Theme Overshirts & Tees


Project Overview

We all love quick, easy projects that don't require construction. This is the most fun one yet! Make a shirt for every season and every holiday using ready-to-wear deniim shirts. Joyce shows us how to turn any plain shirt into a special one-of-a-kind wearable. These shirts make great gifts. Make several at a time while you're at it! Every year the fabric companies introduce wonderful theme fabrics. We all buy them, but then we just admire them! Let's get going and turn those great fabrics into fun and special shirt/jackets! Make a matching tee-shirt to go underneath and you are truly coordinated! Sometimes we just have fabrics that are too pretty to cut up into small pieces, like the incredible horse fabric below. Showcase them on a shirt. It's fun, fast and inexpensive! How about making matching ones for the grandkids, too!

About the Artist

Joyce Drexler
Instructor, Artist, Quilter, Author, Designer and
Executive Vice President of Sulky of America, Inc.

Joyce is widely recognized as a leader in the field of "Machine Arts and Crafts". Her books have sold well over 600,000 copies. Joyce has been published in numerous magazines and she appears regularly on PBS TV Programs. Joyce also illustrated her own designs to create embroidery cards for Cactus Punch and Great Notions.

In 1999, Joyce received the prestigious "Schmetz Golden Needle Award" in acknowledgement of her significant contributions toward enhancing the future of the sewing industry.


  • Edge Foot, Clear All-Purpose Foot or Open-toe Appliqué Foot
  • Machine Needle Size 90/14
  • 3.0 Regular Twin Needle Size 90/14
  • Felt Pads for Spool Pins
  • Embroidered Sewing Machine Motifs
The "Quilting Theme Overshirt" was done with South Sea Imports - M&M Fabrics
  • 3/4 yd. Overall Quilted Fabric
  • 1 Pillow Panel for Appliquéd Hearts
  • 1/8 yd. Small Heart Print
  • 1/4 yd. Quilt Pattern Strip
  • 1/4 yd. Quilt Label Fabric
  • Denim overshirt and Tee-Shirt - Navy or Tan - in your size
  • Steam-A-Seam 2™ - double sided fusible web
  • Teflon and Cloth Pressing Sheets
  • Iron and Pressing Pad
  • Rotary Cutter, Ruler and Mat
  • Fine-line, Permanent-Ink Marker
  • White Chalk Marker
Sulky Threads and Stabilizers
  • For Embroidered Scissors - Sulky Sliver™ Metallic Thread #8001 Silver
  • For Twin Needlework - Sulky Metallic Thread #7029 Silver/Rose/Jade or #7027 Cran/Gold/P. Green
  • Sulky 40 wt. Rayon Embroidery Thread for Pin Cushion - #1005 Black, #1169 Bayberry Red
    For machine - #1219 Gray, #1137 Yellow-Orange, #1056 Med Tawny Tan, #1005 Black
  • Sulky totally Stable™ Iron-on Stabilizer
  • Sulky Solvy™ Water Soluble Stabilizer
  • Sulky KK 2000™ Temporary Spray Adhesive
  • Sulky Sticky™ Stabilizer

Make Your Templates Using Totally Stable Iron-on Stabilizer

  1. Rough cut a piece of Totally Stable 2" - 3" larger all around than the yoke area of a ready-made shirt. Smooth out yoke on ironing surface, place fusible (shiny) side of Totally Stable down on yoke area, and lightly iron (no steam) it in place using the point of the iron to define flat felled seam perimeters. Push the point of the iron against the inside raised seams to creat an indentation in the Totally Stable. Label (back yoke, right front yoke, etc.) with a fine-line, permanent-ink marker.

    To indicate where to cut the outside edges of the fabric print (Overall Quilted Fabric Print), use the permanent marker again to draw lines on the Totally Stable where the flat felled seams start.

  2. Carefully peel up the Totally Stable without tearing it; draw a 1/4" seam allowance out from and all around the indented area, then trim away the rest. Repeat this process for all yoke areas that require a cutting pattern.

Lightly Re-Iron the Totally Stable Yoke Pattern Onto the Right Side of the Theme Fabric

Because you can see through the Totally Stable, you can move it around over the RIGHT SIDE of the Overall Quilted Fabric Print until you are satisfied with what is included. Lightly iron in place. On a cutting mat, cut along the added 1/4" seam allowance line.

Press again


Peel off

Decide to Fuse Fown the Yoke Theme Fabric temporarily - or - permanently

For a soft feeling shirt that is temporarily fused down use Sulky KK 2000.

Lightly spray KK 2000 onto the wrong side of the yoke fabric print, turn under the 1/4" seam allowance on one of the longest edges, and finger press it into the KK 2000.

