[Editor's Note: Last month I got a note from Bryan Justman (shown at right with his son, Alex Crosby Justman), who said he'd been creating his own old-school hockey sweaters, using blank long-sleeve T-shirts. I asked if he could write a step-by-step guide to how he does this, and he happily obliged. -- PL]
By Bryan Justman
I’ve always been into DIY. I learned how to sew in an art class while in fifth grade. I also built kites and learned how to sew the panels of nylon onto the frame.
I put those skills to use while growing up as a punk rock drummer. I’ve sewn patches of my favorite bands onto hoodies, backpacks, shorts, etc. I’m also nuts about hockey. I had many hockey sweaters in my closet that I bought for cheap on eBay with no names/numbers on the back. For example, I had an old Ottawa Senators road sweater that I had planned to send to River City Sports so they could customize it in honor of my favorite underappreciated Senator, Sylvain Turgeon, but it was like $80. So I thought, how hard could it be to do it myself? I found something in the Jo-Ann Fabrics remnant pile called “rubber sheeting,” which would be the white and I used Kunin eco-fiber felt (20 cents) for the red trim.
I liked the results so much, I went on to customize every blank jersey in my closet. I probably spent just about $15 total in materials.
I soon ran out of blank jerseys, but there were so many more that I wanted to have. I had lusted after some of those heritage sweaters, specifically the white Habs and any of the Leafs. I badly wanted a Maurice Richard sweater ever since reading Our Life with the Rocket. Additionally, I wanted Jean Beliveau, Ted Kennedy, and Frank Mahovlich. But those were all way too expensive, plus the weather here in northern California is too mild.
So instead, I decided to create my own.
I’ve now made four of these, so I’ve established my technique pretty well. When Paul asked me to document the process, I decided to make a 1960s Frank Mahovlich Maple Leafs jersey.
First, my materials: From Wal-Mart, I purchased a long-sleeve T-shirt ($6). At Jo-Ann Fabrics, I bought a hunk of blue twill from the remnant pile ($6), a bottle of white fabric paint ($5), a roll of blue grosgrain ribbon for the stripes ($4), and three sheets of blue felt and one sheet of white for (25 cents each). And at nhluniforms.com, I printed out the Leafs’ uniforms from the early 1960s. I found the Leafs logo online and sized it correctly, along with two block numbers. I printed them out onto cardstock so I could use them as stencils.
I like to start with the shoulder, because it’s the hardest. I measure the length from the shirt’s collar to the shoulder/sleeve seam then trace the yoke shape onto the twill (I folded over the material so the two sides of the yoke would be as even as possible). A protractor is the perfect shape for the yoke’s rounded edge, so I trace that too. Next, I cut out the shape.
After unfolding the doubled-over fabric, I’m left with the entire shoulder-to-shoulder yoke, but I need a hole for the collar. Again, the protractor is perfect for tracing the shape.
Next, I use the ribbon for the bottom stripes. Last time I made a shirt like this, I didn’t know grosgrain ribbon existed — this stuff saves me so much time. First, I pin the stripes in place (although I really should have used my hot glue gun; the safety pins actually made this harder than it should be), then I sew — voila!
Now for the blue sleeve cuffs. Basically, these are like extensions on the ends of the white sleeves. First I measure the circumference of the sleeve and then cut two identical pieces of twill. Then, for each piece of fabric, I sew the ends together to form a loop or cylinder, and then turn the loop of fabric inside-out, so the seam won’t show as much (I actually did this in our minivan while on the way to the beach [I assume someone else was driving, but you never know -- Bryan strikes me as a serious multi-tasker. -- PL]). In order to be able to get my hand through the sleeve once the cuff is attached, I have to stretch the cuff out. The only thing suitable in our van at the time was my son’s stuffed frog. Once the cuffs are properly stretched, I sew them onto the ends of the sleeves.
Once the leaf is cut out, I hot-glue it onto a piece of white felt. Using fabric paint, I paint through the stencil and then do a bit of touch-up work with the paint bottle nozzle, which leaves me with this.
With the fabric paint still drying, I turn my attention to the numbers. First I cut out the “2” and “7” stencils. Now, using a fabric marker, I trace the numbers onto the blue fabric. I do the tracing backwards or mirror-imaged, so any marks left on the fabric after cutting will be facing down and won’t show on the shirt.
The very last thing to do is to make the tie-down neck. First I cut the shirt’s crew-neck collar. Then I take the edges I’ve just cut, fold them under, and sew them into place to create a reinforced notch. Using an X-acto knife, I poke holes along each side for the laces.
Here’s the finished product, front and back. The whole thing took a good 10 to 12 hours, spaced out over about a week (I can only do an hour or two before I need to take a break). A lot of work? Sure, but I have the satisfaction of having done it myself.
