Making sports jerseys has turned into a very fun and rewarding hobby. I wish there were more people doing it, as it’s always more fun when you can share ideas and projects with other enthusiasts. In other words, you’re all missing out.
So, what follows is a brief piece on how to get started making jerseys of your own. There is a lot more to know than just this, but the goal here is to get you started if you’ve been thinking about doing it.
1. Remember: anyone can do it
People of all descriptions all over the world sew, and have for ages. You don’t need any special predisposition or skills to get good at sewing, although practice and patience are needed. But if you just work at it you’ll get there.
2. You need a machine
Actually you don’t, you could totally sew a jersey by hand. But most people will want a machine, and I didn’t really get into it until I bought one of my own and had it in the house to use whenever I felt like it.
Someone you know has a machine you can have, borrow, or buy. Old machines are fine, you just need to make sure they are in working condition. It’s a real benefit if you know someone who can show you the ropes, such as threading the machine and how to select stitches. Or, you can sign up for a course to get you going. And of course there are unlimited tutorials on youtube, which is how I learn to do stuff I haven’t done before.
Failing that, you can buy a good machine for $100 or sometimes less. Mine cost $100 on sale and is a basic model. All you really need is a basic machine that does a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch, which most machines do. No need for one of those computerized ones, although there’s nothing wrong with them if that’s what you have.
3. Use the best needles and thread
If your machines comes with needles and thread, throw them away as soon as you get them as the quality will be horrible and they will cause you nothing but frustration. I always tape needles between two pieces of cardboard before discarding so no one gets poked.
Good needles are essential for good sewing, so buy new good quality ones. I use the Schmetz brand as they are everywhere and work well. There are many types of needles available for different applications, I have had good luck using topstitch needles, which have a larger eye and seem to like the fabrics I use.
For thread I use the Gutermann stuff as it’s also sold almost everywhere. I’m sure there are other good brands but this is the easiest stuff to find for me. I generally want my thread to be smooth with no fuzz hanging off of it, it think this makes it hard for the thread to pass through the fabric.
4. Start small
I didn’t jump right into making jerseys, I started with small novelties like neckties and puck bags. This allowed me to work my way up, and have smaller projects I could finish quickly. You could consider the classic beginner projects like pillowcases or an apron for barbecuing, maybe with a sports theme since that’s probably what brought you here.
5. You don’t need a lot of fabric, or expensive fabric
I’ve used a lot of different materials, from melton wool that costs $20 per metre, down to scraps recycled from salvaged materials. You don’t need to spend a lot to make cool stuff. I’m lucky that I have a great fabric store close to me that sells a lot of scraps and roll ends, so sometimes I can make a great jersey for a few dollars.
If you start with small projects, you don’t need a lot of fabric. Plus, a lot of jerseys are made up of different colours, so you might be able to do a design with contrasting sleeves etc. that allows you to buy smaller pieces.
6. You can buy specialty sports fabrics online
I’m really lucky that I have a local store that sells almost every kind of sportswear fabric. If you’re not so lucky, you can buy fabric by the metre (or yard) on sites like Etsy. Just search for sports mesh. NOTE: do yourself a favour and avoid any fabrics, including mesh, that have any spandex/lycra content. Avoid “4-way stretch,” and opt for 2-way or mechanical stretch. The spandex stuff is very hard to sew and doesn’t look right for a sports jersey except in some applications.
Having said that, you can make great jerseys with stuff you can buy at your local store, but that’s a whole other topic for another day.
7. Consider original designs
My favourite jerseys I have made generally are the ones that use atypical materials (for a jersey), and are fictional in nature. You can use any fabric you want, not just sportswear materials. Come up with your own concepts, use fictional teams, whatever you like!
8. Having said that , there is value in copying real designs
I generally put less value in purely technical skills and more value in originality and creativity. But I’ve also made some jerseys that were close copies of real jerseys, and I was really pleased at how accurate and “store bought” some of these look. It’s good to try different types to see what you can do.
9. If you just want a jersey from your favourite team, you might just want to go out and buy one
It’s kind of like going fishing to get a “free” fish for dinner. Once you add up the tackle, time, and transportation, that fish is far from free. But making your own jersey is very rewarding, and you will probably enjoy it more than a store-purchased one. But for me, I like making stuff that doesn’t exist that you can’t buy. Some of my accurate replica jerseys are designs you can’t buy today, so there is a lot of satisfaction in that. I also like taking existing designs and changing them up a bit – again creating something that doesn’t exist, but takes references from real jerseys.
I’m hereby declaring jersey-making the world’s most underrated hobby. It might even be an almost non-existent hobby given that I really haven’t seen too many people doing it. But if it’s something you have thought about, I really encourage you to give it a try. It’s something anyone can do.