Personalized Birthday Present

They say the Navy world is small; people you know now have a way of popping back up and crossing paths with you in the future.  Well, sometimes I think the whole world is small!  With all the places we’ve been and lived, it turns out that one of the first friends that I made when we first moved to Florida from Canada (19 years ago) lives about an hour and a half away from us now in St. Simon’s Island.  It’s been fun to reconnect with each other, now that we’re so close.  Last year, about 3 weeks after Peach was born, Kristen and her husband adopted a sweet baby girl, Macie Kate, and just like Peach, her first year has just flown by!  We headed up to Georgia to celebrate her birthday, and of course, I couldn’t just buy her a gift from the store… I had to make something sweet and special for this amazing little girl!  I appliqued an original design with her initials, where I incorporated a 1 into the K, onto a shirt, added some cute flutter sleeves, and then made a pair of ruffled jeggings to go with it.


I thought my design was pretty ingenious! It’s super easy to incorporate a 1 into initials.


  • T-shirt, long or short sleeved
  • Pair of jeggings
  • 1/4 yd accent fabric (increase to 1/2 yd if you’re making it for a bigger kid)
  • Heat N Bond Lite
  • Fusible web
  • Tearable stitch-on interfacing
  • Coordinating thread

I’ve only appliqued on a t-shirt once, for Monster’s 2nd birthday, and I wasn’t 100% pleased with the results.  I used regular interfacing to stabilize the stretchy knit fabric, but it still pulled a little still when I sewed, and now that it’s been washed about 100 times (because the kid loves dinosaurs, what can I say?), the interfacing is starting to pill and get lumpy.  So this time, I decided to use tearable stitch-on interfacing.  I would have preferred just to pin it in place so it would tear off super easily, but an 18m size shirt is so tiny, I knew it wouldn’t stay where I put it.  So I used a fusible web called Wonder Web to attach the interfacing to the shirt, and after I did my applique, just tore the interfacing off (carefully, so I didn’t stretch the shirt).  I made the “M1K” applique like I usually do:

  • Draw the design backwards on the paper side of the Heat N Bond Lite
  • Iron it onto the fabric
  • Cut it out
  • Peel off the paper and iron to the shirt
  • Stitch around shape to secure
  • Tie knots to secure threads on the back – remember, this will be washed again and again, you don’t want it coming undone!

The backside of my applique with the sew-in interfacing (I’ve already tied and trimmed the applique threads)

You can probably see that the shirt I got is long sleeved.  Apparently, as soon as September hits it’s “cold weather season” for the stores… never mind that it’s 90 degrees outside still!  So that’s where I came up with the idea of adding a flutter sleeve – because that poor little girl would melt in long sleeves!  I got my inspiration here, but decided to make new sleeves out of my accent fabric instead of the sleeves I took off.  My inspiration for the pants came from here, but again, instead of knit, I used my accent fabric so it would all coordinate.

You need to start by prepping your shirt for its new sleeves.  CAREFULLY trim the sleeves off at the seam, but be sure to leave the serged part on the inside intact!  You want to cut as much of that sleeve fabric off as possible, because anything left over will show once you redo the sleeves.  This is also a good time to prep your pants – cut them about 2″ shorter than you want the finished leggings to be, parallel to the original hem.


I folded out the serged part so you can see what I’m talking about – leave it there! It helps you make a nice finished look later.

To start off, I cut out the fabric for the sleeves.  I cut 2 pieces that were 2″x8″ each, then trimmed them to curve for the sleeve shape I wanted (see photo below).  While I had the cutting board out, I also cut the ruffle fabric for the pants, which I made twice as long as the circumference of the bottom of the pants (after they were cut) and 2.5″ tall.  For my 18m pants, this ended up being 2.5″x16″… don’t forget to cut 2!


I started with 2 pieces 2″x8″, then cut a curve for the flutter sleeves

Both of the websites I got my ideas for the sleeves and leggings left the edges unfinished because they used knit fabric, which doesn’t unravel; cotton, however, will fall apart if you don’t do something.  So I pulled out my serger and put a pretty rolled edge on the outside of each piece of fabric.  Then, since I had it out, I thought I’d give ruffles a try on the serger!  They’re pretty easy to do on the sewing machine, but even easier on the serger, plus the inside edges won’t unravel with washing!  If you don’t have a serger, you can hem the sleeve and pant ruffles by turning the raw edge under and stitching on a regular sewing machine.

I threaded the serger for the standard 4-thread overlock.  Then, I cranked my stitch length and differential feed to the highest setting on the machine, and I just serged along the edge I wanted to gather.  It started to gather a little as I serged, but when I was done the edge, I trimmed one of the tails right to the fabric.  Then I used my tweezers to grab that inner top thread, and pulled it to gather the fabric.  It was super easy!


Top left: Stitch length maxed out. Top right: Differential feed maxed out. Bottom left: My sleeves and legging ruffles serged, with a rolled edge on one side and my gathering serging on the other. Bottom right: Pull the inner top thread to gather the ruffles.

To finish off the shirt, gather the flutter sleeves a little.  I gathered them so they were both about 4.5″ long.  With the shirt right-side-out, tuck in the serging from the original sleeve seam and pin the new sleeves inside at the shoulder, making sure any gathering threads will be concealed.  Start sewing at the armpit of the shirt, and finish the sleeve edge by tucking in the original serging and sewing close to the edge of the shirt.  Sew all the way around the arm hole, and backstitch at the starting point to secure.  Repeat for the other sleeve.


See why we had to cut as much of the sleeve fabric off as possible? That flutter sleeve looks so cute!

For the jeggings, gather the ruffled accents until they are the same length as the circumference of the pant legs.  Fold right sides together and sew along the raw edges to make a circle.  Then hold the ruffle up-side-down (still in-side-out) and insert the pant leg up into the ruffle so the gathered edge of the ruffle meets the cut edge of the pant leg; pin in place with the seams lined up, and use a narrow zigzag stitch to attach (as with the shirt, make sure your gathering threads won’t show when it’s flipped over).  Repeat for the other pant leg.

Ruffle Pants

Top: Ruffle loop with seam. Bottom: Line up the seam of the ruffle with the seam of the pant leg and sew below the gathering threads with a narrow zigzag stitch.

And that’s it!  This whole outfit took me about 3 hours from start to finish, and a lot of that time was spent obsessing over the applique design (have I mentioned I can’t draw?).


It turned out so cute, if I do say so myself!

One more thing before I sign off today: I want to stress prewashing your materials, especially if you’re making clothes that will be washed repeatedly.  I hate coming home from the store with everything I need to get started on a new project and having to take the time to wash everything (in this case it was fabric and the clothes), but I would hate to see all my hard work wasted when something shrank the first time it was washed!


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