Decorating & manipulating fabric (50+ techniques)

List of different fabric manipulation and other techniques you can use to make a stunning fabric with texture

make fabric with texture and pattern


I used to love crafts and painting when I was young. Then my attention turned to fabric and there was no looking back. For me, nothing even comes closer to fabric and sewing in exploring creativity.

Sewing allows me to play with color and do all the things I love and more; maybe more than what I could do when I was painting. What better way than sewing and embroidery and different easy to do fabric manipulation and other techniques to make the pretty textures on fabric – it is beautiful, economical and ticks all my creative boxes.

It is possible to add texture to the fabric in a million ways – ok not so much – but more than you can count – I am listing the basic techniques which you can expand and combine, mix and match – whatever you want to do in whichever way.

How to create texture and patterns on fabric

  • 1. Applique

Applique is the method of sewing pieces of fabric onto other fabric bases in beautiful designs. You can stitch the applique pieces by hand as well as by sewing machine.


Check out the tutorial on how to do Applique -12 different ways to do applique more details. Also check out the Hand applique tutorial and How to make applique letters tutorial


One very easy way to create your own pattern is to do applique with printed design motifs – the applique technique is called Broderie Perse. In this, printed motifs are cut and sewn on a plain or another printed fabric. Learn more about broderie perse applique work here.

borderie perse applique

Gota Patti work is an applique work in which you attach small metallic colored pieces on to base fabric for fabric texture.

gota patti work

  • 2. Patchwork

Patchwork is the method of sewing small pieces of fabric (patches) of different patterns and colours together to make a big fabric piece. This technique is also called piece work ; You can make stunning garments and accessories with patchwork fabric. Learn about the 10 different ways to join fabric pieces for patchwork


Relatd posts : How to sew a log cabin block ; How to sew a four patch block ; How to sew a star block ; How to sew pinwheel block; How to sew a heart block

  • 3. Hand Embroidery

This is the technique of decorating fabric with beautiful stitches made with embroidery thread or yarn. Hand embroidery techniques like Kantha embroidery, Sashiko Embroidery, Shadow embroidery, Chikankary embroidery all create unparalleled texture.


If you are a beginner to embroidery check out the post on how to embroider for more details. Do you know that there are more than 60 different embroidery techniques in existence (probably much more which I do not know about) and the different filling stitches you can make in hand embroidery to add texture? Check it out. The bullion stitch and french knots and other knot stitches are also great for texture.


Check out the 10 beautiful background hand embroidery stitches which are meant to give texture to the fabric.

Then there are the 12 types of  3D flowers you can make with embroidery. 

types of embroidery   filling stitches  3D embroidery flowers

  • 4. Beading/ Beadwork

Beads add glitter, texture and beauty to fabric. You can sew/glue beads to fabric.

Check out these posts : Different types of beads; How to make fabric beads; Different types of beadworkDifferent ways of doing bead embroidery on fabric; and on the basic beading stitches you can use to sew the beads and the one which tells you how to make 10 easy to do bead embroidery flower motifs.

different kinds of beads    how do do bead work

  • 5. Macrame

This is a technique of using knotting to make fabric with special macrame cords. You can use macrame to decorate your fabric or make the whole fabric with macrame. Here is a list of easy to make knots you can make with yarn/thread etc and add to fabric for that extra bit of texture which is knotty

Related posts : Macrame knots – Lark’s head knot; Double Half hitch knot; Square knot.

basic knots

  • 6. Fabric trims

You can sew the different types of fabric trims like ribbons, braids to the fabric to add texture to fabric.

Check out the different types of trims available and 20 different types of lace and lace trims and 15 different types of ribbons and the tutorial for sewing the trims.

Fabric trim

You can make your own fringe trims by following this tutorial here

make fringe trims

Check out this post to make your own 4-strand braid.; 3 strand braid; 5 strand braid; 7 strand braid

  • 7. Couching

This technique uses cords, threads and other materials which are then stitched on to the fabric surface. The thread is laid on the surface of the fabric in a pattern and it is sewn with small stitches by hand or by sewing machine.

