Sustainable Cotton or Recycled T-shirt
Jersey Fabric as large as you choose to make your stencil
Birdie stencil graphic
Letter “B” Stencil graphic
X-acto Knife
Pennant felt, poster board or other sturdy material for stencil making
Cutting mat
Spray Mount
Textile paint


Embroidery scissors
Sewing needles
Glass head pins

1) Prepare and cut stencil There are many options for stencils. You may choose to use a ready made stencil which are readily available at local art supply and craft stores. Alternatively, there are some companies that will make any stencil to order. Or, you may choose to have the ultimate freedom and make your own stencil.

To make our Birdie and Letter “B” Stencil, print the stencils. You may increase or decrease the size of your stencil to suit your chosen T-shirt. Most photocopy machines and centers offer this option. Our finished stencil is 5.5in. x 5in. Choose a piece of poster board or felt that is going to leave a border of at least 4” around your each graphic. Attach the photocopies to either the poster board or felt using a light dusting of spray mount making sure to center the design inside the 4” border. This will help you keep from getting the textile spray paint on other areas of your T-shirt. Using an X-acto knife and a cutting mat, carefully cut away all of the black area which will leave a negative imprint of your Bird. Repeat by cutting the Letter “B” stencil. Be sure to cut exactly on the black line that you remove the entire pattern from your stencils.
2) Stencil transfer

Place a piece of butcher paper in the middle of your T-shirt between the front and the back. The paper will prevent any of your stenciled areas from soaking through to the back layer of your T-shirt. Lay out T-shirt on a flat surface in a well ventilated work area. Place your Birdie stencil on the T-shirt in the appropriate position. You may choose to spray a light coating of Spray Mount on the back side of your stencil to help keep your stencil stable. Using a can of textile spray paint, carefully paint stencil onto T-shirt, making sure that you have covered the entire stencil area. Remove Birdie stencil and put to the side.

Repeat with the Letter “B”.

Leave your painted shirt in this well ventilated area to dry, which should take approximately one hour. Be careful to read and follow all instructions that come with your textile spray paint. Some paints need to be heat set with an iron to make them wash fast!

3) Add the Reverse Appliqué fabric

Carefully pin your scrap jersey fabric on the inside of your shirt behind the painted stenciled. Make sure that your grain lines are running in the same direction (vertically) and that the face of the fabric scrap is on the fabric back of your T-shirt. Placing the fabric scrap this way ensures that your fabric face will be seen after trimming away your Reverse Appliqué. Some people like to turn the shirt inside out to get the scrap fabric to lay perfectly flat.

4) Stitch

Thread your needle, tie a double knot at the end. Leave a 1/2″ tail on your knot. Begin stitching one of the stenciled shapes on your Birdie stencil by inserting your needle up through the bottom Reverse Appliqué fabric and through the back of your shirt so that your knot is not visible on the outside of your shirt. Using a straight stitch (running stitch), you will stitch around the first shape. Knot off at the end of this shape where your knot began and then move on to the next shape. Knotting off each and every individual shape will ensure that you do not lose the stretch of your T-shirt once your project is completed. As you work, make sure that your knots are tight, your stitches do not get too big or too small (we recommend stitches 1/4 inch in length), and that you start and end each shape with a knot.

5) Cut the Reverse Appliqué

Carefully separate the 2 layers on the inside of each shape and clip through the top layer only using Embroidery scissors. Insert your scissors into the clipped hole and trim away the entire inside of the shape, being careful to work 1/8” away from your stitching line. When you have finished cutting all of the shapes, turn your T-shirt inside out and trim away the excess fabric on the inside of your design, being careful to always work 1/8” from your stitching line. Trimming the Reverse Appliqué fabric on the inside of your T-shirt ensures that your fabric will lay flat and not bunch up after washing.

6) Add a message or line of poetry with a permanent marker.

A line of poetry is hand written on this shirt with a Sharpie Marker: “Birds flew down from the heavens on the day you were born… and their song could be heard around the world…”

Your Birdie shirt is now finished!


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  1. Dominika

    Thank you for the great project. I’ve just got your book “Alabama Stitch Book” and I can’t wait to start sewing!
    Greetings from Rome (Italy),