[Editor’s Note: Our latest DIY story comes from Brandon S. Bowker, who doesn’t just make jerseys for himself — he makes them for his entire softball squad. — PL]
By Brandon S. Bowker
I’m a singer/songwriter from Lexington, Kentucky, and my band, A Portion For Ruben, sponsors a softball team, called the Kalone Way Screaming Marmots. The team is basically the band and our friends, girlfiends, co-workers, and anyone we can find idle in the park on gameday.
We play in an adult coed-rec league, which means we can wear pretty much whatever we want. At first I would design the shirts and have them printed, but eventually I realized I could save a lot of money making them myself.
I usually ask everyone what colors they like and go from there. The designs are my own, though I like to cull ideas from Uni Watch or Ebbets Field Flannels. I get at least 20 of the shirts in appropriate sizes. Whatever I can find cheap. The fall ’08 Marmots, for example, sported “Island Yellow.” Then I go to a local sporting goods place called the Locker Room (this is actually the same place at which UK athletics, the Lexington Legends, and the Lexington Horsemen have all their work done). There’s a fantastic lady who works in the back, doing all the embroidery and stitching, and she’s always willing to help out and sell me a couple of yards of tackle twill in the color of our choosing (i.e., Panthers Blue to go with the Island Yellow).
After printing out or sketching my font and designs for the numbers and insignia, I use my floor lamp under a piece of glass as a lightbox and trace my designs onto the tackle twill fabric. I cut them out (with the amazing help of my girlfriend Sarah — that’s her on the left), and iron them onto the shirts. Once this is done, I sew them down with a classic zig-zag stitch, using the machine my folks gave me for just that purpose.
There are a lot of little details. I like to put the player’s name on the inside of the hemline, along with the season and the year. Sometimes I just do this with a pen, sometimes on a sewn-down piece of tackle-twill like the pros do. This past season I added an inch or two of red stitching to the name, just as a little signature.
I have also begun doing one-offs, just for kicks, or as gifts. I’ve done a Bengals-themed Marmots raglan with tiger stipes on the sleeves, along with a Redlegs-look jersey. I’ve also done camo (I know, I know). And of course I had to know what the Marmots would look like in rainbow double-knits!
And that’s not all: Paul here. The DIY thing has now reached the point where I’m getting several great stories per day. Here are some more:
• From Paul Richard Cook: “I spent the holidays with my wife’s family in December of 2005. One of my relatives got a Yankees jersey as a Christmas present, but my Canadiens sweater was apparently delayed in production because of customization, so my mother-in-law decided to take it upon herself to make a replacement, so that I wouldn’t be left empty-handed when opening the gifts. Obviously there was a complete lack of attention paid to what a Canadiens jersey actually looks like, but she did reference a classic hockey design motif (and put it together hastily with the materials she had). The real jersey eventually showed up, but I still wear le bleu-et-gris from time to time.”
• From Larry Wiederecht: “About 10 years ago, there was a shop in town that was an outlet for Russell Athletic rejects. Lots of blank authentic jerseys that for one reason or another didn’t cut the mustard. With the help of various materials (letter and number patterns, sew shop materials, twill and patches from eBay) I was able to transform this into this [here’s a closer look]. Probably cost no more than $25. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in detail and accuracy. I left off the Russell Athletic tags — why give them credit? If you want it right, DIY.”
• From Jason Toon: “In the early ’80s, my little brother and I once tried to make our own faux-jersey T-shirts to wear while playing Wiffleball. I was eight years old, he was five. Even though we live in St. Louis, for some reason we decided I would be the Reds and he would be the Dodgers (maybe because Cardinals shirts were everywhere and we wanted something more exotic, or maybe because we didn’t have a yellow marker to draw the birds on the bat). So we used markers to draw Dodgers and Reds logos onto a couple of plain white tees. We even did the backs — I was Mario Soto, he was Fernando Valenzuela. Thus clad, we played a few sweaty innings in the summer sun before we realized the ink was running all over our torsos. We had no idea of the distinction between permanent and non-permanent markers. Of course, the ink that ran so freely onto our skin was impossible to scrub off. So for the next week or so, our torsos were dyed red or blue. The things we did for baseball!”
• From Michael Bessette: “This jersey is modeled after the early-’50s Rhode Island Reds (AHL). I noticed that their jersey resembled the ones worn by the Chicago Blackhawks in that same era, so I bought a reproduction Blackhawks throwback sweater made by CCM and removed the ’Hawks crest. It’s not an exact match, but pretty close. I found the old Reds logo online and enlarged it to crest size to form a pattern. Then I hand-cut and sewed the different sections of the crest together, using felt, an X-Acto knife, a circle cutter, fabric glue, and embroidering floss. After that, I hand-cut the number 7 and the alternate ‘A’ and applied everything to the sweater. Everything was hand-cut except the letters in the crest, which were available at a craft store. The project took a good part of a summer. I’ve worn it to Providence Bruins games on occasion and received lots of good feedback.”
• From Andy Bentley: “I saw that Orioles hoodie that another reader made and thought I’d make my own Reds version. I went ahead and stitched each part of each letter (red letter, white outline, back black shadow) individually I couldn’t find pre-shadowed letters as part of a kit. And I added this sleeve patch.”
