Making a T-Shirt

I had the idea for writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but then I picked up Twenty Bits from Dan Cedarholm, and his first tip is about making a T-shirt. That solidified that I needed to write this post.

I’m a computer person. I spend 95% of my days in a simple T-Shirt. I do have some plain shirts, but most of mine have sort of graphic on them. I guess my obsession with them started in college when I would get about 12 a year in college for my cheerleading team. Each shirt would have a different design on it.

Once I got out of college and started running my own high school team, I was in charge of making the shirts for those team. I started to learn about brands, as well as printing and designing the shirts. The more I did that, the more I learned about how different cuts and fabrics feel. As with most things in my life, once intrigued, I dove into the research of what was best.

I had once found it in American Apparel Tri-Blend shirts, but then the company (for good reasons) went out of business. I’ve had to do some research to stay up on what works best in my opinion. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over my decades of making shirts. Hopefully, it might help some people.

About shirts, fabrics, and cuts

First thing to talk about when it comes to a shirt is the weight. T-shirts come in many different weights. Some are light weight and some are heavy weight. Light weight shirts are great for working out and summer days, but some say they aren’t warm enough for winter months. Heavy weight shirts wear on the body and sometimes feel stiff and hard to move in. Which shirt weight you want will depend on what you are looking for. My preference usually tends towards the lighter shirts, as I use these mostly as a base layer and will put stuff over top.

Fabric is another factor of how a shirt fits. There are shirts that are 100% cotton and various blends. There is also a thing called ring spun cotton. Different blends will have different textures and different stretch patterns. Depending on the shirt, my preference is either a 60 / 40 cotton poly blend or a ring spun cotton option.

The last little piece to talk about is the cut. Some shirts have longer arms, some are longer in the torso. There is also the whole notion of unisex vs men’s and women’s shirts. All of this is a factor. As someone who made cheerleading shirts for mostly women, the female cut shirts were a big deal.

Shirts and brands I trust

Whenever I go to print a shirt I start with a design idea, but I’ll talk about that later. Once the design is determined, the next step is to find the shirt. There are several go to brands that are great places to start. Next Level is one of the brands that I use a bunch of the time. There Tri-Blend shirts tend to be my favorite on the market. These shirts are light and very flexible. They fit naturally over the body and are super comfortable to wear. These shirts are also in the relatively affordable price range for making a bunch.

Another shirt that I love—but have not been able to get a big enough quantity to do some screen printing on—is The Blanks from Cotton Bureau. I enjoy the fit of their shirts so much. They are probably the most comfortable shirts I own. I usually get them with one the designs, but I do have a couple of blanks I’ve gotten throughout the years. These shirts are breathable, a pretty great weight (not too light, not too heavy), and seem to wear really well. The downside, they are expensive and hard to get a hold of.

Other brands that I have a passing familiarity with in terms of shirt include: Bella, Guildan, and Fruit of the Loom. None of these shirts have really impressed me enough to point where I look for them when I first start creating a shirt.

If none of these options really match what you’re doing, work with a representative of the printing shop to figure out what they would recommend. These people spend much more time than you building out shirts. They know the brands they have in stock, and if you are able to answer the weight and style questions, they are usually pretty good at helping you find your options.

Ink, Colors, and Locations

Another factor in the cost of a T-shirt is the number of colors and locations. I’m not a screen printer, but as I understand it, colors are layered on. Each layer requires its own screen. Creating a screen has a cost. Changing which screen is on the machine has a cost. If you want to print more than just on the front—for example putting a logo mark on the back of the neck—you have to pay for another screen and another print. All of these costs go into your final shirt design. For this reason, most of my shirts are single color, single location prints.

This is a two color print. One for the black and then another for the white.


One T-shirt is light. 100 T-shirts starts to get heavier. When trying to make an economical T-shirt, shipping can really add up. For this reason, if I’m making a smaller number of shirts, it might make more sense to find a local screen printer than pay for shipping, even if the cost per shirt is higher. You can just search for “Screen Printing Near Me” and find some good results. Most shops will give you a quote if you know the shirt, colors, and locations of prints.