Check out the posts on 4 ways to do couching for more details ; How to make your own cord – 5 ways

couching stitches

  • 8. Fabric painting

Fabric painting uses a specially formulated paint to make designs on fabric. You can use the fabric paint to add a dimensional effect to the fabric as well

fabric painting

Check out some important tips for doing fabric painting here as well as the 10 fabric painting techniques even a beginner can do

fabric painting

  • 9. Fabric Patches

Fabric patches are pieces of fabric embellished with embroidery, sequins, beads, fabric paint etc which are attached to fabric surfaces with glue or sewing or heat-activated iron-on adhesives; These are great for mending holes on clothes as well as decorating them.

Check out these posts – 10 ways of making fabric clothing patches and make beaded patches  and the 8 different ways to attach them on to clothes

diy clothing patches

  • 10. Printing on Fabric

Printing on fabric is a great way to add designs on your clothes. You can add any designs to the fabric without any sewing involved using your inkjet printer at home. Commercially there are many techniques for printing on fabric. Check out the post on inkjet fabric printing that you can do on your own. There are other ways in which you can transfer images/pictures/photos onto your fabric – check out the post on 6 ways to transfer photos to fabric

printing on tshirts

textile printing on inkjet printer

Check out the post on Fabric Block printing – A DIY guide for tutorial to do block printing at home. The post on T-shirt printing also has some interesting ideas.

Block printing on fabric

  • 11. Reverse Applique

This technique involves adding a layer of fabric underneath the base fabric and cutting away a portion of the base fabric in the shape of the design so that the fabric underneath is revealed. You can add multiple layers of fabric underneath for a beautiful effect. Here is a post to learn more about Reverse Applique.

embroider letter with reverse applique

  • 12. Monogramming

This involves embroidering the initials of a person’s name in a particular way and is a very popular technique of embellishing clothes and accessories to customize and personalize them. Check out the post on the different ways to create and add monograms to fabric, tips on embroidering letters and Monogramming rules for more details. Checkout this tutorial on designing your own letters for embroidery

 letters embroidered on fabric  how to make your own monograms

  • 13. Felting

Felting is a process by which wool fibers are agitated (by hand or by machine) to make fabric. Needle felting and wet felting are the two methods used to make the felted fabric. Felted fabric looks beautiful and can be used to make and decorate garments and accessories

felted balls

  • 14. Fabric Flowers

You can make beautiful flowers using fabric pieces to decorate your garments. The fabric scraps you have at hand if you have been sewing for some time can be transformed into beautiful almost real looking fabric flowers very easily. Find the tutorial to make 10 different types of fabric roses for more details. Also check out these posts on making flowers with felt; How to make DIY felt roses  and for making fabric flowers 

fabric flowers

Make rosettes


  • 15. Fabric bows

Fabric bows the same  way as fabric flowers add to the beauty of clothes.Check out the 7 different ways to make bows with ribbons and also as many as  8 ways to make fabric bows

fabric bows

  • 16. Faggotting

This is a technique for adding ribbons and lace trims to the fabric with pretty embroidery stitches. Hemmed edges of fabric panels are together or to trims with criss crossed stitches.Check out this post for more details on faggoting stitches.

  • 17. Insertion

You can add lace between fabric panels ; check out this post on different methods for lace insertion. Lace will add transparency and texture to smooth fabric and will transform the look of ordinary fabric surface. You can join fabric pieces together decoratively with insertion stitches – check out the two ways of doing insertion stitches here

different types of laces lace inserts

  • 18. Piping

Piping is a technique of adding a special type of trim which is made by inserting a cord inside a bias fabric strip.The piping is added to the seam as a decorative trim. Check out the post on making and sewing piping.

