I love using my Cricut machine to make custom shirts. Every year I make matching shirts for my group of friends that attend a local beer fest. I make custom shirts to use as easy costumes for school plays. I make shirts for myself since I am in joggers and t-shirts for 90% of my life. After so much t-shirt crafting experience, I can confidently say I have found the softest t-shirt blanks for your craft projects.
THE SOFTEST T-SHIRT BLANKS
WHAT ARE THE BEST SHIRTS FOR CRAFTING?
You have probably seen basic Gildan brand shirt blanks at your local craft store. They are typically about $3-5 each barring any coupons or sales. Those shirts are fine, but they can be a bit stiff until you have really broken them in through wear and washing.
If you want that soft, vintage shirt feel straight away, you need to look for Gildan SoftStyle shirts. They are more expensive at about $8 each. You can usually find them in a separate display from the standard Gildan shirts in the craft store.
The SoftStyle shirts are cotton/poly blend shirts (60% cotton and 40% polyester) which seems to be the perfect blend for durability and softness. The cotton is combed ring-spun cotton, and that is what makes the shirts so much softer. The ring-spun cotton makes the shirt feel like your most loved tee as soon as you bring it home from the store.
The cotton used in these shirts is somewhere between lightweight and standard cotton at 4.6 oz/sq yd. The shirt hangs nicely and looks less boxy than a heavyweight t-shirt.
These garments are also great for people with sensory sensitivities too. Not only is the fabric soft, but the tags are perforated, so you can pull away tags easily.
WHERE TO BUY GILDAN SOFTSTYLE SHIRTS?
You can find Gildan SoftStyle shirts at larger craft retailers, both in-store and online. You can also find them on Amazon, although I have found that the variety of colors is usually better at Joann or Michaels than on Amazon. If you are looking online, you can search either for Gildan SoftStyle shirts or Gildan 64000 shirts.
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- Gildan SoftStyle Shirts on Amazon
- Gildan SoftStyle Shirts at Joann Fabrics
- Gildan SoftStyle Shirts at Michaels
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ARE THE SOFTER SHIRTS WORTH BUYING?
I am a penny pincher. When it comes to choosing between a cheap product and a slightly nicer, slightly more expensive product, I almost ALWAYS choose the cheaper product. I have made a ton of Cricut t-shirts this year for various projects, and I have decided that it is definitely worth it to buy a nicer cotton t-shirt.
My reasoning is this: the softer shirts are way more comfortable to wear which means I choose to wear them more frequently. I have two versions of the blue “Hold MI Beer” shirt above. One I made with a standard Gildan shirt and one with a SoftStyle shirt. I choose the comfort of the softer shirt every time.
Since I get more wear out of the softer shirt, the shirt itself has more value to me. That value is worth the extra price I paid for it.
Plus, if you are purchasing from a larger craft store, you can look for sales or coupons that can help bring the price of the SoftStyle shirts down to equal to or less than what you would pay for a standard shirt blank. I haven’t had a need to look into bulk discounts or wholesale prices, but if you make shirts to sell this would definitely be worth looking into.
I also really like the different colors available in this line of blank t-shirts. I gravitate toward heather colors, rather than solid colors, and there are some pretty ones available in this line. You can also find SoftStyle shirts in a range of adult sizes.
Finally, these soft touch shirts make much nicer personalized gifts than heavy-weight shirts. It gives any custom t-shirt you make for a loved one a higher end feel and look.
HOW CAN YOU USE T-SHIRTS FOR CRAFTING?
Retailers say that these SoftStyle shirts are great for bleaching, heat transfer vinyl, screen printing, and more. So far I have used standard iron-on vinyl, puff HTV, fabric ink and markers, bleach dyeing, and tie dyeing on these shirts and every project has turned out great!
Using HTV on SoftStyle Shirts
I have used both Cricut Everyday Iron-on and Cricut Smart Vinyl HTV on these shirts with absolute success. The berry colored shirt above was made with Smart Iron-On Vinyl using my Cricut Joy. I used my Cricut Explore 3 to cut Everyday Iron-On to make the navy shirt.
I shared my experience using Puff Vinyl for the first time last week. The SoftStyle shirt was the perfect base for this HTV.
Using Fabric Ink on Gildan 64000 Shirts
I did a little experiment on the green shirt above by cutting a freezer paper stencil and using fabric ink on the shirt. This is a great way to add design to a shirt while keeping it soft since the ink soaks into the fabric without stiffening. The process was a complete success… except for the fact that the color I mixed up ended up being the exact same color as the shirt itself so you couldn’t see the design at all. Duh.
I ended up outlining the design with fabric markers which was a decent save. Both the fabric ink and the fabric markers worked well. The “PLANTS” part of the design was done with puff HTV, and the “are friends” is done with fabric paint and inks.
How Do SoftStyle Shirts Work with Bleach and Tie Dyeing?
I did some experimenting with bleach dyeing on these shirts and 100% cotton shirts. The polyester blend does make the SoftStyle shirts react much differently to bleaching. The black 100% cotton shirts (on the left) bleached VERY quickly, and they bleached to a light peach/yellow color. The black SoftStyle shirts (on the right) took longer to lighten, and they lightened to reveal the grey heather underneath. I have only tried bleaching a black SoftStyle shirt, but I would imagine the other colors might not bleach very dramatically either. If you try bleach dyeing on other colors, please let me know how it turns out!
I tried tie dyeing over the bleach dyeing on the SoftStyle shirt with my handy tie dye kit. The color took fairly well to the bleached areas, but since it had only lightened to the heather grey color, it wasn’t as vibrant as tie dyeing on white fabric.
Check out these fabulous t-shirt blanks and unleash your creativity!