Introduction: Hand Sewn Pixel Shirts

Picture of Hand Sewn Pixel Shirts

These shirts are an incredibly fun way to celebrate your favorite retro games! The pixel look brings it an edge and everyone will be asking where you got it from!

What you will need:

- a plain t-shirt

- waste canvas

- embroidery floss

- size 20 embroidery needles

- light weight fusible interfacing

- lots and lots of time

Step 1: Plan Your Design

Picture of Plan Your Design

When creating my designs I like to keep the color scheme very simple, the more colors you use then the more thread switching you will need to do. For your first shirt use at most maybe 10 colors. Plan out your design pixel by pixel on the computer in "Paint" and be sure you view the ruler and grid tools. When you are done planning print this out to use as a reference while you stitch!

Step 2: How to Make a Stitch

Picture of How to Make a Stitch

Each pixel makes an x.

To sew that you begin from the inside/back of the shirt and poke the needle up through the bottom left corner of the pixel you are working on. Then sew through the top right corner. You now pull the needle through from the inside of the shirt to the bottom right corner. Finally you sew through the top left corner of the pixel and that square is now complete!

If this is your first time cross-stitching, practice on some scrap fabric first until your stitches look consistent.

Step 3: Get Going!

Picture of Get Going!

Have your reference close by and work one color at a time.

Step 4: Check Your Work

Picture of Check Your Work

Be sure that the inside of your shirt remains neat and free of any loose threads (feed them through the stitches on the back as you work), you want your shirt to last a long time and through much wear and tear.

Step 5: Nearing the End

Picture of Nearing the End

After hours and hours, days and days, you will finally almost be done! Only 2 more steps left!

Step 6: Pulling Out the Canvas

Picture of Pulling Out the Canvas

This is the most difficult part of the project. It requires patients and perseverance. If you stitched very tightly then this step is even harder for you. One at a time you must pull out the strings of the waste canvas, I've found that it is easier on the fingers if you use needle nose pliers to grip the strings because there are a lot!

Step 7: Back Your Shirt

Picture of Back Your Shirt

On the inside of the shirt I used a light weight fusible interfacing. I cut it slightly larger than the size of the design itself and simply ironed it on. This keeps the threads from coming loose and it also provides much more comfortable wear!


Todd Gehris (author)2017-03-14


jmuniz5 (author)2016-08-30

you are, so so so so so so so patient.

CheckYourGages (author)2016-06-16

I really want to try this with planetary designs, but I'm not sure I have the time. How many hours would you approximate that you put into each of these?

manuelmasc (author)2016-04-18

so cool!!

AnthVale (author)2016-04-02

Wow, this is so cool. Very nice work!

AhmadZ26 (author)2016-03-30

Amazing work (Y)

VillJ (author)2016-03-23


GeekyGirl5355 (author)2016-03-20

I love the charizard shirt!

JacobLohrbach (author)2016-03-18

My friend sent me this photo out of the blue saying 'YO DUDE THIS LOOKS LIKE YOU' lmao

wolfsingleton (author)2016-03-17

Outstanding work. Such a unique look is definitely worth that extra effort. This is way different than my usual projects and I can't wait to try it!

salmansheikh (author)2016-03-17

can you send me the r2d2 to save us time?

salmansheikh (author)2016-03-17

very daughter my like doing this..I would even wear an R2-D2 shirt :)

Jedi_zombie85 (author)2016-03-17

really nice to see an alternitave to just the normal sticker based t shirts :D

these would make awesome hoodies too

Reshmon (author)2016-03-16

Good one

psargaco (author)2016-03-16

Cool stuff! You know what you have to do next dont you? A raspberry pi-based pixel stitching machine instructable! ;-)

Fugstar (author)2016-03-15

Beautiful shirts from a beautiful girl. Do you do commissions?

amyspants (author)Fugstar2016-03-15

Thank you! I don't do commissions

Fugstar (author)amyspants2016-03-16

Very welcome! Shame, I cannot commit the time to this at the moment. If you do decide to then please let us know? Thank you for sharing the Instructable :)

sabasingh (author)2016-03-15

Hey, wonderful art. Did you put the pixel cloth on the t - shirt when you are doing the design itself or did you cut it and stitch it later on the t-shirt?

Cueball21 (author)2016-03-15

Amy, you are a very talented and artistic young lady. Keep up the good work!!!

lfoss (author)2016-03-15

I think I'm in love..

Tiago BuganD (author)2016-03-15

sorry I'm dummie in sewwing, and my english is not that good so sometimes I can't understand things and obviously I write some words the wrong way

Tiago BuganD (author)2016-03-15

Hi amy. Do you sewn it in the canvas then stich to the Shirt or U do in the shirt from the beggining??

amyspants (author)Tiago BuganD2016-03-15

You see into the shirt. You see through the canvas and the shirt then the canvas tears away leaving just the stitches in the shirt.