Cookie Monster: Paul here, with news regarding a very different sort of DIY project: Uni Watch’s personal holiday pastry chef, Elena Elms, has come through once again. This year, instead of stirrup-frosted cookies, she sent me a tin filled with cap cookies (I particularly appreciated the Brooklyn design), a variety of baseball cookies (the small-ish shortbread ones are particularly delicious), and this fella, described by Elena as “Mr. Met’s evil, illegible twin.”
I can’t even begin to describe how special it is to have readers like Elena, and how blown away I am that Uni Watch would inspire such generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Research Query: Reader Doug Keklak is working on a very specific research project, which I’ll let him describe:
I’m trying to compile a list of both current and defunct Pennsylvania high school football rivalry games. I’m looking for clear, documented matchups, either with a clever nickname for the game, a trophy, or both. Simply saying, “These two teams played each other back in the ’70s and it was rough” wouldn’t be enough.
If you can any info to contribute to this, contact Doug here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: In a follow-up to yesterday’s entry, it turns out that Jared Wheeler has a game-used Golden Triangle Steelers jersey (additional views here, here, and here). My favorite detail: The buttonholes on the crotch extension are trimmed in gold. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Good article here about the Coyotes’ alt design. … Another team-branded prosthetic leg, this time being worn by Jim Otto, who owns a liquor store these days (courtesy of Roger Faso, who also sent along this Norman Rockwell illo and also-also pointed me toward a company that makes skull caps patterned after college football helmets). … Here’s a weird one: In the 1978 Independence Bowl, which featured Louisiana Tech vs. East Carolina, ECU wore BNOB — bowl name on back (great find by James Poisso). … The Padres have unveiled a 40th anniversary sleeve patch, to be worn next season. … Pretty cool piece here about movie studio logos (buy a bucket of popcorn for Brinke Guthrie). … Here’s another sleeved college hoops jersey. That’s Penn State, circa 1959. The photo comes from this three-page photo gallery of WVU hoops, which features some realy great stuff — take the time to click through all three pages (nice find by Sam Allison). … Lots to see in this photo: TNiONB (team nickname on nose bumper), TNiOCS (team nickname on chinstrap), FSU’s 50th-anniversary patch, two sets of hand-inscribed wrist tape, Warrick Dunn’s pants are unbuttoned, and what’s that patch on his left sleeve? (Thanks to Ethan Crooks.) … “FC Bayern Munich of Germany seems to have an irregularity,” says AJ Zydzik. “This year they added a fourth star above the team crest on their jerseys, after winning their 21st Bundesliga title last season. On the away and third jerseys, they aligned the stars in an arc, but on the home jersey they kept the three stars like they had last year and stacked the fourth star on top of them. It’s as if whoever designed the home jersey forgot that he had to add an extra star and just threw it in on top.” … Great catch by Paul Ricciardi, who notes that the Flyers appear to have changed the font and outlining weight of the numbers on their orange alts. Compare the “1” and the “2” from last Saturday to these shots from last night (lots of additional pics from last night here). … You know what this world really needs? Cats with stirrups (genetic engineering courtesy of Ron Verrecchio). … I just won the coolest softball uniform ever. Hope it fits on the galpal, cuz I sure can’t wear it. … Phil‘s uni news corner: Now that capitalism has been revealed as a bad joke, companies are
making everyone wear socialist worker uniforms seeing the value of unique uniforms on the job; at least one writer is dreaming of a color-on-color matchup for Michigan and Ohio State; some soccer dude has a FNOB that sounds like an opera fan club; and Sports Illustrated has figured out that a few teams out there like to wear black. … The Canadiens wore 1915-16 throwbacks last night, and goalie Carey Price wore old-school brown leather gear. Lots of additional pics here. … Nice. … So Collateral Gammage and I are out last night grabbing a well-balanced meal at a local fine dining emporium and they’ve got the Rutgers/Louisville game on the teevee. I’m not really paying attention, but at one point I glance up and see a Rutgers player get tackled by his dreadlocks, one hefty clump of which ends up getting ripped out of his scalp and left on the field. As the camera shows a close-up of the detached dread on the turf, I say, “Right this very moment, someone is getting a screen grab of that and e-mailing it to me.” A few minutes later, the Louisville QB is rather dramatically tackled by the strap of his hand-warmer pouch. “Make that two screen grabs!” I say. So how many screen grabs are waiting for me when I get home? ZERO. I swear, it’s getting to the point where a guy can’t expect other people to do his job for him while he’s out on the town with his galpal. … In all seriousness: Let’s have an extra standing O for Bryan Justman, whose main entry is one of the greatest things ever to appear on this site.