How to Make Super-Cute DIY Graphic Tees Using Old Bandanas

10 Materials
2 Hours

Looking to spruce up an old t-shirt? Have some old bandanas or scrap fabric lying around? Well, in this tutorial, I'm going to share a great way you can make a custom DIY graphic tee with perfectly uniform block letters. Let's get started!

Tools and materials:

  • Plain t-shirt
  • Bandanas or other spare fabric
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Spray-on adhesive
  • Chalk
  • Black paint pen
  • 2 rulers
  • Stencil (optional)
  • Sewing machine
How to make a DIY graphic tee

1. Draw & cut out the letters

To create your letters, use whatever fabric you have, or some old cotton bandanas. If you use different fabrics, make sure they are of similar quality. To make this even easier, choose pieces of fabric with the same pattern.

Simple DIY graphic tee

Iron all the pieces of fabric so they lay perfectly flat. Cut the fabric into identical squares, from which you will cut your letters. On each square, use the chalk to draw one block letter of your word.

Tip: Don’t choose a long word – you want it to fit on the front of your tee without getting scrunched under the arms, and I found that making the word no more than 11 inches wide works best.

Now, cut each letter a half-inch larger than you drew it, using straight scissors.

Basic DIY graphic tee

Watch the video at 5:20 to see why I recommend making block letters.

How to make an easy DIY graphic tee

2. Lay out the word

Lay the letters out on your tee and eyeball the size of each letter. Trim as needed to ensure that all your letters are the same size. To center the word correctly, lay a ruler across your tee just under the armpit.

Check that letters are evenly aligned above the ruler by measuring the distance between the bottom of the letters and the horizontal ruler.

Also, measure the distance from the start and of the word to the side of the tee to make sure that’s equal as well.

DIY graphic tee tutorial

3. Stick & sew

It’s hard to pin the letters to your tee without them moving, so apply some adhesive spray to the back of each letter to tack it down on the t-shirt. Pat the letters down to ensure they are well-fused to the tee.

Sewing the letters onto the t-shirt with a sewing machine

Now, sew the letters to your tee as close to the edge of the letter as you can without going off. Rotate the tee under the presser foot of your sewing machine to make nice sharp stitch corners on your block letters.

Outlining the letters with a black paint pen

4. Outline in black

If you want your letters to pop from your tee a little more, you can use a black paint pen to outline the letters between the stitches and edge of the letter.

Here’s another design, where the words blended into the tee. So, I popped them out!

DIY graphic tee

DIY graphic tee tutorial

I can’t wait to see what you make! Tag me on social so I can what words and fabric you used. And if you liked this tutorial, subscribe for me, and share it with a friend!

Suggested materials:
  • Plain t-shirt
  • Bandanas
  • Scissors
See all materials

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Join the conversation
3 of 9 comments
  • Syl18839246 Syl18839246 on Jul 12, 2021

    I would like to try it but I have an old 1960's White sewing machine. I have to sew slowly. But I think an easier item like this might work. It has a quilted look. Very nice.

    • Leslie Leslie on Jul 19, 2021

      I have a 1920's Singer compact sewing machine that I love. Wouldn't buy a new one. I am looking into getting different feet for it that I have seen to expand its capabilities. My Aunt had given it to me when I went to design school and it even sewed through leather to make pants. My mother had a White sewing machine (older than yours) that was like a bulldozer it would sew through anything. She used to make all my Sister and my special clothes. Have your machine checked out by an expert who repairs sewing machines especially old ones. Lor is right, he will most likely tune up your machine and it will sew like new.

  • Syl18839246 Syl18839246 on Jul 20, 2021

    I was eighteen when I bought my White sewing machine, my mother taught me how to sew. She was a seamstress who had worked for a business. She and I made clothes for my children. I was app😄reciative of my mother's skills and my White sewing machine. Still am, there is a business here that refurbishes vintage machines. I have wanted to contact them, although my husband refurbished it many years back. And I have used it many times.