How To Make Custom T-Shirts with Iron-On Vinyl

My daughter is a glitter junkie. If it shines, she won’t whine.

I can find a lot of girls clothing and accessories with glitter details for her. Shoes covered in glittery textures, shirts with glitter images, pants with glittery tuxedo stripes… they all are welcomed into her closet because it means that she will enjoy getting dressed in the morning. Glitter is on par with sprinkles. You can add each of them to anything to make them kid-acceptable. Need to get your kid to eat something? Add sprinkles. Need to get your kid to wear something? Add glitter.

Getting a haircut is always easy because they add glitter sprinkles to Anna’s hair and a glittery purple heart stamp on her cheek before she leaves. If they forget the glitter, she will not leave the salon. My husband worries that she will be lured into the world of stripping someday because of the profession’s general aptitude for glitter application.

One of my best mom moves has been a simple purchase on Etsy of a few sheets of glittery iron-on vinyl. I bought it in hesitation because the instructions looked crazy complicated when I googled the product. As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to use and it looks almost professional when applied to kid’s t-shirts. It is also met with an approving squeal of delight when I finish a project for Anna.

For spirit week at daycare, she was asked to wear a jersey. She doesn’t have any jersey’s already in her closet, so I opted for a cheap out – making her a custom jersey. A trip to Old Navy yielded a $5 t-shirt in a fun bright pink color. I then designed a simple number 4 and her name for the back of the jersey and added stripes to the sleeves to replicate a football jersey. She chose bright purple glitter for the design (go figure). In total, the jersey cost about $6 and will get a lot more wear than a sports jersey.

I also made a number 4 dress for her birthday which looked professional. After buying a fluttery jersey dress from Hanna Andersson, I cut out a gold glittery four, but instead of ironing it on, which would be permanent, I adhered it to the dress with fashion tape. It stayed for the whole party and easy peeled off at the end of the day. She had a special dress for her birthday, and now we aren’t left with a dress permanently emblazoned with the number four. 

vinyl iron-on t-shirt

Siser EasyWeed Vinyl

The vinyl is called Siser Easyweed Vinyl, available from a few different shops, both within Etsy and in other stores. I purchased from OneSourceStore and had a great experience. The basic idea is that you cut out a design from the vinyl sheet and iron it on to a onesie or t-shirt with your home iron. No, you do not need a special t-shirt press or weeding hook like you see if you Google a how-to video. In fact, don’t Google it because you will feel intimidated and it’s really not hard at all to use. If glitter isn’t your thing, you can find a ton of other sheets, from basic colors to hologram or leather textures.

1. Design a template

For the best results at home, try to create a simple design that uses straight lines, without a lot of intricate pieces to cut out. Think names in block letters or a number. A photo is definitely a no-no. If you have access to a design program like Adobe Illustrator, the process is much easier.

Lay the item of clothing to be altered out flat on a table or hard surface. Pull the seams taut so that the middle of the tee is centered (use the back tag as a guide). Plan out the image that you want visually. Measure the total height and width of the design. I usually make images for a 12 month old about 4 inches wide to cover the chest area comfortably. I made the design for the back of Anna’s shirt (a size 4T) about 6 inches wide.

 iron-on vinyl

In your design software, create the image. After you have the image/number/letter designed, flip the image vertical so that it is mirrored. Meaning, you want it to be reversed. If you can’t do this with your software, you can print the design out without flipping, just remember to flip it to a mirrored image before laying on the vinyl to cut.

Flip-vertical-1 Flip-vertical-2

2. Print the template

Print the design out on regular paper. Any old cheap paper will do because you are basically just using this as a pattern, and will discard it after you have cut the image out.

3. Cut Out the Design

Cut the design from the template paper using scissors or an exacto knife. Remember to cut any middle sections, like the triangle in the 4 or A.

4. Proof the Design

Lay the design out on the t-shirt. Make sure that you are happy with the size and graphic elements. If not, go back to the design step.DSC09489

5. Cut the Vinyl

Lay the vinyl out on a cutting mat. It should have two sides, one dull one glittery or shiny with a clear film adhered to the top. Lay the sheet with the glittery or shiny side down. You want to cut on the dull side. Lay out the design mirrored so that it appears backward. If you switched it to mirror image before printing then lay it out with the printed side up. If you printed without mirroring, laying the printed side down.

Using an exacto knife, cut around the design. You do not need to apply a light of force, it should cut fairly easily. You want to cut through the film covering the shiny side (the part now face down), to completely cut out the image. If the exacto knife isn’t working for you, feel free to use regular scissors to do the cutting.DSC09516 

6. Heat the Iron

Break out your home iron and preheat on the hottest setting, without steam

7. Prepare the T-Shirt

While the iron is heating, lay the t-shirt out on the ironing board flat, with the seams pulled taut and even. Lay the vinyl design down on the t-shirt with the dull side down and the glittery or shiny side up. Leave the plastic film on for now. It should now be exactly as you wish for it look (it should not be mirrored).

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8. Iron On

After the iron is hot, lay a piece of remnant fabric over the design. You can use an old t-shirt or anything that you won’t be upset to see ruined with burns or stains. I use an old piece of muslin or an old thin baby towel that I keep in the house for just this reason.

Press the iron to the fabric and hold in one place for 40-60 second. Try not to swipe the iron or pull the design in any way. Just press down. Make sure the entire design is ironed, including all edges.DSC09520

9. Cool and Peel

After the design has been ironed. remove the remnant fabric. Let the onesie cool for about two minutes. When cool, peel the clear film from the vinyl. Your t-shirt is now ready to wear. Try to wait at least 24 hours before washing to let the design fully adhere, then wash and wear as normal.DSC09522
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