Print Shops

The shop that I’ve used the most recently is the Golden Road Ink. I worked with a sales rep named Kyle, but he has since moved on. They had good connections to get the shirts I wanted, had pretty quick turn around (even doing a couple of super fast jobs for me), and reasonable pricing. They are a Bay Area local place. Currently, I’m not in the Bay Area, and I don’t have a new printer where I am now, yet.

I have in the past used Threadbird. This is the shop that Dan Cederholm uses. Depending on the number of shirts you are doing and the features you want, I’ve found that with the shipping they aren’t always at the same cost level of getting it done locally, but they do VERY good work.


Some places will take a rough sketch and turn it into a design for you. I’m a little more controlling than that. My designs are usually illustrator vector files. This allows me to really have control over what I’m doing. I will shrink it down the actual size of the print to make sure details still match what I want. Remember, you need to have a design that works on all the sizes of the shirts you are making. If you are making an XXS and an XXXL you might want to have two different sizes of the same print (though this will add cost). The chest area is different on each of these sizes. What might take up the whole shirt on the XXS will be a patch in the center of the XXXL.

Another point worth making, CONVERT all TEXT to OUTLINES. If you are using a special font, your printers may not have it. They may choose one that is recommended, and it may look close enough for you or it may not.

The End

Hopefully, this article will be helpful to others, but even if it isn’t, maybe it will remind me not to make the same mistakes I’ve made when making shirts in the past. It’s not exactly a how-to do this; it’s more of a how-to think about making shirts.

Crazy Nick

Crazy Nick and I stopped in Worcester on our back back home.

This is one of the last photos I have of Crazy Nick.

This photo was taken on August 28th while we were zooming around the east coast in his airplane. Several days later Nick died flying the plane in the background in Shenandoah National Park. ( I’ve been afraid to talk about it, because I’m afraid of my mom finding out. If she did, she would go crazy that I was in a plane several days before it crashed. I’m scared. I’m wondering if I did something super irresponsible, but I’m very grateful I took the day off to fly with him and spend one last day with him.

You see, we were working on this big project at work. It was consuming most of my hours and even though Nick arrived on Wednesday and we had planned on going out Thursday, he needed a new alternator in the plane, so we had to put our plans on hold for a day. When the project leader found out I would be out one day he was okay with it. When it got shifted from Thursday to Friday and a deadline was looming, there was some pressure to not take the day. I stood my ground and had a wonderful day with Nick. We made it Bar Harbor, ME. We stopped in New Hampshire, and an interesting time trying to find fuel on our way back in VT, and stopped by in Worcester, which is where this picture was taken. We made it home at like 11 pm. It was an awesome crazy amount of flying, and a great adventure.

That was Nick. Mr. Adventure. I met him at Philly Phlight several years before. It’s an intermediate Acro festival and he and his partner were in my house. We connected and had a grand old time together. I even went down and visited his place in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and was part of putting together an Acro festival with him before covid made us cancel our plans. Nick had a go grab the life by the horns and try the crazy thing mentality, and I ate it up.

He passed flying his plane, and it is sad that I won’t get to play with him again (term we use for doing Acro with others), or fly with him, or just talk about the challenges of life. He will be in my memory and he will inspire me to try to see the joy in the adventure and look for new ones.

I will miss my friend Nick.

Nick, with a busted knee still doing Acro, basing me in a shoulder stand. This Is the type of crazy stuff Nick would do. I will miss him.


Bottles of Bourbon

I lived in Kentucky for a year when I was 16 years old. As I started to drink alcohol, around the age of 23, I started to learn that I had an affinity for a drink often know to hail from the region of the United States called Bourbon. Now, all whiskey is not bourbon, but all bourbon is whiskey. It’s a subclass of whiskey. I’ve heard several differentiations of what constitutes bourbon, from where it is made, to the ingredients to, and several others. The thing is, I don’t really care about that. What I care about is that it is a drink that I enjoy. I enjoy drinking it on the rocks. I know it waters it down the whiskey, but if it is how I like it, why is it wrong?

