LEARN HOW TO MAKE TWO REVERSE APPLIQUE T-SHIRTS WITH MY STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL AND FREE TEMPLATE.
I was reminded the other day about these shirts my mom used to make. We would sew a piece of fabric to the inside front of the shirt, in a shape like a heart. Next, we would sew rows and columns to make squares that were on the inside of the heart. And finally, we would cut “x’s” into the squares to reveal the fabric we had sewn on the inside. I was so excited that I remembered these shirts and really wanted to make one for my daughter and share with you. I think this would be considered a style of reverse applique.
I’m going to show you two ways to make a reverse applique heart shirt. They are both very simple and easy to make. This is a great project for a beginner sewer, especially when starting out with knit fabrics.
Are you ready to make your own? Let’s get started! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.
Before we get started lets answer a few questions.
What is reverse applique?
Reverse applique is when you sew a shape onto two pieces of fabric that are stacked together. Then you cut away the top layer of fabric from inside the sewn shape, and it will reveal the fabric that is hidden underneath.
What are the different types of applique?
There are different types of applique techniques. There is machine applique, hand applique, fused applique, and reverse applique.
What is the difference between applique and reverse applique?
Applique is when you take a shaped piece of fabric and sew it on top of another piece of fabric. You can applique by sewing machine, by hand, or by fusing with something like heat n bond. Reverse Applique is when you sew two pieces of fabric together while making a shape. Then you remove the top layer of fabric to reveal the fabric hidden underneath.
What materials are used for applique?
The materials used for applique depend on the type of applique you are doing and the type of fabric you are using. In this case, reverse applique with knit fabric is very simple. You only need your knit fabrics, thread, scissors, and sewing machine, and a marking tool like a fabric marker.
What shapes can you applique?
You can applique any shape you’d like.
Now lets get to the fun part.
Quick links to information in this post
Material needed to make a reverse applique shirt
Traditional Reverse Applique Heart Shirt
Get all your supplies and prep
You’ll need a shirt, coordinating fabric, thread, scissors, a sewing machine, and a fabric marker or tailor’s chalk. I use the fabric marker on lighter colored clothes and the tailors chalk on darker clothes. Wash your shirt and your coordinating fabric and iron any creases.
Print and cut out your template
Print out the heart template. You can download my heart template by filling out the form at the bottom of this post. You will receive both heart templates for both the heart shirts in this tutorial. For the traditional reverse applique shirt, you’ll want the plain heart template, not the one with the grid.
Cut out your coordinating fabric
Cut your coordinating fabric to be slightly larger than your heart template. I aimed for one inch bigger on each side of the template. This will give you enough room so you don’t sew off the fabric, and it won’t be too bulky and get in your way.
Pin fabric to shirt
Place your heart template on the front of the shirt where you want the final heart to be. I put pins above and below my heart template so I could see where to place my coordinating fabric on the underside.
Then, turn the shirt inside out and center your coordinating fabric, face down, and pin it to your shirt. Try not to place pins where your going to sew. You can move pins around later if they are in the way.
Here I’m checking the placement of everything to make sure it’s in the right spot.
Trace shape onto front of shirt
After your coordinating fabric is pinned in place, turn the shirt right side out and trace the pattern of the heart shape onto the front of the shirt. I used my tailor chalk for this since I’m using a black shirt.
Sew the heart shape
Take your shirt to the sewing machine. With your shirt right side out, sew your heart shape, following the lines you traced. I started at the bottom point of the heart and made my way all the way around. Here is my shirt after sewing it. Trim your threads.
Trim the inside of the design
Now that the heart shape is sewn onto the shirt, you want to cut the inside of the heart out of the shirt, which will reveal the coordinating fabric underneath. I cut about an 1/8 inch from my seam. Make sure not to cut the coordinating fabric underneath.
This is what it will look like when the heart is cut out. I really like the ruffled fabric I used. It gives great texture and depth.
