northstory + co

DIY Ribbon T-Shirt (apples and pumpkins)

Little C and me were in Winners back in September. Winners in Canada is like Marshalls for all our fellow neighbours to the south that are reading this. In there she picked up an Eric Carle book. Eric Carle is the immensely popular children’s author of books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

We have a very worn down copy of the first one at our house so I don’t know why I had the creative inspiration moment in the middle of an clothing/house ware store, but suddenly I got a great idea for a t-shirt based on his pictures. He uses a collage technique which reminded me of patches of ribbons put together in pieces to form a shape. So why not make a t-shirt using ribbons as the primary picture making material?

I use ribbons a lot in crafting. You know when you find a textile you’re comfortable with? For some people that’s yarn and knitting. For other’s you take old clothing and make them into Avante-garde art works to wear. That’s how I am with ribbons. Or scrap fabrics. I really enjoy working with smaller pieces of textiles on crafts which is why there are so many projects and cards I do with ribbons. I’m comfortable with them and really enjoy thinking of what they can be made into.

For this project you will need:

– a blank t-shirt (pre-washed is great, more importantly pre-shrunk)

– ribbons of your choice (Grosgrain, not Satin)

E6000 or a really good fabric glue like Fabri-Tac

– a piece of cardboard

I initially did these shirts back in September because it was Fall and I thought it would be nice to make some Fall themed shirts for the kids. Especially for Little C as her birthday was coming up and we were doing a small Pumpkin themed party. Considering I’ve started on Christmas crafts I realized I really needed to get this posted already. Procrastination. Bad.

First the DIY Apple T-shirt.

I made a rough sketch of an apple and positioned it where I wanted it on the t-shirt.

Then I began to place the ribbon over the sketch and trimmed the ribbon ends into the shape of the apple.

Once I had my apple cut out, I tried to heat seal the ends with a candle. There are thousands of tutorials online on how to do this. What this does is help to ensure your ribbon doesn’t fray and well, undo. Unfortunately no matter how many times I did this I wound up burning the ends. It drove me insane. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. It’s like me and cooking rice. I always burn the pot.

So I thought another way of sealing the ends overall is to use either clear nail polish or a fabric glue and considering I was going to use E6000 glue which is an industrial adhesive, I thought if nail polish can seal the ribbon ends, surely waterproof super glue will be enough. So the only sealing I did, was applying the glue on the backs of the ribbons overall when gluing them onto the t-shirt.

First I put a piece of cardboard under the shirt to ensure the glue didn’t seep to the back of the shirt.

I then took the E6000 glue and spread it all over the back of the ribbon, again paying special attention to the ends where I had freshly cut the ribbon.

And then placed my apple one piece at a time on the t-shirt.

Make sure you spread the glue thinly all over the back of each piece of ribbon or else you will have the glue gun affect and have dabs of glue that you need to flatten out. That may cause it to seep through the fabric and darken it. You don’t want that. Also push down on the ribbon ensuring it’s pressed down firmly on the fabric when you are placing the ribbon pieces to make sure they adhering well.

Do not slide, tug or pull at the ribbon as to avoid pulling and stretching the fabric underneath. Press down only. Pat if you will.

If you find that you miss a spot with the ends, just take a toothpick with extra glue and dab it on the ends and then press down firmly.

Apologies on the fuzzy photo. At this point my fingers were covered in super glue and I’m down to my last camera (everything else has broken down this year including my beloved Nikon D80) and I couldn’t afford to ruin the D40 one with globs of glue.

Once you’re done, lay your shirt flat to dry. Leave it alone for at least 2 days. The glue takes approx 72 hours to fully cure but you should be ok by Day 2 and that way you can check to see if any of the parts of the ribbons aren’t fully glued along their edge and fix them if necessary.

DIY Apple T-shirt 2

DIY Apple T-shirt

Repeat entire process for your DIY Pumpkin T-shirt.

And you’ve got yourself some pretty cool new t-shirts that will earn you major brownie points with your kids.



For washing these I will admit I was very nervous about how they would hold up in the wash so the first time I washed them, I did them by hand in my sink and then hung them to dry.

And they held up phenomenally! Since then they’ve been put in the washing machine inside out in the gentle cycle and hung to dry every time and they’re still great.

I did use one piece of satin ribbon in the apple one and I don’t recommend it because you can see the ends of the satin are starting to fray a teensy bit. It’s not enough to panic but when you’re a Type A like me, it will drive you crazy.  But the grosgrain ribbon is completely in tact. So don’t use satin for these. Unless you’ve got an awesome heat sealing tool. In which case let me know what it is so I can buy it.