Tiago BuganD (author)amyspants2016-03-15

thaks amy, maybe in the future I'll do it then I send U a Pic.
eventhough it takes a lot of time.
So I must put the canvas over the shirt and start to "draw" trough my shirt right?

KiranP2 (author)2016-03-14

Wow! this is amazing! Did you use embroidery thread, or regular sewing thread?

amyspants (author)KiranP22016-03-15

I just used 6 strand embroidery floss

nanaverm (author)KiranP22016-03-15

You use embroidery thread. That separates into 6 strands, and it looks as though she used them all.

struno (author)2016-03-15

Is there a website or something that I can find patterns to use, rather than trying to create my own? --Horrible Artist

amyspants (author)struno2016-03-15

You can get good ideas by just googling "pixel art"

imrobot (author)2016-03-15

How do you properly wash it? Like does it need to be hand washed?

amyspants (author)imrobot2016-03-15

I just wash it on delicate but for it to last the longest it's probably best hand washed.

cwert (author)imrobot2016-03-15

It is best to hand wash and hang dry, you don't want all the hard work messed up.

Hand washing is not hard or tedious, in five minutes you should be done washing.

I also suggest ironing the design after drying, it presses the design "back into place".

shambuda2000 (author)2016-03-11


Kittysew (author)shambuda20002016-03-15

I have used this type of embroidery canvas before. I had basted it to the front of the shirt (or project) and then did my stitching. You can use 2 to 6 strands of embroidery floss depending on how thick you want your stitches. The canvas is easier to remove if it is dampened first. Getting the canvas wet removes the starch that holds the canvas together.

T1Cybernetic (author)2016-03-15

Very nice, Pixel Art is A+ but that Samus is excellent :D

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2016-03-11

This is just awesome! I was wondering, what program do you use to design your patterns in? Also, for Step 6, do you really pull out all the strands? I always wondered how you could get organized cross stitch patterns on to plan shirts like this, thanks for sharing :D

Thank you :)

The program i use is just old fashion "paint" on the computer. I zoom in the maximum amount and turn on the grid and ruler view. I've tried some other programs but couldn't find any that would let me paint pixel by pixel.

As for the pulling out the strings, I recently found out about water soluble embroidery sheets people use but I have yet to try it. I'm a little bit hesitant because the canvas gives a lot of support to the shirt when stitching so in some ways it is worth all the hassle.

JavinM (author)amyspants2016-03-15

Hey amyspants,

I am an avid Cross Stitcher and love what you have done here. i was going to tell you about a program that I use called PCstitch pro. It is awesome and would let you make your patterns stitch by stitch. i got mine on for about 40-50 dollars and it was worth every penny. Check it out and thanks for the cool T-shirt idea!

Ha! I never would have guessed that was paint, nice idea :) I've tried MacStitch (you can't save with the free version, but I just take screenshots) to make up patterns and also just Google Sheets, though sheets is more difficult as you have to change the cell colors.

The canvas does look very sturdy for this. I just saw it at the store this weekend. Honestly, I've seen it before and never knew what it was used for. I just thought it was really weird counted cross stitch fabric.

jmfwyatt (author)2016-03-15

Do you sell your patterns?

SamTheWolfie (author)2016-03-11

It's called embroidery, not sewing. Good job anyway!

struno (author)SamTheWolfie2016-03-15

Actually, it's called cross-stitch. Embroidery is a little different.

gkelly2 (author)2016-03-12

Just a word of advice the canvas your using is supposed to be at the back of the short it's just to strengthen the fabric while you embroider, also doing embroidery work on pixel Ted characters is a victory I commend you on your work, also possibly using yarn or a thicker thread would be kinder to your hands then sewing thin cotton. Anyway happy sewing :)

struno (author)gkelly22016-03-15

Thanks for this comment, I was wondering about using the canvas inside the shirt. Can you just cut around the stitching, then, or do I still need to pull it out strand by strand? ((I've never cross-stitched onto clothing before!))

Mecher (author)2016-03-15

Very Creative! My hat is off to you?. It took you a lot of time to do this work. You get my vote! Great job, nice work.. clap, clap, clap!!

nanaverm (author)2016-03-15

To keep it looking good, a person should pre-shrink the shirt in a hot dryer before starting this project, or the design would distort after washing & drying. Too much work put into a shirt like this for that to happen!

GRTC (author)2016-03-14

Pretty cool?

gwenif (author)2016-03-13

That's a very good technique!! I might have to try it myself. :D

mooshi771 (author)2016-03-13


About This Instructable




Bio: I am just a girl who works at a craft store inspired by the things around me every day.
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