How to Make a Sustainable Fashion Print T-Shirt

What You'll Need
Several meters of plain hemp or cotton (or ready-made plain t-shirt)
Sewing machine
T-shirt pattern
Needle and thread
Non-toxic dyes and paints
Beads sequins and patches, as required

Making a sustainable fashion print t-shirt is a great way to update your wardrobe with a unique and fashionable item of clothing, safe in the knowledge that it came from a renewable source and was manufactured without harm to the environment or through exploitation.


Step 1 - Choose the Material

Organic cotton and hemp are widely available and are ideal for the use of t-shirts. Locate a supplier whose credentials can be verified, ask where the material comes from and where it is produced. Cotton grown in a standard manner can cause damage to the surrounding environment, due to the use of insecticides and pesticides. Organic cotton is grown without the use of any chemicals and without causing the environment any harm.

Hemp is a good alternative to cotton due to it being widely available because it grows like a weed; this means that chemicals are not required in its production. Further, it is more durable than cotton so can be used to make a t-shirt that lasts longer. 

Whether the material is simply organic or Fairtrade, you can also ask the supplier whether they offset the carbon used in production of the material.

Step 2 - To Sew or Not to Sew

Although it is possible to simply purchase a plain t-shirt to customize, there is also the option of purchasing the material and the pattern to sew the t-shirt itself. Should you wish to sew the t-shirt yourself, you must have use of a sewing machine and decide what type of material you wish to use. Ready-made t-shirts produced from cotton and hemp are available, which can be purchased before being customized.

Step 3 - Plan the Design

Decide what type of t-shirt you want, for example, close fitting, baggy or capped-sleeves, then find a corresponding pattern. Plan how you wish to customize your t-shirt so that you can gather the necessary add-ons when it is complete. Natural dyes, such as clay, can be purchased as well as non-toxic dyes and paints that won't harm the environment. If you purchase a ready-made t-shirt, this step will be the most important.

Step 4 - Measure and Measure Again

Measure yourself and ensure that you obtain the correct pattern to fit your size, if necessary, get someone to help you. T-shirt patterns are widely available.   

Make sure you have all the items you need before beginning any sewing. Carefully cut the material to fit the pattern before beginning to sew.

Step 5 - Customization

Once the sewing of the t-shirt is complete, it can then be dyed to your desired color. Once it is rinsed and dried, it will be ready for use. However, further customization can take place at this stage with paint, overlapping dye, embroidery or sequins–or maybe a mixture of them all. Producing your own sustainable t-shirt is the perfect opportunity to let your creative side loose to create a unique design.