So, I have this shirt from Bad Girls, Good Vibes (beware: semi-NSFW) that has my favorite design in the world on it. I’m not even kidding, I want to buy about a hundred of these shirts so I’ll always have spares when it gets worn out.
I actually have two of them, because the first one I bought… it was nice and comfortable, but a little baggy for my taste, so I bought it a size smaller. Truth be told, the smaller size is a little baggy, too, so I may end up getting a third, because why not?
So, since I have one that I won’t wear anymore, I was kind of at a loss of what to do with it. I didn’t want to give it to charity because it’s kind of NSFW and I wasn’t sure they’d actually accept it. I really didn’t want it to get thrown out or turned into rags, but I also don’t know anyone it wouldn’t have been huge on.
Then I realized that I’ve been waiting forever for her to restock the back patches with the same design (something I don’t think is going to happen, since they aren’t even listed on her site, anymore). Rather than buy a new patch when/if they’re restocked, I could just turn my old shirt into one! Yes! DIY to the rescue!
I also figured, why not show everyone my awesome DIY skills? So, here’s a little tutorial for those of you who might be interested. Maybe your favorite shirt from high school doesn’t fit anymore, but you still wish you could rock that cool design. Here you go!
Things You Will Need:
- A t-shirt with a design on it (obviously) – It’s best if the design (or at least the part of the design you want) is less than 10-11″ square, as the finished product will be about 12″ square and you want a border for sewing.
- Fusible interfacing* (alternatively, double-sided fusible interfacing**) – Available at most craft/sewing supply stores
- An iron
- A sewing machine (sorry to you hand stitchers, but this will be hell if you don’t have a machine)
- Straight pins
- Tailor’s chalk pencil (or just a washable marker if you’re a little less of a perfectionist)
1. To start, I laid out my t-shirt and cut along the sides (not all the way around), to make it easier to lay the interfacing down.
2. Follow the directions on your package of interfacing to adhere it to the back of the design. This will likely involve using a top piece of fabric between your iron and the interfacing–I just dropped the back side of the shirt over it. If your interfacing isn’t perfectly straight here, that’s fine. It will be trimmed, later.
*The interfacing isn’t really necessary, but it helps add stiffness to the finished patch, which I think makes it easier to sew on to your jacket/vest/whatever.
**If you want to use double sided interfacing, please see the end of this post for modification.
3. Once you’ve gotten the interfacing ironed on, you need to attach the back piece of fabric. I just used the back side of the shirt, but if you want some contrast, this can be easily modified to use any fabric you want (I’ll put some details on how you might want to do that at the end).
I draped the front of my shirt back over the back, making sure both sides were smooth. Then, I had to outline the border of my patch.
4. To do the patch outline, I just dropped a 12.5″ clear quilting square on top and traced around it. You’ll probably want to do this with tailor’s chalk because it can be brushed/washed away easily, but I didn’t have any so I just used a pink hi-lighter.
5. You’ll then want to pin the two layers of the shirt together. I put a lot of pins in really close together, because I am just horrible at keeping fabric from bunching. If you’re a better seamstress than I am, you probably don’t need to use so many.
Keep in mind, however, that t-shirt material is thin and bunches easily.
6. After the pinning came the first round of cutting. I went about a half inch around the outside of the outline. DO NOT CUT ON THE OUTLINE.
It’s okay if it’s not even or a little jagged or whatever. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you can always trim it later, if you really want.
7. After that, very carefully, so as not to cut the back layer of fabric, cut just the top layer of fabric (the layer with your design) just inside the outline. If you used tailor’s chalk or something else easily washed away, you can cut on the outline, if you want.
See above how you have two slightly different sized pieces of fabric? That’s what we’re looking for.
8. Now, we sew!
Sewing around the edge isn’t just for decoration (although you’re certainly welcome to use a decorative stitch, if you want). This won’t just hold the back fabric in place, but it will keep the whole thing from unraveling. Once fabric has been cut with a raw edge like this, it’s prone to fraying and the whole thing can eventually come apart. Having the stitches around the border ensures a stopping point, so the fabric won’t completely unravel and ruin your design. If you want to really make sure it doesn’t fray past that point, use an edge sealer like Fray Check on the back of the patch on the thread, but be warned that it does dry stiff, like painting it with clear nail polish.
You can use whatever thread color you want. If you want it to look simple, you can pick a thread that matches your base color, or you can stand out with a contrasting color. I chose to use a purple to contrast the white and compliment the actual design on the patch. I also used a triple straight stitch so that it would stand out a bit more.
And you’re done! This whole project took me about an hour, but half of that was just ironing on the interfacing. If your shirt material is thicker (or you just don’t care), you can skip the interfacing altogether.
For those of you who want to use a contrasting fabric for the back/border, rather than just the back of the t-shirt, here’s my suggestion:
- Cut out the border piece using a quilting square (or something similar). Then cut out your t-shirt design to be 1″ smaller (this will give you a 1/2″ border on each side–remember, whatever size border you want, double it when measuring).
- Once you have both pieces cut out, carefully line them up so they’re straight and pin them as in step 5, and continue as normal.
**For those of you using double-sided interfacing:
- Use a quilting square (or similar object) to cut out your patch design and a same-sized piece of interfacing.
- Use a slightly larger quilting square (or similar) to cut out a backing piece 1″ larger than your design (give or take depending on what size border you want–remember that whatever size border you want, you need to double it when measuring).
- Carefully line up the interfacing and patch design in the center of your backing piece (you will want everything right side up, because this isn’t a reversible item; both pieces of fabric will face outward together).
- Follow the instructions on the interfacing to fuse the two pieces together.
- Continue from step 5 above, just skip any cutting–you already did that.
And finally, if you don’t care about having a backing piece at all:
- After attaching the interfacing, use a quilting square (or similar object) to cut your patch to size.
- Proceed directly to step 8 to sew the border–I highly recommend sewing a border, even if you only use a single layer. This can prolong the life of your patch by stopping any fraying from reaching the design.
Ultimately, I ended up trimming the extra overhang in the back because it made the patch just a little too big to properly fit on my vest. Whatever you want to do is, of course, up to you.
If you have any question, or want to share your own experience with this or similar projects, sound off in the comments. I love saying hi!