When my daughter was born I struggled to find the perfect Father’s day gift. I really wanted something that would celebrate what a great dad he is, and the wonderful person she is. Something that showcased her creativity and personality in a way that was more than the standard macaroni necklace or framed painting and let us work together to make something really special. And knowing him it had to be practical and useful too.
But the chance purchase of a nice plain white T-shirt got me thinking about adding a hand made touch to an everyday item. Like lots of men, my partner wears a T-shirt almost everyday, either under a shirt or on its own. So I knew he could always use another one and if it featured a picture from his daughter’s hand right over his heart how could he resist making it his favourite?
I have used the simplest, most low tech method possible to do this project to ensure people of all skill levels can complete it quickly and easily with a minimum of purchases and tools. There are a million ways you could jazz it up with scanners and computer printer iron on transfers, but I love the child-like look that comes from doing things in such a basic way. It also means that your child can be fully involved and understand every step. If they are old enough they could even do the whole project on their own.
Materials* T-shirt, either bought or homemade – I prefer a plain white cotton one without too much stretch
* Drawing paper and markers
* Pencil or water soluble fabric marker
* Embroidery threads and needle
* Embroidery hoop – not essential, but it makes the job easier
1. Start by getting your child to draw a picture. There are no limits here – I find that if I try to direct this stage I end up dampening my daughter’s enthusiasm for the whole venture. You can always edit the picture later to make it smaller, simpler or clearer. Ideally use strong, deep coloured markers as they easier to see through fabric later.
2. With your T-shirt right side out take the picture to the inside of the fabric and position it in your desired location. I like on the top left front so the finished picture is over the heart, but anywhere will work fine. In good light you should be able to see the outline of the picture. If you have trouble, retrace the picture in a stronger colour. Trace this through onto the T-shirt front using a lead pencil or water soluble marker. This is the stage where you can edit out any extra bits or simplify the picture. Strong images with a minimum of lines and solid blocks will be easiest to embroider later and will convey that classic children’s drawing look. Keep in mind though that the picture shouldn’t be ‘perfect’. If you neaten it up too much it will no longer look like your child drew it.
3. If you are using an embroidery hoop put the drawing area into it. Start the embroidery by sewing the solid outlines then fill in any blocks of colour. I have used basic primary colours here because my daughter favours them, but if your child tends to use any other colours in particular use them. Use stitches that are in keeping with the overall look of a child’s drawing – basic running and back stitch are fine. Keep stitches small and not too tight as the shirt will stretch when worn and tight stitches might be broken. Backstitch is particularly good for giving some stretch. Remember too the T-shirts stretch more across the body than from top to bottom so take particular care with horizontal stitches.
4. Tie off ends neatly and wash the shirt to remove any traces of the drawing marker.