This is about a story, and I’m fine sharing it, because I don’t think anyone really reads my posts. A couple of years ago, some of my friends moved to California and for their move in, I brought over a bottle of Bourbon. I didn’t know which one to get, so I bought one called Blanton’s. It turned out that we really enjoyed the bottle. I’ve ordered it since, but haven’t really bought another bottle. That is, until the same friend said that she was having trouble finding a bottle for sale anywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked past a bottle for sale at about $60.

That is why when my friend asked me to get her a bottle if I found it, I thought it was going to be an easy request to honor. Turns out not. I’ve been looking and haven’t seen a bottle. So I started to call around and see what I could find here in Rhode Island. I called 4 liquor stores that I thought might carry it, and none of them had it.

It turns out that over the past couple of years, bourbon has been becoming harder to get a hold of. Bottles that were in the fifty dollar price range have shot up a ton. I know this is my liquor of choice, not scotch, or rum. So I am committed to learning more about this drink. Yes, I kill it with ice. Yes, at this point I don’t really know what I’m talking about when it comes the drink. But there was a time when I didn’t know a thing about coffee either and now all my friends describe me as a coffee snob.

So I guess what I’m trying to say, is here to diving into yet another area to learn enough become a whiskey snob.


Does anyone else obsess about fonts? I mean, I know there are graphics designers and various other people who go nuts about them, but I’m wondering in general is a large portion of population or just clustered around my friends?

While I have fonts that I go to, and I enjoy the Macklemore song where he calls out “Gold Fonts”, I don’t really know as much about them as I feel I should. Fonts are so powerful. They help words take shape. They can help you easily identify words or make text incredibly hard to read. As someone with a reading disability, pattern recognizing a signature of word is a trick I use to read a little bit faster. Good fonts can help that, bad fonts can hurt that.

I had a realization the other day (I think the shower), that I want to change my lack of real understanding around fonts. I want to study and understand them. I want to know Font Families by name and style.

Lets start with one font that I’ve discovered and now paid for a professional license for. MonoLisa is a mono spaced font that I’ve set up as the default in all my editors. It is cleaner and easier to read. It is not free, but it’s worth paying for good things, even digital things. Hopefully soon I’ll find a way to tie it into the code boxes that I have on this site, but in the mean time. This font is helping my day to day in my various editors. It’s a mono spaced font, meaning that each character takes up the same amount of space on the x axis. This makes columns as you line up you type. Not all fonts have the same spacing for all letters.

Here is another reason why this is important to me. I have had a reading a writing disability that was diagnosed around the 3rd grade. I’m not sure, but it feels like one of my tactics for getting around this is memorizing word shapes. Fonts do affect the shapes of words, so some fonts are more readable for me and others are not.

So next up, becoming a type master. I have a lot of learning to do. What is the difference between a font and typeface? How does one pick the perfect kerning for a set of lettering? I have a bunch of typefaces to learn about.

Let me know if you have any tips, suggestions, or favorite fonts!


Cat with quizzical look on face

What do you want now?
Your have such high demands on me.
All I want to do is sit here and be calm.
To enjoy my day leisurely with the luxury that is deserved to me.
So what? What can I do for you before I go back to my cat nap.

