Maddie pledged and was initiated into a business fraternity at RIT and is now all about her letters. So much so, that when she came home for Thanksgiving break, all she wanted was for me to make her some letter shirts. It was a really fun project, and I can only assume there are other moms in the same boat. I originally thought I’d fuse some letters with fun fabric and call it a day. I didn’t do much more than that, but there are some guidelines. So, here are my do-it-yourself instructions with my method of getting this done. So far I have done three shirts and they have been quick, easy and fun. And, anyone with a sewing machine could pull this off.
- Background solid cotton fabric. A fat eight will yield one short, a fat quarter two.
- Letter patterned cotton fabric. A fat eight will yield one short, a fat quarter two.
- Piece of fusible web for appliqué. I use Wonder Under and you need a fat quarter for one shirt.
- Sewing supplies – scissors, thread and ideally a sewing machine
- Letter templates – more on that below
First, buy your shirts. I recommend working with t-shirts or sweatshirts that are 100% cotton because you will be using a hot iron.
Next select your fabric. You will need a fun print for the letters in the foreground and then a coordinating solid for the base which forms the background outline. In my photo above, the cactus fabric is the letter and the green solid is the base.
Now you need your templates. Maddie wanted them to be exactly the same size as the letters on the shirt she got at initiation. I looked online but couldn’t find them, and some of the templates had variations in the letters that she didn’t like. I ordered a set of templates that is being shipped, but I don’t yet know if they will work. So, we photocopied her shirt. You can do this quite inexpensively at any Staples or Fedex Kinkos print center. Literally put the shirt on the glass with the letter centered, make sure it is flat, put the top down, and copy it. We made two prints for each letter, one for the letter and one for the background.
Cut them out carefully, cutting one set on the outside line for your background, and set on the inside for the foreground letter itself.
Now you can prepare your fabric. Cut a piece of fusible web a tiny bit smaller than your fabric. Iron the fabric, and then iron the fusible web to the wrong side of your fabric with the exposed glue adhering to the fabric. It will feel stiff when done and you will have the right side of fabric on one side, and the paper from the back of the fusible web on the other.
Next, pin the larger letters to the background fabric, and the slightly smaller letter templates to the foreground fabric on the right side of the fabric.
Cut them out very carefully, using clean lines. I found it helpful to use larger scissors for the outside cuts, and smaller embroidery scissors for the centers. Depending on the fabric you selected, you may want to move the letters around to make sure you see the parts of the fabric you like best.
Once your letters are cut, arrange them on the shirt for placement. When you are sure you will like the output, remove the top letters. Then, peel the paper off the back of the background letters and iron them in place. Rather than moving the iron back and forth, input it on the hottest setting with no steam and leave the iron on the letter for a few seconds. I pick the iron up, and put it down again. Then I do the next letter. This eliminates the risk of the iron catching a corner and ruining your work.
Repeat the process with your foreground letters, being sure to center the letters on each background.
At this point you can consider yourself done if you don’t have a sewing machine. However, over time, the ends could fray a little, so I recommend stitching the letters down.
Using coordinating thread, stitch a simple zig zag around the background letter. I did a straight stitch around the foreground letter to avoid the two stitches competing. With this step you are done and your letters are ready to hit the campus!
You can have so much fun with this. While my daughter is part of Delta Sigma Pi, this method will work for any sorority or fraternity. Here are two more that are in progress. Enjoy, and please share photos of your Greek letters!