Trim excess applique fabric
Turn your shirt inside out again and trim the excess fabric from around your stitches so there isn’t any extra bulk.
Here’s my daughter showing it off. This would be a great Valentine’s shirt, but it’s also great for any time of year.
Clipped Heart Reverse Applique
This is a replica of the shirt I was talking about earlier that my mom had made me as a kid. I don’t remember what shapes we had made, but the idea is the same.
Supplies needed and prepping
You’ll need the same supplies as the shirt above. A shirt, coordinating fabric, matching thread, sharp scissors, a sewing machine, and a fabric marker or tailors chalk.
Print and cut out your template
Download the heart template with the form below. You’ll receive the heart templates for both shirts. They are slightly different because of how we are going to sew this shirt. Cut out the heart with the grid in the middle.
Cut out your coordinating fabric
Cut your coordinating fabric to be about one inch larger than your template all the way around. This will allow you to easily maneuver the shirt while sewing and reduce any bulk from excess fabric.
Trace the template
Place your template in the spot you’d like. I placed it in the middle of the shirt, but you could certainly place it wherever you’d like. Using a fabric marker, trace the outside of the heart. The fabric marker I’m using is water soluble, so it will come off with water. There are others that can come off with heat.
Then fold the heart on the farthest vertical line, place the heart back in place and trace down the line. Do this with all the vertical lines.
Repeat with the horizontal lines. This will give you your sewing guides. You will be sewing one inch squares in order to get the clipped heart or pixelated heart effect.
Pin the coordinating fabric in place
After tracing your template onto the front of the shirt, place a couple pins on top of the heart so you know where to place your fabric.
Turn your shirt inside out and pin your fabric into place. Try not to place pins in the way of the outside line of the heart so you don’t sew over them.
Sew the heart shape
Now turn your shirt right side out again and sew the outside of the heart first. Check your fabric periodically and make sure it is not bunching up underneath. You don’t want any puckering.
Then you can remove all your pins since the fabric is sewn into place.
Next, sew down all your vertical and horizontal lines. Make sure you back stitch at the beginning and end of each line so they don’t come unraveled.
Here’s what it looks like after it’s sewn and the threads are clipped.
Trim thread and fabric
After sewing, trim all your threads and excess fabric from the coordinating fabric. I also used a wet washcloth to take off the fabric marker. In hind sight, I should have waited until I was done clipping the shirt. I think having the fabric wet, made it a little difficult to handle.
Clip the t-shirt fabric inside the grid
Now we are going to clip “x’s” inside the squares and triangles that we made by sewing the vertical and horizontal lines. Here is a picture demonstrating where you want to cut. Where you have a square, you’ll be cutting an “x”. And where you have a triangle shape, you’ll be cutting a type of “T” shape. Make sure you are cutting the t-shirt fabric only and not the coordinating fabric underneath.
The best way to do this is place one had on top of the shirt and one hand underneath. Use both hands to pinch each fabric and pull them away from each other.
With the t-shirt fabric pinched, cut a small hole.
Then place one hand inside the shirt to hold the shirt flat and cut one line of your “x”, and then the other line. I hope these pictures can help illustrate for you.
Here is how I cut the triangle shapes. Still use both hands to pinch and cut the one line that goes to the corner.
Then cut right along the outside stitch of the heart to reveal the coordinating fabric.
I love this effect of reverse applique. It is very unique and stylish. I don’t know what the correct term for this would be. I couldn’t find anything similar. I would suggest washing it which will curl up the clipped parts of the t-shirt. The top and bottom parts of the squares will be the only ones that curl because of the direction of the grain. So it kind of looks like hour glass shapes. I think it’s pretty cool.
I love how these both turned out. They are both very simple to make. I would say the clipped heart shirt is a little more complicated, but still simple enough that a beginner could make it.
If you would like some other Valentine’s themed sewing projects, go check out my list of Free Valentine’s Sewing Projects.