A cheerful School Bus T-shirt


I almost called this blog post ‘Who needs a Cricut?’ Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this year (thinking about it, I guess most of us have, in a way.. hmm), you’ll have noticed that several prominent sewing bloggers have acquired a Cricut machine and are using these to make envy-inducing t-shirts and sweatshirts featuring all kinds of lettering, logos and quirky designs. Being a stubborn so-and-so with a strong contrary streak, I decided to try a different approach.

My son is sometimes lucky enough to be given t-shirts with fun applique designs on them – Boden do these really well here in the UK. But it’s a downside of being tall that it’s getting harder and harder to find fun designs to suit a 7-year old because the size that fits him best is made for children who are around 9, and the RTW clothes aimed at them are a lot less fun and colourful. I’ve been meaning to have a go at applique for ages, and all those Cricut posts gave me the push I needed to get on with it.

The pattern

I pulled out the Oliver + School Bus T-shirt, which I’ve used several times before, and my son chose the long-sleeved version. This pattern suits his long and lean shape, and he prefers a shoulder-seam sleeve to a raglan. Worryingly, he’s now in the size 10, which only leaves one more size for him to grow into!

The seam allowances on this pattern are only 1/4″, so I increased this to 3/8″ around the neckline and allowed for this much again when I altered the pattern to include cuffs rather than an ordinary hem.

The fabrics

The main fabric is a royal blue viscose-nylon-elastane ponte roma from Backstitch, and I think it’s the same fabric I used for my Blackwood cardigan. My son loved the cardigan fabric and had asked me to make him something in the same material, so when this 75cm remnant came up it was perfect for a t-shirt/sweatshirt hybrid.

The cuffs are in a rainbow ribbing I bought years ago from Stone Fabrics, which I’ve used before in pyjamas and a t-shirt. It’s quite heavy for a rib knit, so it works better with the ponte than with single jersey.

Finally the star is cut from my scraps – yay – a leftover from an old sweatshirt fail.


I love sewing with ponte. It’s the easiest knit to work with, and the high viscose content in this one means it presses well enough.

For the applique, I tested my method, and the different stitch options on the leftover scraps first, and eventually came up with the following:

  • First, I used Bondaweb to stabilise the applique and then to iron it in place onto t-shirt front
  • I then pinned Stitch n Tear to the back of the t-shirt front behind the applique
  • Finally, I stitched all around the applique (through the applique, the t-shirt front and the Stitch n Tear) using the stronger of the two satin stitch options on my machine.

If you’re thinking of trying this for the first time, check your machine’s manual – mine had a whole section on applique that helped me narrow the stitch options down to three. And do try it out on some leftover pieces of the same fabrics, using the same stabilisers you plan to use on the garment.

For the neckline, I cut the neckband and attached it before sewing the second shoulder seam, following the method from an old Love Sewing magazine article by Claire-Louise Hardy. This was much easier than trying to attached the band in a closed loop. I also tried stitching with the neckband as the bottom layer under my presser foot this time, rather than on the top as I normally do. I’m not certain if this made a difference, but the results are better overall, so I’m going to try it again next time!

The only thing I forgot was to do a BHA (big head adjustment) so it’s a little snug going on and off, but maybe it’ll help to keep his hair under control…

Until next time,


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