Making Patches from Surf Event T-Shirt Art

T-shirts from events are always fun to collect. I’ve got a closet full of them, and have worn many out to the point where they’re ripped, stained, or nearly disintegrated by washing. Because I love the memories attached to these shirts, or the really good artwork painted on them, I get sentimental and keep them out of wearing rotation before the image is gone and put them in a storage pile in my closet. Just like a lot of people, I always imagined making a handmade, beautiful, keepsake quilt from these shirts.
Problem is, I HATE quilting.
Secondly, really, it’s a pain to keep the whole shirt around when it’s unwearable anyway. When it comes down to it, I just want the image on the back or the front- I don’t want to have to worry about cutting each t-shirt image out to a certain dimension to make a quilt square so it matches the others. Takes too long, and with knits, it’s hard to get a consistent dimension on the cut anyway to make all of the squares match up. So I decided that I’d make patches out of these images that I can put wherever I want, whenever. I don’t have to wait to have a whole quilt’s worth of surf event art images.
For an example, I got out a shirt I got in an award goody bag at a paddleboard race at Ponce Inlet, Florida back in 2007. I have a Bark 14′ paddleboard, and I think the logo is unique and pretty cool. The t-shirt, however, has seen better days, and is pretty out of shape.

My paddleboard t-shirt

Now, as you can see, the shirt was printed on a plain white knit tee with black ink. For those of you who know me, know I can’t leave well enough alone, so I’d thought I’d doodle on the image with some fabric markers that permanently mark on fabric and will not fade in the wash. So, be careful with these so you don’t mark up stuff you don’t want to. For this image, I added some color and the Event Name and Year since it wasn’t on this goody bag prize.

Fabric Markers
All ruined.

Next, I rough cut the back of the shirt around the logo, leaving a lot of slop around the image for errors. I kept the rest of the t-shirt cloth as a rag for other woodworking crafts and cleaning, which is better than using papertowels.
I love this stuff called Steam A Seam 2, that you can pick up at any fabric store. I don’t know of another company that makes it, but it’s essentially a double sided material that allows you to adhere one piece of fabric onto another without sewing, like making a patch. These sheets come in 8 1/2 by 11″ sheets, so you may need to butt more than one sheet against each other on the backside of the image to make your patch.
These sheets are double sided stick, which means they have backing on the front and back of the sheet. Take your t-shirt image, flip it UPSIDE DOWN (we are putting the adhesive on the back) and peel of only ONE side of the Steam A Seam sheet and press the sticky side to the back of the knit piece. It will stay in place temporarily:

Getting ready to put the sheet on the back of the Bark image

I had to use a whole sheet plus a little piece to cover the entire backside of the image. I set my iron to high and steam, and pressed the sheet (which still has backing) on the knit cloth. DON’T rub the iron back and forth- you need to press with the iron, lift the iron up, and press in a different spot. Make sure you don’t stay on a spot too long, but make sure you get the edges ironed well. Let the piece cool off fully.

Ironing the double sided adhesive onto the back of the image

When you’re finished, cut out the image however you want. You may want to cut it out as a square, freeform, etc. I cut mine out right around the heart logo. If I left the backing on, I could store it as a patch to put on anything whenever I was ready. I could iron it onto a pillowcase, board bag, another t-shirt, etc. I decided to put mine onto a fleece blanket I already had.
To prepare the patch, I peeled of the second backing:

Taking the backing off of the patch

I applied this to my much-washed fleece blanket, following the directions on the Steam A Seam package. I set my iron on high and steam, not dragging the iron across the patch, and I used another piece of the t-shirt as I ironed over the patch so I wouldn’t scorch the image. If you make sure to iron the edges of the patch really well, you don’t have to sew around the edge, but I may anyway. The patch is permanently ironed onto the blanket and can be washed. I can add patches along the way, as I feel like it, or just leave the one on it. The best thing is, I didn’t have to quilt, and it took about 5 minutes to put on the blanket.
Here it is in the surf-themed guest room:

Freakin’ Home and Gardens shot.
Color’s scheme’s off, but so what?

If you do the blanket thing, like I did, you can keep adding patches like a Surfing Boy Scout, or Girl Scout in my case. Some of you may be Surfing Eagle Scouts already…I’m still in the Brownie troop.

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