This summer, it’s easy to show your family pride with a set of custom family reunion T-shirts that you can make yourself! It’s the perfect way to express your family’s style, in your own way.
You can design your own perfect image with the tips I’ll be sharing today, and just iron it on! If you’re planning a big family reunion gathering, you can even set up an iron-on station, and everyone can make their own perfect shirts. You only need a few supplies to make great custom shirts.
Supplies needed to make your own family reunion t-shirts:
- Electronic Cutting Machine (I’m using the Silhouette Cameo today).
- White Heat Transfer Vinyl.
- Parchment Paper or Thin Cloth.
- Pre-washed T-shirt(s) in Bright Colors.
I opted for a family tree theme for our family reunion shirts, and picked a simple tree shape from the Silhouette Store. You can get as detailed as you like when choosing your design. But keep in mind that if you choose a design that requires a lot of weeding (removing the small cuts from within your design) then you may be working for quite a while before your design is ready to iron on. So a big block silhouette is a great option – and I used a connected cursive font for our family name. I found that a 9″ x 9″ design worked well for both the kids’ and adults’ shirts. If you choose a similar size, you’ll be able to get 4 big iron-on images from each 36″ long roll of Heat Transfer Vinyl. You can, of course, fit many more images on a roll if you opt for a smaller, logo-style design.
If you’re using the Silhouette like I am, then don’t forget, you can weld together your letters, and group all your shapes together to resize it perfectly for your shirt.
When using the Silhouette, there’s one more step in preparing your design for ironing – you MUST flip it so that your letters aren’t backward when you go to iron it on. The way that Heat Transfer Vinyl is designed, you cut the backside of it and then flip it over to adhere it. In the Studio, you will want to go to Object -> Mirror -> Flip Horizontally. If you’re using another brand of cutting machine just be sure to read the instructions thoroughly!
You can load the Heat Transfer Vinyl directly into the cutting machine. You’ll need to move the right roller to the narrow position, load media, and feed the vinyl in with the shiny plastic backing facing down. The plastic backing will help you place and transfer your image to the shirt.
Once you’ve cut your image, weed out all the pieces that you don’t want transferred – in this case, everything around the tree, and our family name. This will leave a slightly sticky sheet so that you can position the image onto your fabric and be confident that it won’t shift when transferring it.
Place your image, and cover the plastic with a thin cloth (in my case, I found that parchment paper for baking worked beautifully). Then, with an iron set to cotton and no steam, iron it firmly to the shirt through the cloth or paper, which should take about a minute. You just want to be sure there’s something protecting your iron and your shirt from melting the transfer plastic. Gently lift the transfer plastic along the edges to see if it lifts cleanly away from the vinyl. If it doesn’t, then re-iron it for a few seconds more.
I found that designing what I wanted took the majority of my time – around a half an hour to decide on the look I liked. Each image cut in just minutes, weeding took about a few minutes each, and then another few minutes to iron each shirt. I had a set of four family reunion shirts for my immediate family in about an hour. If you’re planning to create a large quantity, you can recruit some help to work assembly-line style to speed the process up!
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Adrianne is a writer, artist, designer, wife, and mom of 2 kids. She blogs at happyhourprojects.com where the theme is tutorials and recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Her favorite projects are jewelry-making, paper crafts, and recycled crafts. She participates annually in ArtPrize, an international art competition, and she’s the author of the book DIY T-Shirt Crafts: 50 Ways to Recycle a T-Shirt (August 2015).