Home sewing Toddler t-shirts four ways

Toddler t-shirts four ways

by Clare Mansell
Toddler t-shirts four ways

I’ve mentioned this before, but I really object to some of the crazy prices shops charge for kids clothing and as much as I love to splash out on the odd bit of handmade loveliness, I try and avoid lining big coporations pockets by paying £20 for a toddler t-shirt that cost about £2 to manufacture, especially when I can pick up a multi-pack of four for £10.50 and then spend a couple of weeks happily experimenting with ways to customise them.

Pinterest is full of tutorials that show you how to use simple stuff that you may already have at home to turn plain tees into something special, but do the methods actually work? I decided to use my last multi-pack to try some of the ideas and to try some simple ones of my own and report back on the success or failures of the ideas…



This is my default option for customising, but for this one I tried to use the simplest template I had to hand – a cookie cutter! The two different star shapes were achieved by drawing round the outside and the inside of the cookie cutter on to heat and bond. The fabric I used was a small sample pack of fabric from Trouve Vintage which I got in a goodie bag from a blogger conference (Blogtacular, I think) I used the Heat N Bond to affix the stars to the t-shirt, then used blanket stitch to sew them down. I then hand stitched round each star with embroidery thread.

I’m not the fastest hand stitcher, so it took me an hour to do all of them, but I was sitting in front of the TV, so quite happy! I think the results of a little time on the machine and by hand produced a simple but professional looking tee and I was happy with the result. I have a youtube tutorial which walks through the principle of using Heat N Bond to applique t-shirts here.

Dip Dye with chalk paint


According to the tutorial on her website (which I followed to the letter) you can use Annie Sloan’s chalk paint to dip dye fabric. I doubled the recommended one tablespoon of paint to one litre of water to increase the strength of the blue I used and loved the results. I decided to be cautious and used both a hot tumble drier and a hot iron to seal the colour, but when I chucked it in the washing machine (without detergent) all the paint came out! The tutorial does say (rather confusingly) that if you increase the amount of paint you use you can experience more fade, but I had no trace of colour left at all!

I started again with a packet of Dylon navy dye and this time achieved the permanent results I wanted. The dipped effect looked so much like the sea that I couldn’t resist adding some appropriate applique text using felt. As felt doesn’t fray you don’t have to use a stitch that encloses the edges of the letters, so I sewed with a straight stitch instead.

Kawaii Sharpie t-shirt


This tutorial here talks through using a Sharpie pen to draw your own custom images on a t-shirt which seemed like a great budget idea. I decided to create a Kawaii style cat face which I drew on to paper and traced on to the t-shirt using a light box. As recommended in the tutorial I did dots marking key points on the image first, then drew on the lines afterwards.


This second step is more tricky as the fabric can pull under the pen, but I got there in the end and created quite a pleasing result. Like the chalk paint you are advised to seal the ink by placing it in a hot tumble drier or under an iron. I haven’t washed it yet (I’ll update when I do) but I have seen a few people commenting that despite sealing the t-shirt their designs did fade after repeated washing, so if I try this again I think I’ll invest in a fabric pen that’s made for the job!

I also added some Kawaii style heart elbow patches which I made out of the white felt material. The hearts were also cut from cookie cutters.

Peter Pan collar and pockets


I looked at a few tutorials for Peter Pan collars, but decided to try this one as it meant only adding the collar at the front of the t-shirt. The freehand drawing was relatively easy. I initially tried knit (jersey) fabric as advised, but found the collar wouldn’t lay flat, so redid it in cotton. The size of the neck and the lack of collar at the back meant it was still big enough to fit over my daughter’s head even without any stretch at the front.

The pockets I drew freehand too and cut out four pieces of fabric from the template. The only problem with these is that I managed to attach them slightly wonkily. It does annoy me, but I’m also conscious that it won’t be easy to spot when she’s wearing it and she’ll probably have grown out of it by the spring.

Trying the different methods was a fun process with only a couple of disappointments. I’m definitely going to buy some fabric pens to repeat the Kawaii style idea and Theo has some further dip-dyeing planned for half-term so I’m sure they’ll be further customising to come.

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Christina - Ladybug Home October 24, 2016 - 7:45 am

All very clever ideas. Helpful to hear about successs and challenges. Happy dyeing this half-term.

Pamela | Life With Munchers October 24, 2016 - 9:15 am

You are so talented! I absolutely love this! My sewing skills are lacking though….odd be tempted to try the sharpie pen one xx

clare @ maybush studio October 24, 2016 - 11:26 am

Thank you! If you do consider the drawing route use these instead of sharpies… https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ZFBMA02/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_img?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1XYO3DCRTSDEB&coliid=I19ENJ61EFMJBW The Sharpie option was fun to try, but after the first wash has smudged and faded a little and the Graffiti pens are made for the job.


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