July 23, 2013

DIY: Lapel Flower

In my last DIY post, I showed you how to make your own pocket square and for this one, I wanted to tackle lapel flowers. Now you may be skeptical, but lapel flowers have been making a comeback and most department stores now carry at least a few options. To buy them will cost you at least $20, sometimes quite a bit more, but making your own can cost you basically nothing (depending on what supplies you have around the house).

What I love about lapel flowers is that they are a unique seasonal accessory that will immediately set you apart from the crowd and add a little whimsy to your wardrobe. Sure, you could go the traditional route and use a real flower, but a fabric flower will not only last longer, it can also be a conversation starter. You can make them out of just about any fabric, in any color or pattern you want. I like linen, cotton, and seersucker for spring/summer and wool, tweed, and heavy silk for fall/winter. Think seasonally and the possibilities are endless!

Here’s what you need:
Paper, pencil, and craft scissors for pattern
Fabric (small pieces or swatches)
Needle & thread
Straight pins
Fabric scissors (embroidery snips work best)
Fray check (optional)
Buttons (2) for front and back

Extra Tip : If you plan to do a lot of DIY projects, it is a good idea to get a separate pair of scissors to use only on fabric. Cutting anything other than fabric will dull the edges down, making it harder to get a clean cut when you do use them on fabric. This is why you’ll notice I make the distinction between craft and fabric scissors.

The first thing you will need to do is make yourself a pattern in the shape of the lapel flower you want. There are plenty available online if you do some looking, but if you are even a little artistic, it’s easy enough to draw up your own. The most important thing is to have 3-5 different sizes of the same general shape. Once you have a shape you like, cut them out of the paper and, voila. You have your patterns. These are the patterns I use that have worked well for me, but you can make any size or shape you want. That is the beauty of DIY!

Once you have your patterns cut, it’s time to pin them on your fabric. I’ve found that fabric swatches are the perfect size and are (usually) free. This will depend on where you are and how stingy your local fabric store is with swatches, but unless you are planning on making a whole lot of the same lapel flower, buying the usual store minimum of ½ or 1 yard will leave you with a lot of unnecessary excess.

You will want to pin the patterns as close to the edge as possible to make the most efficient use of your fabric. With a normal swatch size, I can usually get two pieces cut out of each swatch. I usually use one of each of my four pattern sizes to assemble my lapel flowers, but it depends on the fabric and the look you’re going for. If you are using a fabric with a larger less uniform pattern, like a plaid, be sure to pay attention to where you are placing each pattern piece as it will affect the overall look of the finished flower when they are layered on top of each other.

Remember to pin your patterns well so they don't shift when you cut.

Once you have the patterns pinned, take your snips and carefully cut along the outside edge of each pattern. You want to be careful not to cut the paper pattern or the pins with your fabric scissors. Repeat until all your patterns are cut out.

The next step is not required, but is definitely recommended. Fray Check is a liquid that, as the name suggests, will keep the edges of your fabric ‘in check’ and prevent fraying. This will ensure that your lapel flower stays intact and in your desired shape for quite a while. Should you choose to use the Fray Check, lay down a napkin or towel underneath and apply it along the edge of your cut out pieces. You will see a darker coloring where the liquid was applied which will usually go away completely, but it depends on the fabric so it is always a good idea to do a test to see how it will dry.

When using the Fray Check, make sure you apply over the edge of the
fabric to lock all the cut edges in place.

Let it dry for about 5 minutes and then snip off any stray threads. For added texture, I will sometimes let some of the edges fray just a little bit before applying the Fray Check, but you probably won’t want to do this if you are using a fabric with a looser weave, as you’ll end up losing too much of your petal shape.

The wet edges (usually) dry clear, but it's always good to do a test.

Once the pieces are dry (it should only take a few minutes), it’s time to assemble your lapel flower. Depending on the pattern of your fabric, you’ll want to play around with stacking the pieces, flipping and rotating until you find an arrangement that you are happy with. Stick a straight pin through the center to hold it in place and then thread your needle.

The first several stitches you will want to put right in the center of the flower to lock everything in place, then knot it off to make sure the flower stays together even if you lose a button. The harder you pull when making your stitches (and the more layers you have), the more your petals will bunch and gain dimension. Just don’t pull so hard that you break your thread!

Lock your flower together with some strong center stitches.
Double the thread in your needle to do twice the work in half the stitches. 

Now it’s time to add your buttons. I like to choose a decorative button of some kind for the front that complements the colors in the fabric, but any button that you like will work. Vintage buttons are also a great option! Choosing the back button is equally important because you need to make sure it will fit through the lapel hole on your jacket(s). I have found that the extra buttons from old shirts are just the right size for me. When you have your buttons chosen, the next step is to sew them on. Make sure to center them, then put as many stitches as you feel are necessary to keep everything secure.

Buttons sewn on front (top) and back (bottom).

With both buttons securely sewn on, you are all done with your new lapel flower! Below is a picture of how this one turned out along with another one I made. The purple one on the right used the exact same pattern, but instead of one piece in each of the four sizes, I used two (for a total of eight pieces). This gives the flower a little more body which, with a lightweight linen, creates more depth and texture.

Two linen lapel flowers one made using 4 pieces (left),
the other using 8 pieces (right).

Pop it into your lapel and give your jacket some dandy style. Some of the other lapel flowers I’ve made are featured here and here if you are still looking for some inspiration.

Handmade lapel flower; Jacket by Bamford & Sons

Stay stylish,
- JJ


  1. I must say that this about do it yourself lapel flower has shown the readers that a lot can be done with the supplies lying unattended at ones house. Thanks for such an interesting post.

    Flower Lapel Pins

    1. Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks for this post. I read the steps n here's how mine turned out;

    1. Glad you liked the post. Your lapel flower looks great!

  3. I'm having a harder time finding a pattern to use for this. Can you please give me links to any that you recommend?

    1. It all depends on what you want your lapel flower to look like. Try "felt flower template" "paper flower template" and "flower outline" as some good Google search terms. You can get more descriptive once you've narrowed down the style your looking to make. Hope that helps a little!