Introduction: DIY Laser Cut Sweatshirt
Laser cut and sew a sweatshirt comprised of the word "SHIRT".
You can choose to be meta or make this shirt using any word that you want. This 'ible will take you through the process of creating your choice word into a vector cut file for the laser printer, as well as how to sew it up.
If you simply want to make the sweatshirt pictured you can skip the first steps and use the cut files I have uploaded.
What word will you use?
Step 1: Materials
- 2 yards of Cotton/Poly sweatshirt fleece at 58" width or more
- Matching thread
- Sewing machine
- Straight pins
- Downloaded cut files**
Underarm to underarm : 26"
Center neckline to hem : 21"
**The sweatshirt pattern in taken from a M/L shirt, I ended up cutting it into a crop to balance out the box cut of the body.
Sleeve length : 26"
**If you are making your own cut file
- Illustrator (I don't use Corel Draw, if you do let me know how this translates in the comments below!)
Step 2: Merging Text
The laser cutter that is used is a Epilog Legend 36EXT 120 Watt.
The bed size is 36" x 24"
Below and in the next steps you will find step-by-step instructions for creating your cut file in Illustrator, the steps go along with the photos for reference.
- Choose the word you want to work with and the font to use. Make the font choice thick block letters. This will make the letters easier to connect while still keeping the word legible.
The font I used was Azo Sans Uber Regular.
- Type out each letter of the word as a separate object so you can move them around independently.
- Select all the letters go to Type > Create Outlines
- Arrange the letters so they are touching each other top to bottom. You may need to tilt a letter or two to make that happen or to make a letter still legible. For example, I needed to tilt the "I" to make the connections while still having it read as an "I"
- Go to Window > Pathfinder
- Select All the letters, click the Unite button under Shape Modes in the Pathfinder window. You should have the outline of the text!
- Copy and Paste the united image, place one on top and one of bottom of the original. Make sure the bottom and top path of the word overlap slightly.
- Select All, Unite
- Copy, Paste again, this time put a block of three words on either side of the original, overlapping the paths.
You may need to alter the image further to make sure you have a good connection before you cut. For example, I extended the bottom of the "S" to make it touch it's neighboring "T".
- Select All, Unite
- Cut and Paste the row, stacking one on top and one below.
- Select All, Unite once more.
Extracting Key Image
To make a repeating pattern, we need the middle block.
- Use the Direct Selection Tool to draw a box around the middle three shirts.
- Cut and Paste in new document.
- Clean up the image by selecting stray paths and deleting.
Step 3: Making Pattern Swatch
- From you new document Select All, go to Object > Pattern > Make.
- The Pattern Options window will pop up, this is where you can change the widht and height of your repeating pattern, which dictates how close or far away your pattern blocks are from one another. Change these numbers until the ends of the paths touch each other to create a continuos line.
- You will probably need to get in there and manually make connections with the direct selection tool.
- To make the pattern the biggest size, select 5 x 7 in the Copies drop-down menu.
- Save and name swatch.
Step 4: Finalizing Cut File
Filling in the Sweatshirt Objects
Download and open the sweatshirt file.
- Select All, go to Object > Live Paint > Make
- Access your custom pattern swatch by going to the Swatch Panel, clicking on the Show Swatch Kinds menu and choosing Show Pattern Swatches.
- Choose the Live Paint Bucket from the main tool bar and click the body and the sleeve to fill with your custom pattern.
- Save the final as a .jpeg
Creating Vector Cut File
- Open up the .jpg and select the image.
- Go to Object > Image Trace > Make. The image trace window will pop up, play with the threshold until you get a good solid trace.
- Hit the Expand button up top and change the stroke width to .001 for hairline. This is the setting the Epilogue laser reads as a vector cut. Yours may be different! Check before you save.
- Save your file as .ai, you are ready to laser! Pew pew!
Step 5: Prep and Laser Fabric
Cut a piece of your sweatshirt material to the size of your bed, you need a bed at least 28" x 24" to hold the pieces attached to this 'ible.
Cut a few test swatches so you can get the cut setting right before you make your final.
- Put a test swatch in and go to printer preferences. Make sure to choose vector cuts. Double check that the line stroke of the vector is a hairline, in Illustrator this translates to .001pt. I started with the leather setting on the machine and changed it from there.
My settings ended up being:
This should cut the material without leaving scorch marks on the back.
- Once you have the settings nailed, take the large piece of fabric and lay it down onto the bed. Smooth it down with your hands, focus the laser and hit print!
- Watch the laser show unfold.
Cut 2 bodies and 2 sleeves
I made both pattern pieces symmetrical for ease.
Step 6: Sew Sweatshirt
Sleeves to Body
- The first seams you want to sew are the armholes. Take one sleeve and lay it right side to right side on one of the body pieces. Line up the edges of the armhole and pin.
- Sew with 1/2" seam allowance
When you sew you will come across gaps created by the large laser cut graphic. To make sure the seam is sewn so it won't come undone, backstitch at the beginning and the end of the gaps. Once you have sew one sleeve to one of the body pieces, sew the other on.
- When you have both sleeves attached to one body, take the second one and pin the sleeves in the same manner to it and sew.
- Fold the sleeves in half and line up the side seams of the sweatshirt and the underarm of the sleeves.
- Pin and sew
There may be odds and ends hanging around and feeling awkward, clip any off, you can see an example of this in the armpit of one of my photos.
You are done!