by Misty Huber  

A few special details are where you can really add personality to your pieces. Practice constraint, however, and always start with a design plan in mind to keep your design from looking amateurish.

  • Buttons

For ultimate effect, choose unusual or interesting buttons, they give clothing a more couture look. You want thread that will either match the clothing or the button.  Cut off about 15 inches of thread, and place your button where you want it to be sewn on. Thread and knot your needle, then push your needle through the back of the garment, up through the button hole, so that the knot is on the underside of the button.

After you’ve pulled it all the way through, push the needle back through the opposite buttonhole and down back through the garment. Repeat this several times to be sure you have enough thread to hold the button steady.  On the last pull-through, double knot the end, again on the underside of your fabric.

  • Sequins

Use a metallic thread that matches the sequin color, then knot the end and pull it through as if you were sewing on a button (see above). The only difference is that you won’t be able to bring the thread through as many times, two or three times maximum. If this seems like too much work, look for thread that already has sequins attached to it. Add sequins of different sizes, but in the same color family. Make it original by doing an ombré color theme.

  • Crystals, rhinestones and mirrors

The Bedazzler may have taken some heat in the past couple of years, but adding some sparkle to your designs can actually inject major drama. The wrong answer is to add rhinestones of a rainbow of colors haphazardly to your cat sweatshirt. These items belong on going-out and evening wear, and there are few exceptions.

Choose embellishments that have a flat back, and essentially you can just glue them on with fabric glue. If the crystals or mirrors are beads, meaning they have holes on either side, you can also handsew them on, just see below in the beading section.

  • Beads and pearls

Because beads are so small, it can be quite time-consuming to add them individually, which is why beaded garments can cost so much. You don’t want to have start over on this project, so start by drawing a pattern on tissue paper so that you can transfer it to the fabric (can pin the paper directly to the fabric) so you know exactly where you’re putting each bead. When you’re done, you can just gently tear the tissue paper off of the fabric without damaging a single stitch.

Start with about 24 inches of thread. Even if you have more than a few beads you are putting on at a time, so you can remember to keep tying them off. Knot it at the end, and then pull the needle through the underside of the fabric, through the bead, out the other side, and back through the garment. If beads are close together, you can come right back up from the back and go through the next bead. Finish by double-knotting the thread again on the underside of the fabric.

Make it original by looking beyond glitzy beads into items that people could have for daywear, such as wooden models.

  • Appliqué

Cut the appliqué piece if needed, and sew the edges if necessary to give it smooth borders. Place the applique where you want it to go, and then either sew it with a sewing machine or do a straight hand stitch. You may need to use a denim needle if your appliqué is thick, such as embroidered lace. Use a thread that matches the appliqué.

If you want the look without stitches, for example if you are adding flat material to flat material, you can also use fusible web, which is similar to a tape, that will melt pieces of fabric together when ironed, and you can do this directly onto the garment.

Make your appliqué original by adding two pieces of fabric over top of each other, or topping with beading or other embellishment.

  • Embroidery

Don’t think of this as grandma stuff, you can embroider any design (as whimsical or avant-garde as you choose) with this easy method. Just draw your design on a piece of tissue paper using colored pencils to designate where thread color changes. The trick is that you need to draw the mirror image of how you want it to appear on the front of the garment.

Pin the paper to the underside of the garment—on the opposite side of the fabric where you want the design to appear. Stitch directly over top your drawn lines, I suggest a split stitch. When finished knot your thread on the underside of the garment. Gently rip the paper away to reveal your design!