Finished Object: “I Choo Choo Choose You” T-Shirt in Red Bamboo

We like grass as a backdrop. It's bright and textured...

I’m not “into” Valentine’s Day as a rule.  This week’s challenge on Sew Weekly is “Red.” (dang it, I missed the deadline again!)   I like that- it leaves the field open for those who love Valentine’s Day and those who believe it’s a gross commercial holiday designed to sell cards and make single people feel bad.  And for everyone else in between- “red” leaves much room for interpretation.

Stephen and I share an inexplicable love of red t-shirts; I picked up this bamboo-organic cotton-lycra jersey for him some time ago.   It’s a brick-ier red than I’d wear, but I like it on him with his warmer coloring.  I mentioned the “Red” challenge to him and suggested I make him a stenciled red shirt sometime around Valentine’s Day.  He got excited and blurted out “Can you do ‘I Choo-Choo-Choose You?'”  Surprised, but ever delighted to bend to his sartorial whims, I agreed.

It’s a Simpsons gag.  Lisa, brainy and soft-hearted, noticed the weird kid in class (Ralph) didn’t receive any Valentines so she quickly signed a cheesy card and delivered it to his desk.  Let’s say he attached more importance to the card than she did, which results in elementary-school-age tragedy.

Maybe the weird kid part applies, but there was nothing quick about making this Valentine.  In fact it took me the better part of a week to decide how to approach the light and dark balance for the image and several hours to cut the final stencil.  I rather liked the challenge and the patience involved- a very silly labor of love.

This is the first time I spray-painted a light paint on a “dark” background, and the first time I stenciled on bamboo.  I applied several coats of white paint, allowing it to dry for a few hours between layers.  The bamboo absorbs the paint differently than plain cotton (of course) and at first I was terrified it would bleed all over the place.

Now, after two washes, it has a sort of worn-in look.  I don’t know how long the light paint on bamboo will last- but then again I have found bamboo jerseys don’t stay nice for as long as cotton or hemp anyway.  Is it just me, or does bamboo tend to pill badly?

...Her eye discourses; I will answer it.

At any rate, he’s terribly pleased with his new shirt, and I chuckle every time I see it.

Lila often takes part in our photo sessions, we get some really great shots with her this way though I don’t often blog those photos.  Today she wanted to lie with Daddy in the sun and she stared at me with such complete tranquility I had to share her expression.  These are my two loves.

If you like the stencil, you may have the pdf.  I chose to create “bridges” to connect the white parts of the stencil because, well, it’s a stencil but you don’t have to leave them in if you’re using freezer paper.  Click here to download.  Merry Christmas.

I detailed how I use the stencil to embellish t-shirts here and here.  I’m working on a Lorax stencil, the lines are pretty challenging but the end result will surely be worth it.

I’m giving away one of my patterns and a piece of delicious New Zealand merino.   Check it out.  Ends Saturday after I have dinner.


  1. This blows my nerdy little mind! This is an epic V-Day gift, turned out a treat and it looks mucho appreciated! Well played, Valentines Day Lady! :D

  2. I’m not a big Valentine’s Day person either. It is nice when we use it to raise funds for charity at school by allowing the students to send a generic note and chocolate to their friends for a small donation. Cute was when the office staff sent them to the teachers! I remember the episode of The Simpsons with the card you have used as your design inspiration. I quite like Lisa Simpson and I love the design on the red t-shirt.

    If the purpose of Valentine’s Day can be to make your heart sing – your photo of Lila and Mr C – your two loves, certainly did that for me. I hope it is a special Valentine’s Day photo memory for you, for years to come!

    • Thanks! Every time I do a stencil I think “What a weird way to spend my time when the world is full of t-shirts” and then I see the final result and immediately start another one…

    • It’s a really satisfying project… We decided that once I finish sewing the stack of tees I already cut for him, we’ll just focus on the stencil work in the future and put the art onto pre-made shirts… It would speed up the process…

  3. This is so sweet! Much better than the aisles of syrupy confection shoved down our throats. I haven’t had a lot of problems with bamboo or other cellulose textiles pilling, but I do prefer cotton.

    • Thanks! :)

      I found a place that makes experimental bamboo jersey here in Australia… Their fabric “never” pills apparently but they only sell to big manufacturers… I’m trying to see what I can do to get my hands on some..

  4. Your daughter is beautiful and her expression tells everything there is between a girl and her daddy. And I like the shirt, too!

    • Thanks! I hope it does.. (I actually bought him a pint of flavorsome baby roma tomatoes in lieu of chocolate… They were delicious..)

  5. That’s amazing! Such a complex stencil to do. I remembered that episode of the Simpsons when I saw the shirt straight away – great choice.

  6. The idea of this has been amusing me ever since you first mentioned it. I loved that episode when it first aired!

    He looks very happy with the shirt! Actually, his pictures reminded me of yours when you were showing off your corduroy jacket. There’s so much joy and glee in the pictures, you can just tell the wearer loves their garments. :D

    • Hehehe. I am also amused.

      It’s funny you should say that, because we took the photos for this shirt and that jacket in the same weird little grassy alley next to my house.. Maybe you also recognized the gate? ;)

      • Heh, maybe! But I think it’s mostly the one picture of him with his arms flung out reminds me of the one where you’re spinning around a pole (I think?). And maybe it’s the aviators. :D

        Plus, you know, ALL THE JOY.

    • They really do… They crafted so many gags and turns of phrase that seem to have stuck in the lexicon… Or at least in the minds of a generation or two..

  7. thanks for stopping by and commenting. it’s very much appreciated. Have a supper v-day… I hope you have many more precious memories to share with you and yours.

  8. It’s great!

    Sorry you missed the deadline – this deserves a wider audience! I see people are still posting all over the place at SewWeekly, but I guess you each have your own deadlines to stagger the postings.

    • Thanks, Stephanie.

      Well… I put it in *quite* late, we’ll see if it goes up. Either way, there’s some really gorgeous red things up on SW this week!

  9. Fantastic! We all love the simpsons in this house…I am so going to make this for my Hubby for our anniversary next month!

  10. I love the quirky stencil. I really need to do stenciling more often. Do you use a spray paint that is specifically for fabric? It sounds like spraying could be nicer than sponging or brushing.

  11. I LOVE the red tee !! The Simpsons too – so double love for the amalgamation. Your baby girl is soooo cute too – what a lovely picture of her with her Daddy. Bless. xx

  12. Pingback: I found a $5 Fijian Suit- Make Do and Mend Project « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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