out this thread color to secure your appliqué fabric in place.

tack down stitching for letter on appliqué sweatshirt

Trimming the fabric

When this is done, remove the hoop from the embroidery machine and trim away the outside areas of your letter using appliqué scissors. If you were stitching out a letter that has an enclosed shape, you will want to strategically remove that appliqué fabric in the enclosed area as well.

trimmed appliqué letter

Final satin stitching

Return your embroidery hoop to your embroidery machine and continue stitching out the pattern. The next thread color will be the finished satin stitching around the letter. You will see that it does not fully encompass the entire outline of the letter. Some areas do not have satin stitching because these are spots where the flower appliqué will go.

satin stitching around letter appliqué

Repeating the process with the flowers

The next thread color is the placement stitching for the flowers. When this is done, position your flower appliqué fabric over these outlines. While you can use two separate pieces of appliqué fabric for the two separate flowers, just be careful because as a machine travels it might knock one of the smaller pieces out of the way. You might just want to use one large piece of appliqué fabric to cover both of flowers.

flower applique fabric floated on sweatshirt

Start stitching the next thread color. This is the tack down stitching for the flowers. When this is done, remove your embroidery hoop from your machine and trim around the outside of the flowers.

Return your embroidery hoop to your machine and start the next thread color which is the satin stitching for the flowers. And finally, the last thread color is the centers of your flowers. You will likely want to change your thread color here. I deliberately chose a different thread color that brought out one of the colors in the letter appliqué fabric.

Cleaning up your appliqué sweatshirt

At this point you are done. Simply remove the hoop from the machine and peel away the fusible poly mesh from the tear away stabilizer. Trim your jump stitches on the front of your design and pick away any excess water soluble topper. On the inside of the sweatshirt, you may want to trim away any excess fusible poly mesh

All done!

And that is it. Your personalized appliqué sweatshirt is ready to be wrapped and given to the lucky recipient.

letter appliqué on sweatshirt

Other appliqué letter sets perfect for single initial appliqué sweatshirts

Single initial appliqué sweatshirts are not just for a little girls. There are many other styles of appliqué letters that would work for a boy sweatshirt as well. Here are some of my favorite appliqué letter designs.

Christmas appliqué letters

Looking for a Christmas themed appliqué to make a personalized sweatshirt just for the holidays? Well check out this Christmas tree appliqué letter set. Stitch it out on a solid colored sweater and you have a festive holiday outfit.

Script appliqué letters

If you are seeking a “Laverne” style  or personalized sweatshirt – check out this script appliqué letter set. Adorable.

Curly appliqué letters

Want to spell out a whole word in a fun curvy appliqué font? These swirly appliqué letters come in both upper and lowercase.

Raw edge appliqué letters

Here’s a super quick way to personalize a sweatshirt. Raw edge appliqué letters have a fun and casual look.

Appliqué letters with bow

The ultimate girly appliqué design… this set has a bow integrated on every appliqué letter.

Collegiate appliqué letters

A perfect design for a letterman jacket look. This collegiate style double layer appliqué is super sporty and a bit retro.

Feeling inspired?

The personalized sweatshirts you make are sure to be adored by the kids in your life. Plus, whenever you see it on them, it will surely make you smile.

Happy stitching!

XO –


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how to appliqué on a sweatshirt

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