  • 19. Tucks

Tucks are folds in fabric that are sewn in place. Pintucks are my favorite. As the name suggests these are tiny folds that are sewn in place close to the fold. They contain the fullness of fabric as well as add texture. Pintucks are made using a pintuck foot and double-needle stitching.

Check out the posts on double needle stitching and Pintucks and other 9 types of tucks

  • 20. Sewing Machine Embroidery

You can use embroidery sewing machines to make incredible designs on your fabric. Learn more about sewing machine embroidery here

sewing machine decorative stitches

Free motion embroidery involves making embroidery designs using your regular sewing machine with a darning foot and hooped fabric. This easy to do embroidery can make some amazing embroidery patterns and great  texture as well. Check out the post on free motion embroidery for more details 

how to do embroidery with a regular sewing machine

  • 21. Rhinestones

Rhinestones are flat backed beads which can be sewn or glued on to the fabric to add sparkle to garments and accessories. Check out the post on different ways to add rhinestones to fabric

fix rhinestones

  • 22. Sequins work

You can add a lot of sparkle and texture by adding sequins to fabric (sew them or glue them) – Check out the 10 different ways of attaching sequins to fabric 

sequins on fabric giving texture

  • 23. Goldwork and zari work

Goldwork uses metal threads in gold and silver colour to make embroidery patterns on fabric. This is a beautiful embroidery technique. Zardosi work uses a special type of gold string to work the embroidery designs. The needle and thread are inserted through the hole in the zardosi strings and the work is completed like this. Check out the post on Zardosi embroidery work and the 10 basic embroidery stitches used and  12 types of metallic threads you can use for metallic embroidery 

sewing with metallic thread

  • 24. Ruffles

Ruffles are pleated or gathered fabric or trims used to decorate garments and accessories. Checkout this post on gathering fabric for more details. You can make them easily with a gathering foot or a ruffler foot

how to gather fabric into ruffles

  • 25. Decorative Edge Finishes

Edge finishes need not be boring. You can finish the fabric edges with embroidery loops or buttonhole stitches ; For easy edge finishing techniques checkout this post. And then there are the 8 different decorative edge finishes.

  • 26. Decorative Hem finishes

You can add beauty and texture to the hem of your garment in many ways. Checkout this post on the different types of hand hemming stitches for tutorials on this. Then there are embroidery hemstitching which adds a separate beauty to ordinary hems.

  • 27. Using roulette loops

Roulette loops are very thin fabric tubes made with fabric strips. You can easily make the roulette loops yourself and use it to decorate fabric.

lacing with fabric tubes

  • 28. Bobbin work

This is a technique of doing embroidery with thick threads in the bobbin. The work will appear on the underside of the fabric facing the needle. This is a wonderful way to add texture to fabric. Checkout the post on bobbin work  for more details

bobbin work

  • 29. Ruching

Ruching is basically gathering fabric so that there are patterned folds in the fabric; It is also called puffing in heirloom embroidery. Ruching is usually done along the bodice of dresses and sleeves along the centerline which is ruched creating attractive folds on either side of the center stitching line. You can ruche fabric by sewing the fabric with elastic. This is usually done with thin, sheer and transparent fabric as an overlay or a drapable cloth. Checkout the detailed tutorial for ruching fabric here.

ruching fabric for fabric texture

  • 30. Dyeing

Dyeing involves adding color to the fabric by way of soaking it in a solution of dye. You can dye a fabric fully or partially; Batik, tie and dye, shibori dyeing are all variations of dyeing fabric to bring about beautiful patterns on the fabric surface.

Check out these posts on dyeing clothes –

How to do tie dye ; 10 easy tie dye designs – tutorial on how to do them. ; Shibori Nui dyeing technique -3 ways ; Arashi shibori technique ; Shibori dyeing techniques

How to dye fabric with natural dyes ; 10 best dyes for fabric dyeing and How to dye clothes.