Mamma Love

Momma, I love you.
And not just a little bit.
Like all the treats that you’ve fed to me love
Momma, I know you know how much I love you
Even when I’m barking up a storm during your yoga class
It’s because I love you. I want the world to know my love
Every time I shout from my tiny little (dare I say cute) dog lungs,
It’s a cry of support and love for you.
I cherish you, as I know you cherish me.
It is surprising when you leave me behind to spend time elsewhere
But it only heightens my energy to share my love for you when I get reunited.
And momma, I love you like I love shoelaces.
Both you and shoe laces are delicious.
If you made me pick between the two, I would pick you, but it would be tough. Shoelaces are awesome.
I love our walks, and especially the part where you try to get me move and we play our fun little game we play where I lie down in the shade.
I know that secretly you are happy for the break, I can see this in all the barking you do at me in those moments.
That’s when I know we are connected.
We are the same, you and I, momma.
See me here, in this moment, practicing on my belly like you do.
I even have my tongue stuck out like you.
Okay, momma, now that I have told you about my love, I will bark, and you will give me a treat!

A poem by Zachary Cohen, written in the voice of Lily Van Schaak, photo provided by Leslie Van Schaak.


Cat cuddling

Oh, pardon me while ai snuggle
I don’t want to start a tuggle,
But this blanket is now mine
Move and I’ll make you whine.
This is my place
Watch your face
I need some peace
To rest on this fleece
I’ve had a long day
I’m far too tired to play
So let me be
And you will see
Tomorrow I will be more fun
We will go out and frolic in the sun.


Cat sitting in metal cooking thing

This is a the first in a new series of pet poetry, written in the voice of the pet in the picture. This was inspired by the book I Could Pee On This which I highly recommend for the humor value.

I see you there.
I’m sitting here
In my metal throne with arm rest
I suspect you are up to no good
I will find out what you are keeping from me
And when I know I will administer the required sentence
For I am the queen of this space I allow you to inhabit with me
Do not test me…

Details: Cat’s name is Case, and he belongs to a friend of mine.

Current Projects

Three Brothers Rocks in Yosemite

I’ve always got a bunch of projects going on. Some of them are big and overarching and some of them are small and simple. Some of them are related to work and some of them personal. What if at the beginning of the month I talked about the projects I was currently working on and which ones I finished last month, would I get more done? Would I have a more concrete record of my goals, achievements and failures? I have a LOT of failures.

To that end here is a list of my current projects and some notes about them.

Unpack + Settle In
I’ve relocated due to covid to the east coast. I have a bunch of stuff to unpack. Currently all the stuff is just thrown around the house. I need to find the permanent home for the stuff. I also need to update billing addresses and various other pieces of work here.
Van Cleaning
Clean out Claire and get her ready for the winter season and future adventures.
Taxes 2019
I’m very behind on getting my taxes for 2019 done. I have an extension, but I need to put together a full working document on them and figure out where I can deduct.
Dog Rescue
I have come to the conclusion that I’m ready for a dog. Now the challenge is to find one to rescue and bring them into my home. This may be done through fostering first.
The Newport Book
Working on putting together a photo book for Newport, RI. Still figuring out what this means, but is something I really want to get done. I love this town, want others to appreciate how special it is.
Covid Card
I’ve been very distant from my friends during the covid times. I’m looking to make a little gift card to send out to friends to let them know I’m thinking of them.
Journal Most Days
This is something I enjoy. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back and read the stuff I write, but I love having the notes and thoughts from younger me to refer to if I find stuff I need to think about.
Super Secret Work Project
Can’t really talk about what this is right now, but I have grand plans and hopefully will be able to share with you before the end of the month.

The goal here is to recap these at the beginning of month and update you as to progress throughout the month. Feel free to ask questions about these projects (if you know me and know how to connect).

Planet Granite Comment Cards

I’ve been meaning to find a way to share these for quite a while. There was a point in the not too distant past when I thoroughly enjoyed leaving comment cards at the Planet Granite. I would attempt to leave a couple a week. here is a collection of some of the comment cards I’ve left. Please beware, some of them have foul language.

Also, please note that throughout the entire time I was leaving these cards I had a relationship with the management at Planet Granite and it was very clear that I was leaving most of these comments with nothing but humor in mind. The people who read them are working really hard and have to deal with very tough customers day in and day out and this was an attempt to leave some humor for them throughout the week.