Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Celebrate the Boy: Layered-Look Pirate Shirt Tutorial

Hey there, boy celebrators!

I am so excited to be part of Celebrating the Boy!  I'm Emily, and this is my blog, The Boy Trifecta. If you've never been here before, welcome! I'll tell you just a bit about myself before we get started. I have three fantastic boys - Riley, Quinn, and Sawyer - and they are the reason I taught myself how to sew and crochet. I blog almost exclusively about making for boys, so for me, Celebrate the Boy is better than Christmas! More than anything else, I love making unique, interesting clothes for little men. I try out just about every boy pattern I can get my hands on, and make up my own by trial and error (mostly error) whenever I can. 

Here are some of the projects and tutorials you can find me working on here:

I've also been known to make a bag or two (hey, mamas need somewhere to store all those Hot Wheels I am constantly lugging around!). 

Today, we are making layered-look shirts, and giving them a little pirate flare. 



I LOVE a layered look on little boys, but I can't get mine to stand still long enough for me to get one layer of clothing on, let alone several! Today, we're giving a boring old shirt contrasting, layered-look sleeves, as well as some pirate-themed stencil and appliqué option for the front of the shirts. Because what boy doesn't love pirates? These shirts are quick to whip up and achieve the layered look without the wrestling match with your little guy. So let's get started!

Supplies for shirt:
T-shirt (can be long or short sleeved)
Contrasting knit fabric (or you can just cut the sleeves off another shirt, as I did for one of these)
Seam Ripper (if your shirt has unwanted pockets)
Sewing Machine

Supplies for appliqués:
Freezer paper
Craft knife
Brown fabric scrap
Knit fabric scraps of your choice
Gold and black fabric paint

First, grab your boring old shirts. I got these at Target on clearance for practically nothing. 

I can never find a good, solid colored shirt without a pocket, so I always rip them off. 

But don't throw your pockets away! We'll use them again later. 

Now grab a pair of scissors, and if your shirt is long-sleeved, cut those sleeves off about halfway down. 

Next, cut open the sleeve portion you just removed at the seam. We're going to use it as our template for the contrasting sleeve. 

Using the old sleeve as your guide, cut a new piece of fabric for the contrasting sleeve, leaving enough seam allowance on the bottom for a hem, on the sides to sew the sleeve together, and about an inch at the top. 

Set your sleeves aside for just a second. 

Remember that pocket we ripped off? Let's sew it back on the top of the sleeve. It is way cuter and more interesting there. Don't want a pocket on the sleeve? That's ok - these pockets work great on toys, in jackets, on comfy knit pants, wherever you need a pocket! Don't throw them away!

I found that it worked best to sew from the bottom middle point on the pocket out to the top, and then start at the middle again and sew up the other side. The sleeve on my 12 month size shirt was just too small to maneuver all the way around from one side to the other. However, on the 3T size I did, I started at one corner and sewed around to the other and it was perfectly fine.

Ok, grab those sleeves again. Starting at the top edge, sew the sleeve right sides together for about an inch - not the entire length of the sleeve! You need the sleeve seam to be mostly open to sew it to the main shirt. Having that seam mostly open makes life easier because you can move the fabric around instead of having to sew inside a long tiny tube. 

Now is the time to hem the bottom edge of the sleeve if you aren't using an existing hem from another shirt sleeve.

Grab your shirt, and press the raw edge of the sleeve in about 3/4 inch.

Now pin your contrasting sleeve in to the shirt, making sure to match up the seam of the shirt sleeve with the open edge of the contrasting sleeve (where you will sew the sleeve together later).

Sewing from the inside of your sleeve, sew your new contrasting sleeve to the shirt, making sure to catch the sleeve edge you pressed under in your seam.

Look at that! You're almost done! Your sleeve is attached...

Now just sew up the inside of the contrasting sleeve,

You're done! Now, I think these are pretty darn cute just like this, but if you want to pirate them up a bit, we can do that too!

