Early Bird Applique Baby Shirt Tutorial

A very dear friend of mine is expecting her first baby next spring. I am always so excited when I am in need of a baby gift as it gives me an excuse to make the time to fit in some sewing. Plus, I don’t have little tiny babies of my own to make cute little clothing for any more, so it allows me to have some fun and get my creative juices flowing.

I taught myself how to appliqué when I was expecting my third child just a few years ago. I actually was never into crafting until then. It all started when I was in a store looking for some clothing for my girls and I saw a cute felt flower hair barrette. The practical, bargain shopping, wanna-be artist in me thought, “This would be super easy to make.” So, I gave it a try and was pleased to discover that it was quite simple and also surprisingly enjoyable. To my husband’s dismay, there was soon a rainbow of felt rectangles and thread floating from kitchen counter to coffee table in our house. I started thinking of different shapes I could make with the felt and new ways I could utilize it other than just for barrettes. I tried creating a shirt by sewing a felt elephant to a store-bought white Gerber Onesie. After a few failures, I did my homework and was able to figure out how to improve my technique. My creative side took over and soon I had lots of shirts for baby girls (and no baby girl to put in them). I wrapped some up as baby gifts and my new found love of crafting began to take on a life of it’s own. Soon I found myself writing a business plan, creating a logo , building an online store and after many late nights and early mornings at work, I was selling my shirts and barrettes in local stores. I was expecting a baby boy of my own that year and to make things interesting, I was the ONLY one who knew it was a boy. My husband didn’t want to know the baby’s gender, so for the first time in all three of our pregnancies, I found out and I had to keep it a secret from everyone so as not to spoil the surprise for my husband. The joy we both experienced on May 15, 2012 was one of the most spectacular moments of our lives.

So, enough about me, here’s what you’ll need to make an adorable bird appliqué baby shirt.

Applique Supplies

  • A shirt in your size of choice. Here I used a 3 to 6 month white Gerber Onesie.
  • Two small pieces of your choice of fabrics for the bird’s body and wing. I chose a light blue gingham and a polka dot fabric.
  • One very small piece of felt or other fabric for the birds beak.
  • A button for the bird’s eye.
  • Your choice of thread.
  • Needle and pins
  • Steam-A-Seam Fusible Web – you can find this at your local craft store. Joann Fabrics carries it, but I don’t believe Michael’s does.
  • Small cutting scissors that allow you to cleanly cut around tight corners. I love my blue Fiskars craft scissors for this project.

Step One:

Cut out two rectangles of Steam-A-Seam (SAS), about 5 or 6 inches square. One side of the SAS is paper and the other has a bumpy texture which, when ironed, melts and permanently sticks to fabric. You can place the SAS on the baby shirt to see about how big of a piece you need depending on how large you want the appliqué to be.

Next, on the PAPER side of one piece of the SAS, you will sketch the silhouette of a bird. On the second piece of SAS, sketch the shape of it’s wing. On the small piece of SAS, sketch a small triangle for the beak. I draw all of my designs free-hand, so I don’t have a pattern with perfect edges to give you. Just do your best and be creative. “There is no right or wrong, when you’re making art. Having lots of fun, is the most important part.” – Mickey Mouse.

Bird Silhouette

Step Two: 

If you haven’t already, give your fabrics a quick iron. It will make for a prettier finished product. Then, place the fabric you want to use for the bird’s body GOOD SIDE DOWN. It is very important you iron onto the BACK of your fabric. Place the SAS with the drawing of the bird up and the bumpy, glue side touching the fabric. Iron over the SAS, fusing the paper to the back of the fabric. Do the same for the wing and the beak.

Iron Applique

Step Three: 

Next you will cut out the shapes.

Cutting Out

ShapesStep Four:

Now, you will peel away the paper backing on each of your shapes and place the fabric shapes how you like them on the shirt. Next, iron them down.

Peel Away Paper

Bird AppliqueStep Five:

Next, you will sew on a button for the eye, and a few stitches for each leg. Then, I like to stitch around the border of the appliqué by hand. The stitches are not totally necessary as the Steam-A-Seam should stay in place without sewing down the edges, but I feel it makes it all look more finished. You could also do this with a machine, but I prefer the look of the larger stitches for a children’s piece.

Finishing TouchesStep Six:

I did not include a picture of it, but I almost always iron a square of interfacing web to the inside of shirt, behind the appliqué. You can find this at your local fabric store. It is a soft white fabric with a light glue on one side. It holds all the threads on the back of your appliqué in place to keep them safe for machine washing. Most importantly, it makes for a soft smooth surface against baby’s skin.

In just about an hour, you’ll have a super cute, unique shirt for your own baby or to give as a special, handmade gift. I’m excited to give this one to my dear friend.

Bird Applique Shirt


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