  • 31. Stamping

This is a variation of DIY block printing – you stamp on fabric surface with fabric laden stamps – you can DIY stamps or buy from stores. Fabric paint ink pads are also available.

Check out the posts on the 7 best stamping techniques and the best ink to use for stamping and a tutorial for making your own fabric stamps . If you like to make simple but beautiful stamps with potatoes check out this post “Potato stamp printing“.

potato stamp printing

  • 32. Smocking

Smocking involves stitching together gathered folds of fabric with pretty embroidery stitches in a definite pattern. Smocking is a means of controlling fullness as well as adding beautiful embroidery to the fabric.Checkout the post on smocking

how to do smocking

  • 33. Shirring

This is the technique of gathering fabric by using elastic thread in the bobbin. Shirring in parallel lines can produce beautiful texture to the fabric. Checkout the tutorial on the best way to do shirring .

shirred waistband

  • 34. Fabric origami

Fabric origami is making origami ornaments by folding fabric pieces in definite folding patterns. You can use this to decorate fabric.

  • 35. Ribbon embroidery

Ribbon embroidery is embroidery done with soft silk ribbons. You can make beautiful floral designs with ribbon embroidery. Checkout the different types of ribbons you can use as well as the post on the basic stitches used in the ribbon embroidery as well as 10 easy diy ribbon embroidered flowers (tutorials) .

tibbon embroidery flowers  ribbon embroidery

  • 36. YoYos

A fabric yoyo is a gathered circle of fabric pieceS with small running stitches. The resultant fabric yoyos which resemble flowers are great for decorating fabrics. There are many ways to make yoyos- even heart shaped ones. Check out the tutorial to make yoyos here.


Learn how to applique these yoyos on fabric so that they look incorporated into the fabric in this page – How to make yoyo applique fabric. This is the ultimate in texture.

  • 37. Decorative pleats

Pleats like box pleats, inverted pleats are all great ways of making the fabric look beautiful. Checkout the different types of pleats in the post here

pleated fabric

  • 38 Tassels

Tassels are loose threads gathered together at one end; They are great for embellishing the hems of scarves and shawls; Adding them to the end of drawstrings are common as well.

Checkout the different ways of making tassels on this post. The post on 8 ways to make bead tassels and other edge beading also is related.

make a tassel

make beaded tassels

  • 39. Mirror work

Attaching mirrors on fabric can make your fabric sparkle. Checkout the post on different ways to attach the mirror on to fabric. and the tutorials to stitch 10 simple mirror embroidery designs

mirror work stitches

mirror work designs

  • 40. Shrinking fabric

Shrinking different layers of fabric differently will produce texture on the face of the fabric. This technique is better detailed here 

  • 41. Adding textured fabric as accent features

When you have a garment with a smooth surface you can add texture to it by adding fabric pieces with texture like denim, pleather, leather, canvas, embroidered fabric to make yokes, collars or top hem of pockets, sleeve cuffs  etc.

There are so many readymade fabrics with wonderful texture – Out of these check out the 30 best textured fabrics here.

fabrics with texture

You can also add stiff fabrics to change the structure of the fabric.Check out the list of the 10 best stiff fabrics here.

  • 42. Distressed fabric

Weathering or distressing fabric is a technique of making the fabric look old by using various methods like using a pumice stone or wire brush to wear the thread or using paint to make it look used. Checkout the 15 ways to distress fabric  as well as the correct way to rip fabric while leaving horizontal thread intact

distressed denim fabric


This refers to making an impression of images or designs on the surface of a  fabric with the help of heat and pressure. This is also called Blind Printing, and Relief Printing. A raised or lowered imprint of the design is made with stamps and application of heat. Checkout the post on doing embossing on velvet by yourself . 

