Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Personalised t-shirt

My little girl loves to dance. She always has: her earliest nursery reports were of her bopping away to the music and clapping her hands. Now, at almost 18 months, she will happily dance on command or whenever she hears music. She twirls, spins, bounces, occasionally jumps, and is just the happiest wee creature you've ever seen.

So this morning, I took it in my head that I wanted to make her a shirt. A wee dancer shirt. For those of you not familiar with Scottish phrases, I can refer you to various dictionaries of Scottish vernacular, which define "dancer" as a "term of glee or exultation. Tap dancer- three stairs up in a tenement or top floor in a prison (also called Fredastair or Freda)" - see also here. Basically, it's a good thing, and being called a "wee dancer" is a term of admiration and appreciation. 

And here is my little girl's Wee Dancer shirt. You don't need to make a wee dancer - the method could be used for anything. Try putting your wee one's name on it. Or how about a big number 1 for a first birthday?

You can, of course, make a t-shirt from scratch but frankly, why bother when you can buy a perfectly good one for £2? (This one's from H&M - £1.99, but you can also get multipacks of white onesies or t-shirts from places like John Lewis and Asda.) 

Start to finish, this project took me exactly one hour.

You will need:
  • one t-shirt, of an appropriate size
  • bondaweb
  • a small bit of fabric (or fabrics) in contrasting colours to make your letters
  • an iron
  • a good pair of scissors
  • a printer, stencils, or a good hand at drawing letters
  • a sewing machine (optional)
Step 1: make your letters

The easiest way to do this is to get onto your computer, type the word or words you want, and then fiddle with fonts and sizes until you have a pattern. I used 220 point Futura bold outline for mine. Try not to pick a font that's too fussy or narrow as you will have to cut out all those fiddly bits, and possibly sew them later on.

Once you've got your letters looking right, you need to print. If you can, print a mirror image of your words, so that they come out backwards (usually you can do this in your print settings). If you can't, don't worry - it's just a bit extra work.

Now, hold your printout up to your t-shirt to make sure the size looks right and it will all fit. If it looks good, go ahead and trace your letters onto your bondaweb. If you weren't able to print a mirror image, you can either cut them out and flip them over and then trace, or trace their outline onto the back of the printout and copy those. You should now have a sheet of bondaweb with your backwards letters on them.

Step 2: make the fabric letters

You now want to fuse the bondaweb onto the fabric you've chosen for your letters. Make sure you're doing it on the WRONG side of the fabric! Once you've ironed the bondaweb on, carefully cut out all the letters. Peel the paper backing off, arrange them on your t-shirt, and iron them into place. Your letters should now be the right way round!

Step 3: sewing 

You can now, if you want, set your sewing machine to a very small, tight zigzag stitch and outline the letters in a complimentary or contrasting thread. This will ensure those letters aren't going anywhere, and can help the design pop out a bit. However, unless you're very very good (I'm not), you might also lose some of the sharpness of the letters. So, if you've used a fabric that isn't going to ravel or fray, or the t-shirt doesn't need to last an eternity, or you don't have a sewing machine, feel free to skip this step. Just make sure you've done a really thorough job of ironing the letters on.

And ta-da! You are finished! Easy as pie, and the t-shirt world's your oyster. Why not try and personalise a set of plain white sleepsuits for a new baby, with matching burp cloths? Or a little hat? Or a towel, or a bag... 

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