I’ve already been summoned to do a Christmas Tree/Snowman/Holly/Snowflakes/Santa and/or Present t-shirt by the kids.  Valentine’s Hearts. Easter Eggs. Sunshines!!! When (if) I do them, I’ll show you them too. The possibilities for this are absolutely endless. If you can think of a way to shape ribbon into it, you can make yourself whatever t-shirt you want.

Cheers Mr. Carle! Thank you for your talent. Without your drawings I never would have thought of this.


I have since washed both of the shirts repeatedly in the washing machine inside out in cold water and then hung them to dry. They are in as good condition now (July 2013) as the day they were made. So don’t worry about putting them in your washing machine, just DO NOT put them in your dryer or the ribbons may shrink or peel. And you do not want to be ironing ribbon in an attempt to smooth it out.

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  • Reply
    the home tome
    November 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    LOVE these! I also heart ribbons and my mother has quite a hefty collection that I occasionally pilfer. Thanks for the tip w the cardboard – I can see me going through this and ending up with a shirt that wouldn’t open up! Ha!

    But, I am SO lazy about hand washing – I think, oh, it’ll be fine in the washing machine – sometimes this is true, sometimes…not so much. Thanks for sharing this! Looking fwd to your Christmas posts! 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Ribbons are so addicting. I find myself scouring stores and second hand shops for old remnants of ones.
      I totally do not have time to hand wash anything so it does hold up good inside out in the washing machine’s gentle cycle. Once the t-shirts are worn I’ll test it out on a regular cycle and that way I won’t cry if they fall apart.

  • Reply
    Pillows A-La-Mode
    November 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    LOVE!!! 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Thank you! I would have sewn them on but I’m still practicing the whole sewing in a straight line thing. 😉

      • Reply
        Pillows A-La-Mode
        November 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

        It looks perfect the way it is! 🙂 But I’m proud of you for learning to sew, too! I’ve tried SO many times to learn to knit and still don’t get it.But someday I will!

  • Reply
    November 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    These turned out so darn cute!! My problem would be trying to figure out which ribbon to use…. THERE’S SO MANY CHOICES in ribbon these days. Excellent combos and good work with the cutting and gluing. All worth it because the girls look adorable and they seem really proud of mom’s creations. Fab as usual, Alex!

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 11, 2012 at 10:10 am

      You do not even want to know how long I can stand in front of the ribbon section. It’s beyond OCD. Good to see you back!

  • Reply
    November 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I liked your blog!!! have good ideas and craft !!!

  • Reply
    November 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    i LOVE the way these turned out. so creative. and your daughters are ADORB.

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Adorable when they’re not trying to kill each other over a Pound Puppy or that Lallaloopsy whatever you call it doll. It’s like Coraline’s Mother from Tim Burton masked as kids toys. I’m like how can this not give you nightmares in the middle of the night on a bookshelf?

  • Reply
    Victoria Elizabeth
    November 11, 2012 at 8:22 am

    You’re so creative! They turned out great! (But your kiddos do kind of steal the t-shirt’s spotlight.)

    I don’t know about heat-sealing ribbon, but my mom always uses Fray Check. Comes in a little squeezy bottle and is clear and washable. I’ve used it on other fabrics too; although chiffon will drive you insane no matter what you do to the edge… It does make the edge a little stiff, but other than that I’ve always been happy with it.

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 11, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Do you know how long it took me to get them to actually both look at the camera at the same time? It’s like telling a dog to stay when there’s a prime rib steak behind your head.

      Fray Check! That’s it! I was like surely there’s a product someone invented to avoid me having to mass murder my ribbons like a charred bbq. I will totally look into that.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Ohhh my these are so cuteeee!! And great choice of ribbons! Adorable!!

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      I just left Michael’s this past week. OMG your Christmas collection is killing me!

      • Reply
        November 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm


  • Reply
    Organized Living Essentials
    November 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I love it! Your instructions are so clear and your daughters look fabulous! I am thinking this would work for a simple Christmas Tree design too! I am impressed.

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Great minds think alike, that’s my next venture. Right now I am trying to decide between trees, a wreath, holly, a snowman or ornaments. Maybe even a simple saying.

  • Reply
    Roar Sweetly
    November 12, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Wow, these tops look very striking! Love it.

  • Reply
    now at home mom
    November 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Love how your DIY project turned out! It looks great on your little girls! I would love to try it for my baby boy’s t-shirt! I might give it a try (it’s too cute to not try it) 🙂 thanks for sharing this! 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Oh definitely try it! I totally think it would look amazing for a little boy!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2013 at 4:39 am

    Oh that is so cute I love it, I’m going to try to do it for my two little monters.

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