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How to use vinyl to embellish clothes

Updated on September 13, 2012

Embellishing with heat transfer vinyl

Embellishing with heat transfer vinyl
Embellishing with heat transfer vinyl | Source

Heat Transfer Vinyl Great embellishing option

Ever wondered what those interesting motifs and designs on your favorite Tshirt is made of? ME too. Only recently I found out that this slightly rubbery texture often found on Tshirts and tops is made of vinyl, more specifically heat transfer vinyl. After the recent introduction of computerized cutters this material has become available to individual crafters. However, very few people realize that this material can be easily used without any sophisticated machinery. With a small piece of vinyl and a pair of scissors and an iron anyone could create beautiful designs on all kinds of clothing items ( except nylon clothing). Here's a tutorial to get you started.


supplies for vinyl embellishments
supplies for vinyl embellishments


Heat transfer Vinyl ( I got mine from here:


Iron ( with steam turned off)

A scrap piece of quilting weight cotton fabric or a handkerchief

Cut a 1 inch square piece from the vinyl

Cut it into a heart shape.

Place it shiny side up onto the desired location on the clothing you want to embellish.

Cover the piece with a scrap of fabric. Make sure that you don't displace the motif while you cover it.

Turn off the steam on your iron. Heat it to the maximum the clothing can withstand.

Place it on the scrap covering the motif. Let it sit there for half a minute or the max time clothing can tolerate.

Remove the iron and the scrap covering the motif. Now poke a corner of the motif to see if you are able to peel out the plastic film covering the vinyl. In the above pic, plastic film on the heart at the bottom is being peeled. If you find that the whole motif is coming out when you poke, then the vinyl hasn't been fused properly. In that case cover it back with the scrap and iron again.

Congrats! you have successfully fused your first vinyl motif on a clothing now repeat with as many pieces as you want. Enjoy!

Notes on selecting motifs for handmade vinyl designs

While you can make a lot of custom designs without any sophisticated machinery, there are a few designs that would be too difficult or tedious to hand-make with Vinyl. Here are some of the things I keep in mind while choosing a design:

The big bold shapes work better than small intricate pieces. So I am more likely to choose a square or a rectangle over a damask or a paisley pattern.

  1. Its difficult to get precision on symmetrical things when cutting by hand. The more free-form your design is, the less error prone it is. Meaning bird, flowers, tree shapes all good, making a ruler, clock, bridge not so much.

  2. You can cut in between a shape, but it is difficult to do it with precision, so make most of your designs on the basic shape of the object and keep the cut-work to a minimum.

Have you ever made anything with heat transfer vinyl, what was your experience like. Share with us in comments.


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