Making & Sewing Embellished Patches on a Shirt to Upcycle It

I hate waste. I hate the idea of something going to a landfill that is perfectly useful.

And this leads me to do some weird stuff in the spirit of not wasting anything useful ever, including painting shoes with acrylic paint to cover up how scuffed they are, or hand-dying a shirt that I spilled chocolate ice cream all over and stained.

I’m the same way about holes in clothing.

I’ve never seen why you should get rid of a shirt with a hole in it, not if it’s a seam that’s come apart or a hem that’s gotten a bit sketchy. That stuff is easy to repair.

But holes on the surface of a shirt, you know, the looks like your dog chewed on it because it had food stuck to it and thought it was a treat kind of holes, those are a challenge.

That was until this weekend when my husband washed a new (new!) shirt of mine, and it got partially eaten by the washer. Then I turned my attention to how the shirt could be salvageable, even with holes in it.

Here is the shirt in question from the back:


A close-up of the holes on the back:


There was also a smaller hole on the pocket in the front.

I decided to cover them all up with some homemade patches because patches seemed like the most likely way to cover them successfully.

Also, I’ve always loved this quote from Thoreau that reads:

No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.

So I made my own patches to cover the holes and embellished them with some ribbon.

And you know what? The patches I made are awesome. They are awesome and now the shirt is even more magical than it was before it got eaten.


It’s like the Harry Potter of shirts.

I just love it so much now.

I would thank my husband if I wasn’t still annoyed with him.

To make the patches, I gathered the following supplies:

  • shirt with holes
  • acrylic paint
  • paintbrushes
  • flannel
  • ribbons
  • thread in colors of paint and ribbons
  • sewing needles
  • pins
  • scissors

Next, I chose fabric for the two patches.

I decided to use some light blue flannel I had laying around from a mountain bluebird costume I made for my character for the Ghosts & Projectors Poetry Brothel a few years back.

I elected to paint the flannel a green color since painting it would make it stiffer and easier to work with.

I chose to blend three acrylic paints to get the green I wanted.


Once I blended them together, I painted them onto a strip of flannel that was about 12 inches by about 4 inches.


I let it dry overnight.

Then I flipped the fabric over. I trimmed off the edges that the paint didn’t saturate, then cut it into two squares.

I folded one of the squares in half on the diagonal and then cut out a heart shape, being careful to make it bigger and wider than what I wanted the final patch to be. Then I started shaping it by cutting a little off the side or the top until I had the shape I wanted.

I did the same for the second square.

I placed one of the heart patches over the holes on the back, making sure the patch was centered over the holes, and then pinned it in place.


I sewed along the entire outside of the heart using tiny stitches in green thread.

I took a length of pink and red ribbon, and sewed it onto the outline of the heart in red thread, tracing over the stitching.

Here is a shot of the holes from inside the shirt now that the patch is over them.


It totally worked!

For the tiny hole on the front, I stitched along the outside edge of the other cutout heart as I did before, only this time I sewed the ribbon around the outside of the heart instead of over the top of the stitching.

Then I sewed a second layer of ribbon inside the first so that the edges just touched the outer ribbon.


Here is what the shirt looks like on now that it’s finished:

So that’s one shirt that won’t be wasted even if it was covered in holes.

I’m pretty happy about this.

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