Some T-Shirts are so fantastic, they deserve a better display. Or perhaps there’s a rip in one of your favorites and you don’t have the heart to pitch it. I decided the solution to this was to put them on the outside of a jacket instead of being covered up by one. I took to my craft room and came up with the following.
Step 1: What You'll Need
Scrap Paper (Cardstock or food box cardboard)
Large Poster Board
Ruler or Seam Gauge
Fusible Fabric (Single or Double Sided)
Sewing Machine with Zipper Foot
Step 2: Picking the Jacket and T-Shirt
If you don’t have a jacket and/or t-shirt already to work with, thrift stores are a great place to find them. For the T-Shirt, I just go down the L and XL rack (I look for these sizes because I want the picture to take up as much of the back of the jacket as possible) and wait for something to catch my eye. It happens every time. It’ll happen for you too. It’s just a matter of taste.
Step 3: Making Sure They Work Together
There are several ways to find out if the t-shirt will fit. One of the easiest is by folding the T-Shirt with 90 degree angles along the design and lay it in the framed space on the back of the jacket.
Other ways are folding the design in half horizontally and lay it in the frame, then trying it vertically. Another is to just lay the shirt flat on the jacket and feel for the raised seam. If it’s a tight fit, it may still work. Just grab your tape measure and get exact dimensions. (I've done some that were a bit too big, but I just did some cropping and it worked out nicely.)
Whatever method you choose, make sure that first you press the back frame of the jacket and the t-shirt flat. Use steam or a spray bottle to take all wrinkles out.
NOTE: Commonly, jean jackets have a bit of a curve in the design to fit the body. Focus on getting just the back panel flat.
Step 4: Creating the Die for the T-Shirt
Because the jacket’s back frame is hard to get flat (as mentioned previously), this process is best done in pieces.
First, find which side has the ‘hard seam’. By this I mean where the fabric is actually folded and sewn.
On this jacket, the sides and bottom had hard seams on the inside and the top hard seam was on the outside. I’ve done others where the hard seam was entirely on the outside. Adjust accordingly for yours.
Lay the jacket so you’re working with the side that has the hard seams. Start with a piece of paper in a corner and work out from there.
When placing paper along the edge, leave a little room so that the tape is the actual border, not the paper. Keep smoothing it out by hand as you go. Continue around the outside until you’ve framed the frame.
Do not tape the paper to the fabric except for the border, only tape it to other paper. Otherwise, pieces may separate when it comes time to remove it. If you get a gap or ripple while laying paper down, just cut into the center of that piece so it lays flat again and tape over the cut.
Fill in the rest bit by bit. Make sure you have taped all the overlapping pieces. This will help keep it all together when you CAREFULLY pull it away from the jacket.
Step 5: Making the Negative Die
Lay the die made from the back onto a single, large sheet of paper or posterboard.
Trace the outline of the die onto the large sheet. (“But it will be too big!” Yes and no. I’ll address that in the next step.) You can leave or remove the original die. Use a hobby knife to cut out the shape and make the negative die.
(The brown paper in the photo is only to clearly show the outline of the finished negative die.)
Step 6: Prepping the T-Shirt
Iron the t-shirt again. The whole thing. Include the crease along the sides.
Lay it flat and cut the shirt along the side seams, along the sleeve seams and across the collar.
Step 7: Framing the Design
Lay the T-Shirt out flat and place the negative die over the design. Center it. Angle it. Raise it. Lower it. Whatever works for you. I used a seam gauge for centering.
Once you have it where you want it, use a washable marker and draw the outline of the negative die.
(“But it’ll be too small!” No, the negative die was too big. They’ve cancelled each other out.)
Step 8: Fusing and Serging the Design
I have used one-sided and two-sided fusible fabric. For this one, I'm using two-sided. It's just a matter of preference.
Lay the fusible fabric over the design making sure you cover it all. Cut larger than you need, but not so much that the fusible fabric is exposed. You don’t want it sticking to your iron when you press it together.
According to manufacturer’s instructions, the fusible fabric only needs 2 seconds on the iron for the initial fusing. If you are concerned about ironing over the design, put something over it (plain or wax paper) to protect it. Start from the center and work your way out. Let it cool for a few minutes.
CAREFULLY lay it out next to your serger. Serge along the washable marker line.
(“Use my serger blade on paper?” Yup.)
Once you’re done, turn it over and peel the paper off the back. The serger has been nice enough to perforate it so it will come off very easily.
Don’t worry about the paper under the stitching. I’ll address that when we do the finishing touches.
Step 9: Putting It All Together
If needed, iron the jacket again. No starch. No water. Lay the design on the back and check the edges. It won’t be precise, but it’ll be very close. Pin it at the corners, around the rest of the outside and then in the middle.
Iron it all together (the fusible fabric manufacturer's instructions say 6 seconds). Just to be safe, I did the 6 seconds, then turned the jacket over and did more ironing through the denim.
With a zipper foot on your sewing machine, start sewing at the middle of the bottom, go around the outside at the very edge, on top of the serged stitches (and the remaining paper). I used one continuous stitch, minding the corners. Once you get to the bottom again, go past where you started by a few inches. My machine has a stop stitch that will do about 5 stitches in one spot as at the beginning and end. (If your machine doesn’t have this, you can either lower the dog feed or put your stitch length at zero.)
Of course, trim the threads and you are all done.
If you have any ideas for more accurately transferring the shape of the back of the jacket or any other suggestions for making this better, please comment below.
Thank you for suffering through my narrative. See you next time!