For the treasure chest, we are going to stencil in layers. Need a freezer paper stenciling tutorial? Dana has a great one right here.

So, print the template right on to the dull side of a piece of freezer paper. Iron it on to a brown fabric scrap (I used brown tweed, which I am sure will not wash well, but looked cute!). 

Stencil the gold sections first.

Then repeat with the black sections, after the gold section dries. I somehow missed photographing this step, but I think you guys can figure it out. After the paint is dry, fuse some double-sided fusible web to the back, cut out the chest, fuse it to your shirt and stitch down. I also chose to stencil the words "Shake Your Booty" along with my pirate chest. 

Want the skull pirate? Grab the template and trace or print onto freezer paper. I use knit fabric for this appliqué, and no fusible at all. However, I love using the freezer paper to stabilize the knit while I cut. 

I also added the little pirate rag-hat thing (what are those called?) just by re-tracing the curve of the head and making some little leaf shapes out to the side.

Pin that pirate skull down and sew.

Guess what? You're totally done! Find some amazingly cute boys to model your new shirts!



Let them tie a random scrap of fabric to their heads and use a toothbrush as a sword.



And ABSOLUTELY let their big brothers convince them to call everyone "scurvy dogs" all night long, just for your own amusement. 

Thanks so much for stopping by, and thank you to Dana and Rae for putting together such a fantastic series of boy projects! I hope you both know how much this series is loved and appreciated by moms like me!


  1. Those came out FANTASTIC! And I love that you just ripped off the pockets. How silly is it that I've been too afraid to but shirts with pockets because I didn't think I could work around the pocket. Reading this was a "DUH!" moment for me.

  2. wow, super cute! my boys would totally wear this :)

  3. I LOVE it. I am so excited to give this a try!

  4. Congrats on being featured on MADE! :) LOVE the shirt. Guess I'll be hitting VOA or Goodwill to look for stripes.

  5. Love the pirate shirts! Will have to bookmark this page for when my son's 1st birthday party rolls around; I'm doing a pirate theme.

  6. I'm still mad you never told me about saving pockets before now.

  7. Too cute! I will have to save this b/c I think I am going to have a pirate themed 1st birthday for my little boy! :)

  8. SUPER!! This is SO great. I am with Char about the pockets!!

    Just Another Day in Paradise

  9. Ooh, I'm so excited to have found your blog. Like you, I am the proud owner of 3 lovely boys, and just finishing my (criminology) PhD fancy that. Unlike you, I am too slack to blog. I am in awe.

    Thanks for your inspiration

  10. thanks so much for this--I love the pirate applique. what a grat blog--glad I found you!

  11. totally fun! Thanks again for sharing with us Emily!!
    And YES. I've been saving my pockets too! This is the perfect project for them :)

  12. As the proud Grandmother of two very energetic boys, I thoroughly enjoy your blog. These pirate shirts are awesome. Your children are adorable, I especially smile when I look at the little guy -- he looks like he might "shake his booty," lol

  13. Thanks for the tip, Emily! I'll be visiting Sew to Speak very soon...have a feeling I'm going to love it. ;)

  14. Love it! I never thought to rip off the pockets either. Now I don't have to sigh and walk away from tshirts with pockets :)

  15. I am so excited that I found your blog! Great tutorial, thank you! I just got that cute grey and black sweatshirt fabric too, and I feel super inspired since seeing what you've done with it.

  16. I have three boys too! I always thought it would be so fun to sew, but what? Oh. My. Goodness. You have totally changed my mind. Maybe I'll dust off my sewing machine and make my boys even cuter! Thanks for sharing all your ideas! :)

  17. These are very cute!

    I'm also going to come back to check out some of your tutorials, the paper airplane shirt is one of my favorites.

  18. What a good idea about removing the pockets! I was freaking OUT as Walmart only has pocket tees in our area. THANK YOU.

  19. Really cute shirt! My boy would love that shirt he thinks pirates are great!

  20. WOW, I saw your post on Ucreate, and Im totally going to try these shirts for my son I know he we LOVE them.


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