Make This:

Update A Sweater With Hand Stitching

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A lot of us have basics in our closet that do their jobs, but aren’t particularly interesting to wear. When London Times Fashion came to us for ideas about how to enjoy the new year by updating your wardrobe I knew this would be a great fit. It’s so easy to dress up boring looks with very little investment!

a basic sweater with pretty embroidery

a basic sweater with sequins stitched to it

This post is graciously sponsored by London Times Fashion.


Version 1: Contrast Stitching



– boring clothes – sweaters are my favorite to modify
– embroidery floss
– embroidery needle
– scissors

You can see how boring (but cozy) this sweater is!

I used embroidery floss for a few reasons. It’s cotton, so it holds up well on garments. You can find it in more than 100 colors. It’s smooth and easy to stitch. It’s cheap – a skein is usually about 50 cents, so it’s easy to dress up something boring for next to nothing!


Embroidery floss is made of 6 strands, and it’s meant to be divided. You can use from 1-6 strands, depending on how bold you want your lines. On a bulky sweater you’ll want all 6, on a finer gauge sweater like these you’ll want more like 2-3.


The stitch used is called back stitch. It’s a nice choice because it’s easy to make continuous lines, and it’s unlikely that you’ll gather up your fabric the way you can with a running stitch. You also do almost all of your stitching on the outside, which is nice when you’re working on a finished garment that might have tight areas. Click here for a back stitch diagram.

Thread the needle and tie an overhand knot near the end.

Stitch up through the sweater, try to go between threads instead of through them. I started near the shoulder seam.

Stitch in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Stitch into the fabric, then back out a stitch-length away. The length of the stitches is up to you – whatever you think looks nice on your project.

Pull the needle through, pulling the stitch up so it’s neat, but don’t over-tighten it.

Stitch into the fabric at the end of the first stitch, then out again another stitch-length away.

Continue in this stitch pattern until the line is the length you want.

I chose to give my lines a “fading” effect by stitching farther and farther apart at the end of the line. Make longer stitches on the back and short on the front to do this.

At the end of the line make an overhand knot to end the thread. If your sweater is loosely woven you may also want to tie that thread around the last stitch for extra security.

You can add lines like this wherever you want – I went with vertical lines down from the shoulder seam to draw attention to the face of the person wearing it. You could just as easily stitch the full height of the sweater, on diagonals, or in any other motif you like.

Version 2: Sequins or Beads


– boring clothes – sweaters are my favorite to modify
– embroidery floss
– embroidery needle
– scissors
– sequins or beads


You can use the same stitch to sew on sequins and beads. Check craft and fabric stores for interesting bits and bobs to sew on – and definitely check out the garment district if you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has one. I used some black sequins with an iridescent coating, some classic silver sequins, and some really special printed sequins that are black with little silver dots.

This sweater was epically dull – little more than a t-shirt, but made of incredibly soft lambswool so I really wanted to turn it into something that I could wear out on chilly evenings. I added sequins on the sleeves because I always have a bag on my shoulder (so no sequins there!) and keeping the glitz on the sleeves means I can throw a blazer over it and wear it somewhere professional for day-to-evening convenience.

On this sweater I started at the cuff of the sleeve and worked up toward the shoulder. Thread and tie the embroidery floss as before, then stitch up through the fabric a little above the cuff. Add a sequin.

Use that same backstitch, aiming for stitches long enoungh to give the sequins a nice overlap. If you stitch to the wrong place it’s relatively easy to pull the needle back through the fabric and try again (if it fights you just remove the needle and pull the thread through!)

Pull the thread up so it’s flat but don’t over tighten.

Continue adding sequins in the same way.

I made this row run all the way to the shoulder.

Start the next row in the same way.

I chose to add 5 rows as shown. I did the same on the other sleeve, but there are an infinite variety of ways you could add sequins or beads anywhere.

If you decide you don’t like your stitches, sequins, or beads anymore you can just carefully snip the threads on the inside of the shirt, gently remove them, and do something new!


This post is graciously sponsored by London Times Fashion. Check out their blog for lots of ways to make the new year a better year!