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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Design Your Own Shirts

I have a hard time finding t-shirts that I like in a store. Most of them have a brand that I don't care for on them, or the design isn't good, or they're too expensive. I love getting random shirts from thrift shops, but when you want something specific, that just won't cut it. So, as others before me have, I wanted to create my own custom shirts.

Yes, "make my own" shirts... in "America"... and pay myself a "reasonable wage"...

With that idea as a launching pad, I found Instructables.com, a great user-powered website with guides to making and modifying all sorts of things: I learned how to make home-made Kit Kats, wooden rings, and 6 ways that baking soda can help me get a date.

That'll impress her.

Thankfully, I also found how to put my own designs on a shirt (or any fabric, for that matter). I started out by drawing using the bleach pen method:

The design on this one is crooked because the shirt is oddly sewn. Yes, I added in the TIME TO PRETEND because I wrote it on the shirt after this picture was taken.

If you want to find something to draw, search Google Images for "[whatever it is you want] coloring page" and you'll get some very drawable images, like this koala. You can do like I do and add your initials or signature near the bottom of the shirt, so people know that it is an original.

Depending on the shirt you use, the bleach may turn the shirt funny colors instead of making it lighter. Sometimes, even if you didn't intend it to be that way, it comes out nicely, like in this shirt, depicting Hokusai's "Great Wave Off Kanagawa."

After bleaching a few shirts, I wanted something different, so I gave painting with stencils a try. This method requires more resources and time, but if done correctly, produces an excellent result. Instructables user bballantine has an excellent guide for stenciling your own shirts. Following her lead, here are the two shirts I made:

If you know your way around a computer well enough, you can give making your own stencils a shot, or search Google for stencils and find some pretty good ones. This stencil was made by me, from a photo I found on flickr.

You can get creative and tie-dye a shirt, or modify it any other way you see fit before stenciling your design on it.

In one case, there was a shirt I really wanted to make, but drawing or stenciling it wouldn't do it justice: it needed to be a large full-resolution image. You can use printer transfer paper, but I don't like how it turns out. So, I made the shirt using zazzle.com, which allows you to make a custom shirt (or many other things) of whatever you want, as long as the image doesn't infringe copyright. The Wikipedia Picture of the Day archive and Wikimedia Commons are great sources for high-resolution pictures, most of which are copyright-free. I usually wait for sales to get a shirt, and ended up getting this one for only $12 or $13 (that's with shipping):


Does this interest you in making your own shirt? Have you already made your own? If you have, I'd love to see it, show me in the comments. A shirt is a form of self-expression, showing the world what you like and through that, what kind of person you are, so be creative, and wear what you really want to wear.

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