embossing on velvet

44.Open work

Drawn thread embroidery involves pulling out thread from the fabric and knotting the thread left in bundles or using decorative stitches over the drawn thread. This creates an open work with great texture on the fabric . Checkout the tutorial for drawn thread embroidery and pulled thread embroidery for more details. Cutwork, Hardanger embroidery, Borderie Anglaise are all open work which creates similar texture.

drawn thread embroidery

  • 45. Stenciling

Stenciling creates patterns and designs on fabric surface with the help of thin cut out stencils made of metal, plastic, paper or wood. The holes in the stencil forms the designs on the fabric. Checkout the  post on making your own stencils for more details

make your own stencil

  • 46. Stitch and Slash technique

Slashing fabric layers which are stitched together in parallel diagonal rows creates a beautiful visual and textural effect on the surface of the fabric which is unparalleled. No photo can reproduce the same impact you get when you see and feel the faux chenille fabric you have made with simple plain fabric pieces. Checkout the tutorial to make the faux chenille  fabric and experience it yourself .

faux chenille

  • 47. Scallops

Scallops are dome shaped stitching that is usually done along the fabric edge. You can make scallops by hand stitching with fine embroidery stitches or machine stitch the scallops with a facing or with decorative stitches in your sewing achine. Checkout the 5 ways to make scalloped edges.

how to sew a scalloped edge.

  • 48. Bubbling

This refers to the techniques used to create bubble-like appearance on the face of the fabric.

bubbled fabric

A simple enough way is to  wet fabric, make small cotton balls and wrap these balls with the fabric very close to each other and tie them up with thread. If you leave them for a few days and then open them up, and remove the cotton balls the fabric will take on a texture of bubbles on the surface. For more methods using shibori techniques and wet and dry technique checkout this post on making bubble texture fabric

  • 49. Wrinkling 

This can create a beautiful texture on the fabric surface. One very easy method involves wet fabric and rubber bands. You will have to wet the fabric thoroughly – then wring out the full water – do this two or three times. Leave it in the wrung state, twisted and tie the fabric with rubber bands every 2 inches. Keep it the same way in a secure place to dry. Remove the rubber bands when the cloth feels dry to touch and open up. 

  • 50. Foiling

This refers to adding thin metallic foils on the surface of the fabric with the help of heat applied to it.Foiling adds a beautiful dimensional effect to the fabric with its shine and texture. It is used a great deal in home furnishing fabric and in textile art

  • 51. Roughening

If you are seriously making real texture like the hard surface on a sculpture that you can even sketch and paint , it is not difficult with some household ingredients – Mix 3 parts PV glue and 2 parts water; add Talcum powder slowly till you get a thick consistency ( like the dough batter for cakes). Apply on fabric and use your tools and imagination to create the texture you want.When dry you will get your textured fabric. 

Fabric texture is an important element of fashion. It can even affect your mood – the way your fabric looks and feels is intricately involved with our emotional wellbeing as well.

I can simply go on creating these beautiful textures with the fabric manipulation and other techniques outlined here – what do you do other than this for fabric texture?

Photo of author
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

29 thoughts on “Decorating & manipulating fabric (50+ techniques)”

  1. Hi, I have just discovered your website today, and it’s fascinating! So many interesting links and subjects for me to learn about, thank you so much!

  2. Hello Sarina,

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on fabric manipulation- I never realized that there were so many manipulation techniques!
    I was looking for information to share with my 10th grade Art and Clothing students. You have introduced and explained so many ways that there is enough to go around class for them to research and explore : ).

  3. Very interesting site. I’m a sewist and a quilter and am now wanting to learn different hand stitching techniques. That’s how I found your site.

  4. This tutorial is the best. They are some designs i do see on clothes but had no idea how it was done..
    Thank you for this tutorial, it really helped a lot

    • I found this site very educational and enlightening with easy to apply explanations.
      I was looking for how to apply stones to fabrics and landed on your site which has opened me up to so many creating ideas.
      Thank you so much for sharing.

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