Erin Hentzel is the owner, designer and instructor at Avery Lane Designs and author of the new Sew in Style: Make Your Own Doll Clothes book. The book includes over twenty projects for 18″ dolls, designed for kids to learn to sew unique doll clothes and accessories themselves.

From the publisher:

    Get your amateur designer or stylist sewing with Sew in Style—Make Your Own Doll Clothes, a how-to manual for kids who want to create one-of-a-kind looks for their 18” dolls. Twenty-two trendy clothing and accessory projects—from yoga pants to skinny jeans to a messenger bag—encourage kids to mix and match to design their own unique outfits. Lessons on sewing basics, step-by-step photos, full-size patterns and projects for all skills levels ensure that your budding designer will have no trouble creating the looks they always wanted for their favorite 18” companions.

Erin shows you her favorite techniques for creating graphic t-shirts with fabric paint, an approach that can work for doll clothes or kid clothes too! Find more from Erin in the Avery Lane shop and on the Avery Lane blog.

Looking for more ideas for 18″ doll clothes and accessories? Here’s our 18″ Doll Clothes Skirt + Top and Tips + Tricks for Sewing Doll Clothes.

Graphic tees are so much more fun than plain t-shirts! In my book, Sew in Style, I suggest that you can transform a basic tee into a Graphic Tee, using fabric paint and rubber stamps. I want to show you how to do just that: “Make It Graphic!” (as described on page 110 of Sew in Style book).

You could use any top pattern from the book and make it into a graphic tee. For this tutorial, I will be using the Fitted Tee project, found on pages 98 – 100 of Sew in Style. It’s fairly simple to do. It’s best to add the graphics (stamp) before you sew the tee, but you can use one that you’ve already sewn as well.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Paper to protect your workspace
  • Masking tape
  • Paper plate
  • Sponge
  • Paint brushes
  • Fabric paints
  • Rubber stamp(s)
  • T-shirt fabric, like cotton lycra or jersey knit (or a finished tee)
  • Extra piece of scrap fabric like muslin, to test your stamps before stamping your tee

Step 1: Cover your workspace with paper and tape it down. I like to use butcher paper to cover my craft mat. Get your ready-made t-shirt, your cut t-shirt pattern pieces or follow the instructions on pages 14 -15 of your Sew in Style book and cut out your pattern pieces for the Fitted Tee project, using pattern pieces #33 and #34.

Set the Back pieces aside and tape the tee front piece (#33) to the paper on your workspace. Make sure your tee is flat, but not stretched. Tape the scrap fabric onto the paper, too. Use this scrap fabric to test out your stamps before stamping onto your tee, to make sure you like the design.

Step 2: Make sure the sponge is moist. You don’t want it to be very wet, but it doesn’t work if the sponge is completely dry either. Wet your sponge with water and wring it out well. Wrap it in a towel and squeeze as much water out as you can.

Step 3: Place the sponge onto the paper plate. Squirt some fabric paint onto the sponge.

Use the paint brush to spread the paint and push the paint slightly into the sponge. You want the very top of the sponge to soak up some paint.

Step 4: Place the stamp onto the paint-soaked sponge and press down slightly, just enough to lightly coat the stamp with fabric paint.

Step 5: Test it on the scrap fabric. Press the stamp straight down onto the scrap fabric and pull it straight up again.

If you like it, then repeat Steps 4 and 5, stamping onto your t-shirt fabric instead of the scrap fabric. First press the stamp into the paint on the sponge and then press it onto the tee.

Step 6:
Allow paint to dry for a while before moving the fabric. Be sure to follow the instructions on your paint label. The fabric paint that I use says to let it sit for four hours, and wait 72 hours before washing. While it’s drying, be sure to rinse out your brushes and clean up the paints and stamps.

Step 7: Once it’s completely dry, carefully remove the tape. Then follow the instructions on pages 98 – 100 of your Sew in Style book for making your Fitted Tee.

You can also make a graphic tee with more than just one color. Here’s how:

Step 1: Set up your workspace. Follow Step 1 above.

Step 2: Squirt a little fabric paint onto a paper plate.

Step 3: Use your paint brush to paint the stamp anyway you like. A very small brush works best and make sure you just dab a little paint onto the stamp. Add too much paint and it may just look like a blob on your shirt. Be sure to test on the scrap fabric.

Remember to allow the paint to dry before removing the tape and sewing your tee together. Continue with Step 6 above.

Some important things to remember when stamping your tee:

  • Once you decide where you are placing the stamp on your shirt, put the stamp straight down and pull it straight up to remove the stamp. Don’t move it around once it’s on your tee or the design will be smudged and messed up.
  • Hold the stamp in one hand and steady the fabric around the stamp with the other hand when pulling the stamp off of your tee.
  • Don’t add too much paint or the design won’t be clear. Less can be more when it comes to stamping graphic tees.

  • Darker paints on light colored fabric show up best.

  • Test your stamps on scrap fabric first.

Some stamps don’t work well for this process. Stamps with lots of detail and words don’t really show up well. Experiment with different types.

This one didn’t work so well:

I hope you have fun following along with this tutorial for making a graphic tee and you try making some cool graphic tees for your dolls. Be sure to share them with us at, or our Facebook page; we love seeing all your creativity!

There’s a giveaway for Sew in Style: Make Your Own Doll Clothes plus a fabric pack on the C&T Publishing blog through July, with lots of fun projects, reviews and more on upcoming blog tour stops:

July 17: Probably Crafting
July 18: Sweet Jane’s Quilting
July 21: Craft Buds
July 22: Samelia’s Mum
July 24: The Polka Dot Chair
July 25: Fishsticks Designs
July 26: Generation Q Magazine
July 28: Avery Lane Sewing