A Step by Step Guide to Sewing On Letters


Personalising is a great way to bring a unique touch to something that you’re making because in a world where it’s easy to mass produce and throw away, people value items that are special and personal to them. I’ve used personalisation on the Gidsy & Jo Christmas stockings this year by sewing on initials in a colour scheme that matches my AW15 mood board. There are lots of ways you can sew on a letter but if you’d like to know the Gidsy & Jo way, here’s how.

1. Choose the right fabric

The key thing to cutting out and applying a letter is what fabric you choose to do it in. You really need a fabric that isn’t going to fray easily when you cut out the shape. Great choices are felt, fleece and if you choose the right kind, my personal favourite – cotton. Bad choices are going to be anything with a loose weave like linen because as soon as you cut it, it’s going to fray. I have found that if I paint a close weave cotton or calico with fabric paint that seems to stop the fraying even more. Painted cotton is what I’ve used for all of the letters on Christmas stockings this year.

2. Use a backing on the fabric

The next key thing you need to do is back your fabric with a special iron-on backing material. This is not too expensive to buy and it gives your chosen fabric a bit more weight and stability, as well as, in my experience, helping it not to fray. You can buy this backing material from Ebay (try here) and it comes in 3 different weights – lightweight, medium and heavy. You can choose from black or white (I like white) and from iron- on or sew-in. For this job, use iron-on because it has a fabric glue on the back of it which will literally melt and stick onto whatever it comes into contact with when you iron over it.

How to apply your backing fabric 

I back fabric before I’ve cut out my letter (trust me, it’s way easier). Cut a square of your letter fabric big enough for the letter to fit on comfortably and make sure it’s ironed and totally free of creases. Then cut a piece of backing fabric the same size. Place your letter fabric right side down on the ironing board and place your backing on the top, matching up as closely as you can. Make sure the glue side of the backing is facing down on top of the fabric!!! If not, as soon as you put the iron down on top of it, the backing will stick straight to the iron!! With the glue side face down, carefully iron across both layers on a low setting and use some steam. Not many people know this, but it’s actually the steam that makes the glue stick. Be VERY CAREFUL about your iron setting. Too hot and your backing will just dissolve into a gluey mess – to date I have wrecked a couple of irons this way : )


3. Make a template to trace your letter

You can easily make your own template for a letter shape by choosing any font you like on a pc and printing it out at the size you want it, or for simple capital letter shapes I go here. The straighter, simpler and larger the letter, the easier your job is going to be. If you use a fancy, twirly font, this is going to make cutting out and sewing your letters on much more difficult so expect to do a bit of practice before you can conquer the fancier shapes. Once your letter is printed out, cut it out carefully with a pair of paper scissors (don’t use the same scissors you use for cutting fabric because if you cut paper with those, they’ll get really blunt!) and lay it face down on the wrong side of your fabric (i.e. the side you have put the backer onto), then draw around your letter shape with tailor’s chalk or lightly with a pencil. Cut it out with your sharp fabric scissors.

4. Stitch

Make sure that the base fabric you are going to stitch your letter down onto is totally crease-free. Pin your letter onto the fabric to make sure it’s not going to slip around when you stitch it, then stitch about 0.5cm or less (if you’ve got skills 🙂 ) from the edge of the letter all the way round. I don’t bother to take the pins out as I go, I just stitch right over the top of them.

Hey presto! You’re finished and fully personalised up!

What are you making for Christmas? Leave me a comment or SIGN UP HERE to get more sewing and business tips for your craft work. 


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