Line up the folded edge (adhesive side down) over the matching edge of the yoke on the shirt. Smooth in place. turn under the opposite long side, adjusting how much is turned under to make it fit snugly against the flat felled seam of the shirt.

Repeat process for all yoke areas.

Use an iron-on fusible web for a permanently fused effect that will make the shirt slightly stiffer.

Iron Steam-A-Seam 2 double-sided fusible web onto the wrong side of the yoke fabric print, turn under the 1/4" seam allowance on one of the longest edges. Finger press.

Line up the folded ede (adhesive side down) over the matching edge of the yoke on the shirt. Smooth in place. turn under the opposite long edge, adjusting how much is turned under to make it fit snugly against the flat felled seam of the shirt.

Repeat procedure for all yoke areas.

Edge Stitch Around the Yokes

Thread the top with Sulky Metallic #7029 Silver/Rose/Jade (or with whatever thread you intend to do the twin needlework later). Thread the bobbin with a Sulky 40 wt. Rayon thread that matches the inside of the overshirt. Place the Edge Foot on the machine. Choose straight stitch, needle down position. Change the width to 1.0 which should move the needle to the left. Stitch around the yoke theme fabric, being certain to tie-on and tie-off at the beginning and end by taking several stitches in place.

Prepare the Shirt for Crosshatch Twin Needlework

Smoth the back of the overshirt on a flat working surface. Using a quilting ruler, line up the 45° angle along the bottom flat felled seam of the yoke, positioning it so you can draw a straight line (with a white chalk marker) from the top right corner of the shirt down to the left-hand bottom edge. Draw another line from the left top corner of the back of the shirt down to the right-hand bottom.

Insert the 3.0 twin needle and attach the clear all-purpose foot or open-toe appliqué foot. Using both spool pins, thread the top of the machine with two spools of Sulky Metallic #7029 Silver/Rose/Jade (or your choice of type and color of Sulky Thread). To create a 1" grid, place the quilting guide on the foot, measuring 1" from the needle.

Begin Crosshatch Twin Needlework

Using the white chalk line as a guide, begin twin needle straight stitching from the top right-hand corner of the shirt, just below the french seam line, to the bottom left-hand edge. Remember to always tie-on and tie-off. Cut the bobbin thread after each row before beginning to stitch again at the top of the shirt.

Line up the quilting guide on your previous row of stitching and stitch another line from the top to the bottom of the shirt. Repeat this process, extending line of stitching to front of shirt. Do not stitch over the pockets, collar, sleeves or yokes.

When you have completed the twin needle stitching in one direction throughout the shirt, use the white chalk line that extends from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner to twin needle stitch in the other direction. Use the quilting guide to continue stitching throughout the shirt until it is finished.

Add Turned-edge Appliqués

Machine Setup:
  • 90/14 denim or embroidery needle in machine
  • Edge foot
  • Straight stitch
  • Far left-hand needle position

For the front of the shirt, cut out printed motifs from a fabric print, leaving a 1/4" to 1/2" seam allowance around the print.

Joyce used:

  • a quilting design print from Mumm's Christmas Fabric
  • a basket design filled with fabric heart motifs
  • quilt label motif with sayings

Think about how you want your overall collage to look. Joyce likes to slightly overlap design elements while positioning and lining them up with the crosshatch stitching rows or the flat felled seams around the pocket, but you can choose any arrangement that pleases you.

Lightly spray KK 2000 on the wrong sides of your appliqué fabrics or apply the 2-sided fusible web, Steam-A-Seam2. Turn under the seam allowance on the two longest edges first; finger press. Then turn under the two shorter sides and finger press. Position on shirt.

Once you have all the pieces placed, try on your shirt and see how the appliqués look. Because KK 2000 is a temporary adhesive you can reposition the appliques until you are satisfied with their placement. Move them if you have them too close to the armholes. When you are happy with your layout, use Sulky Metallic or Variegated Multi-color Rayon to edge stitch the bottom-most appliqué piece first. Repeat edge stitching the remaining appliqués on the front of the shirt. Or try the ragged look and fray the edges like the Halloween Shirt.

Solvy Appliqué Turning Method

On the back of the shirt, add a series of three large hearts using the "Solvy Turning Method". Place Solvy over the right side of the Heart Pillow Panel Fabric. Using sewing thread in the needle and the bobbin, straight stitch all the way around the outside design line of three of the hearts. Turning the seam allowance to the back is easy with Solvy - clip around the curved parts of the hearts, make a slit for the Solvy, and turn the Solvy to the back of the heart. Use a point turner to poke out the point at the bottom of the heart. Use the rounded end of the point turner to round out the top of the heart. Once you are satisfied with your turning job, cut away the center part of the Solvy. Press each heart.

