Before Alyssa's Spring Break began, she started a list of things she wanted to do while she was home from college. The number one item on her list was to sew the Greek letters of her sorority onto tee-shirts. Knowing that there are a lot of "rules" that go with being in a sorority, I asked her to make sure that it was not "illegal" for us to make our own letters. She promptly followed through and was told that we could make our own Chi-Omega letters, but the letters had to be identical to those that were used for official sorority business and activities. Once she received the go-ahead, she was gung-ho to begin this project.
As the person who would be designing and sewing the letters, I felt a lot of pressure to not screw this up. First of all, I've never appliqued on tee shirts before. I've made tee-shirts back in the days when I used my serger to sew clothing for my kids - but I've never embellished the tee shirts using the applique method, and because tee-shirt material is very stretchy and loose, I was concerned with how to go about this project without messing it up. I also didn't want to let her down since she is not one to ask favors of me. The fact that she actually asked me to do this for her was proof of much this project meant to her.
And so after stressing for an entire weekend (she couldn't stop talking about it), I took a deep breath and tackled the project yesterday. When I realized how very easy this project is, I knew that I had to pass along the instructions, because not only is this an easy project, it is also one of the most inexpensive projects I have ever made.
Following are the instructions... I've tried to include enough pictures for each step in order to keep it simple.
Supplies required for this project are:
- A tee-shirt - available at Michael's (cost of $3.99)
- Wonder Under paper backed fusible webbing
- Tear-Away Stabilizer - I prefer the roll, but it can be purchased in a package also
- Grid paper to trace pattern on - available at any office supply store in tablets
- Fabric - we purchased fat quarters at JoAnn's (cost of 99 cents each!)
- Coordinating thread
- A sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch (I set the width to 4.5mm and the length to .7 mm)
- An ironing board and iron
These are the original [read "official"] tee-shirts that I used as a pattern guide - the girls have been spending anywhere from $20 to $30 for each tee-shirt at the local mall. When personalizing your own projects, any image can be used to create a pattern. Coloring books work well, as do computer images of objects such as baseballs, bats, footballs, flowers, peace signs, computer fonts, etc. Just print out the image you want to use and then make a pattern out of it. You can size it on the computer before printing, which makes this step fast and easy (unless you are following sorority guidelines!).
Before the sewing begins, stabilizer must be attached to the WRONG side of the tee-shirt (the inside-out side). I baste a square or rectangle and later remove the basting stitches before tearing away the excess.
Now comes the fun part: sewing. Remove the backing of the Wonder Under and iron the shapes onto the RIGHT side of the fabric. I iron one layer at a time, and then sew that layer. After each layer is sewn, I iron on the next layer and sew that. To put it another way - when appliqueing multiple layers, the process is to stack one upon the other, sewing a layer at a time. I use a zig-zag stitch around the edges, making sure to catch all raw edges. There is no pre-fold hem required, as the wide, tight zig-zag stitches and the sticky back Wonder Under will finish the edges.
To finish the project, remove the basting stitches that hold the stabilizer in place and then tear away the excess stabilizer (see noted photos above). Press tee-shirt to fill in any basting stitch needle marks that may still appear - these will go away once they are pressed back into place.
Here is what the finished projects look like:
My total cost for each tee-shirt was $5.33. Note that this does not include the price of the Wonder Under or the stabilizer. If those items are purchased specifically for this project, the base cost will increase substantially. However, one package of Wonder Under is 2 yards in length and that will make over 20 tee-shirts. A roll of stabilizer is also 2 yards in length. Therefore, these supplies are what I consider to be staple materials, so I do not factor in these items in the overall cost of the tee-shirts.
So there you have it - a simple and very low budget project that can be completed in a day. Each tee-shirt took two hours to make, which included tracing the Greek letters, and all of the cutting, ironing and stitching. Like I said, I'm slow when it comes to sewing, and I'm sure that most people would be able to speed up the production time... I'm just not most people... I'm one of those slow people.
Alyssa is thrilled. She has already started to brainstorm more sorority projects. In fact, she wants to sell these tee-shirts to the girls in her sorority (once again, I told her that she absolutely had to get permission to do so before she started advertising tee-shirts for sale!). After she decided that selling Greek letter tee-shirts was a good idea, she then asked me if I would be willing to make them for that purpose. This made me giggle. I honestly think she believes that all I do is sew my life away - maybe a tad bit accurate, but not the entire truth... I do have a few other activities in my life! Anyway, I told her that I would consider making more, but that if I were to sell them, I would do so via the [still not created] Etsy Shop so that she would not be responsible for collecting the money.
When all is said and done, I'm pleased with the results of this project, and I feel honored that Alyssa would trust me enough to ask me to do something sorority related. It's been so much fun having her home. She's grown up a lot and she is really fun to spend time with. Once again, I am tickled with this turn of events. Spring Break has never been one of my favorite "breaks", mostly due to the not-so-spring-like weather that occurs every year, in addition to high expectations from kids who have no concept that the entire world is not on spring break. Now that Alyssa has been in college for almost a year, she finally understands that March weather is probably going to be crappy, the world doesn't revolve around spring break, and having a break from classes is worth celebrating regardless of the weather or the lack of a BIG EVENT. The BIG EVENT, in this case, is having her home. And in my world, that's huge!