Lightly spray the back of each heart with KK 2000. Overlap the first heart over the yoke slightly. Line up the second heart with the twin needle stitching. Place the third heart at a different angle. Edge stitch the hearts in place using the Edge Foot and Sulky Metallic #7029 in the needle and, in the bobbin, Sulky Rayon Thread to match the inside of the shirt.

On the T-Shirts, Joyce used Steam-A-Seam 2 to fuse down large grouped prints that coordinated with the overshirt prints, then she edge stitched them.
Raggedy Ann and Andy created by Loretta Durian on the Bernina 180 Artista using the "Studio Bernina Deco" Card, enlarged 125% and K.P. kids fabrics by South Seas Imports.

Optional: Add Computerized Embroidered Motifs

Machine Setup
  • 90/14 embroidery needle in machine
  • Embroidery Attachment
  • Use a Quilting Foot over Puffy Foam
  • Reduce pressure
  • For the Sewing Motif Shirt Joyce Used Viking Emboidery card #7


When doing computerized embroidery, adhere a piece of Sulky Sticky under the outer ring of the embroidery hoop that attaches to the machine.

Place a piece of scrap fabric over the Sticky to make a test design.

Select the Sewing Machine Design.

Thread the top with a Sulky 40 wt. in an appropriate color.

Put the same Sulky 40 wt. color in the bobbin or use Sulky fine polyester Invisible Thread in the bobbin.

Stitch out practice test design.

Carefully tear or cut away the design from the Sticky, leaving the rest of the Sticky still stuck onto the hoop.

Place the hoop with the Sticky (that has a hole where the sewing machine motif once was) over the right side of the shirt pocket, lining it up carefully where you wish to stitch it on the shirt; place a pin on the shirt where the bottom of the motif will be when stitched. Add a small piece of Sticky behind the open hole in the hooped Sticky. Fold the shirt back to where the pin is and line it up with the bottom of the torn hole area of the sticky. Smooth the shirt over the hoop so it sticks to the Sticky Stabilizer Embroider.

Repeat procedure for each embroidered motif, staying away from flat felled seams in shirt or pocket.

Make a theme label for your shirt.

Add Computerized Embroidery for Your Theme Shirts

The theme fabric for the shirts below are Nature Scapes Fabric Print by P & B Fabrics. Top left: "Jungle Cats" by Joyce Drexler features beautiful Sulky Computerized embroidery created using Amazing Designs™ Zoo Animal Collection !, Card #AD1038, the Smart Sizer™ and an Esanté. Crosshatch Twin Needlework features Sulky 40 wt. variegated Dark Browns. Bottom left: "Elephant Theme" by Lorette Durian features Sulky Rayon Thread stitched on a Bernina Deco™ Embroidery Machine using Card #30 "Wild Jungle Animals". Crosshatch Twin Needlework stitched with Sulky "Sliver" Metallic. Top right: "Baby Suzy Goes Sailing" by Joyce Drexler features fabric prints by K.P. Kids for South Seas Imports. enlarged 150% and embroidered with Sulky Rayon Threads on the Bernina Artista using "Suzy's Zoo® Babies" embroidery card. Crosshatch Twin Needlework stitched with Sulky #8020 Multi-color Sliver Metallic. Bottom right: "Zebras on the Run" by Joyce Drexler features designs from Amazing Designs™ Card #AD1038, enlarged using the Smart Sizer™and stitched on an Esanté. Crosshatch Twin Needlework was done using Sulky #8011 Lt. Copper "Sliver" Metallic.


No Embroidery Machine?
Then Feature Fabric Prints, Appliqué and Free-Motion Embroidery or Quilting.

Top left: "Wild Hoses" by Patti Lee features a quilted horse print done free-motion on a P & B Nature scapes Fabric. She used Sulky 40 wt. #2242 Red/Goldblue Multi-Color for Quilting and 1/2" Crosshatch Twin Needlework. The following shirts were designed by Joyce Drexler - Bottom left: Halloween Theme Print with fabric by K.P. Kids for South Sea Imports. Crosshatch Twin Needlework was done using Sulky 30 wt. #1177 Avocado. Top right: Features M&M Santa Fe Fabric Prints. Bottom right: Appliquéd Lighthouses features a lighthouse print. Crosshatch twin Needlework was done using Sulky 40 wt. #2242 Red/Gold/Blue Multi-Color. Sailboat embroidery, by Nancy Cone, on the T-shirt becomes the perfect match for the Lighthouse Overshirt; it was embroidered on the Bernina Artistausing a built-in embroidery feature.