• From Taha Jamil: “In December, my wife (Joanna), daughter (Zahra), and I went to a Blackhawks game in Chicago. When I went to get popcorn, Zahra said to Joanna, “I play hockey when I bigger.” I was ecstatic. I decided I would buy some basic hockey gear (sticks, puck, goal) for Zahra’s third birthday (January 31st). Finding sticks and pucks for toddlers was easy, but finding a goal was harder — they were either too big or too expensive, and they only came in pairs (we really only need one right now). Anyway, I was kind of inspired by the DIY jerseys that have been running on the blog over the last few weeks, and I thought I could make a decent goal that could stand up to a three-year-old’s slapshot. So I bought a mesh equipment bag and then took it apart at the seams. I drew the frame on a cardboard box and cut it, then glued some of the flaps to reinforce it. It was still a little flimsy, so I cut and glued two strips of styrofoam to reinforce the crossbar. I then stapled the mesh to the frame. I pulled the sides taught and left some slack in the back of the net. I still need to trim some excess mesh from the back, but as soon as I finished making it on Zahra’s birthday, she wanted to play. As you can see, it’s just the right size for a tall three-year old. When I make the next goal, I’ll reinforce the posts with styrofoam like I did with the crossbar in this model.”
These are all SO great (and I have even more examples coming). You people all rock. And wait, here’s a DIY-related story of my own that I’d totally forgotten about until now: When I was eight or nine years old, I had a yellow sweatshirt with “87” in maroon block numbers. Those were Redskins colors, more or less, so I looked in my Sunoco stamp album, saw that No. 87 of the ’Skins was a tight end named Jerry Smith, and asked my mom if she could sew his name onto the back of the sweatshirt in maroon thread. “Smith” seemed too plain, though, so I had her do “J. Smith,” just so everyone would know which Smith was being referred to. My mom’s a really good sewer, and she did a great job on the lettering. I proudly wore the sweatshirt whenever I played touch football with the neighborhood kids on our block, and I remember being really happy when I made a good catch and one of the older kids said, “You know, he does remind me of Jerry Smith.”
Surf’s Up: For the past two days I’ve mentioned the series of Surf-sponsored baseball card books that appeared in the late 1980s. As it turns out, reader Jeff Barak collects these books, and he’s generously provided some additional info on them:
The books were produced over three years, beginning in 1987. They were stadium giveaways and each featured a particular club’s cards from 1952 to 1986, regardless of whether the team had relocated (like the Athletics, who moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland during that time period). The only exception to this I am aware of is the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose cards in the 1987 book were shown starting from 1958 — their first year in Los Angeles.
The front of the 1987 books had a “Books available in this series” page, which listed every MLB team. But I’ve never seen books from the two Canadian franchises, even though they were included in that listing. I’ve had a longstanding search for them on eBay and they’ve never come up for sale. I believe this was due to Surf not being sold in Canada at the time of the promotion.
The series continued for one more year in 1989 (although I think the ’89 series were distributed via mail-order, not as stadium giveaways), with the books featuring all cards from 1952-1988. This time they were no longer sponsored by Surf. The 1989 series did include Toronto and Montreal, allowing me to finally have one from each franchise.
No hard feelings regarding Andy, Rav, and all the other good people at Distant Replays, whose ad had occupied that top-left spot since late 2006. They’ve been great to work with, but they felt the need to cut back on expenditures in these tough times. They hope to advertise with us again in the spring or summer, and they’re still providing $10 gift cards for every new enrollee in the Uni Watch membership program.
Speaking of which, the membershp card gallery now has some new designs. As you can see at right, Scott has finally agreed to tackle the Isles’ fish sticks design, and I think you’ll agree that he did a great job (like I’ve been saying all along, the worst uniforms make the best membership cards). We expect to be adding nearly 20 more cards over the next few days, and I’ll be mailing out membership kits tomorrow and all through next week. My thanks, as always, to everyone who’s signed up.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Oh. My. God. That’s John Isaacs, who died last week. Man, I’d give anything for a color version of that photo. … Here’s Todd Radom wearing a pair of stirrups that I loaned him while playing in the Joe DiMaggio Legends Game (further info here). “I faced Bill Lee, who threw me five 12-to-6 looping offspeed pitches that I couldn’t have hit with an oar,” he says. Alas, Todd had his pants riding much lower when posing for this photo with Roy Sievers. … Check out this shot of the Western Reserve soccer team, circa mid-1940s. Untucked looks a lot better there, huh? “My Grandfather is in the front row, second from left,” says Sutton Smith. “Interesting side note: He was exempted from the draft due to a metal kneecap, a result of a baseball injury sustained while he played catcher.” … Alex Minnehan sent me this and this. They appear to be from 1999, but they’re much more detailed than the style sheets I have from that period. Good stuff. … Not exactly a news flash, but recruits take uniforms into consideration when mulling which school to choose. … Speaking of recruits, how hard do you think new OSU signee Storm Klein (yes, that’s really his name) got bitch-slapped for wearing an Under Armour tee with his Nike jersey? (Good spot by Trevor Williams.) … Short piece here about double-flap batting helmets (with thanks to Don Dopiriak). … Speaking of batting helmets, check out these. Andrew Thomason notes that the logo on the Oakland helmet appears to have been painted or stenciled on, while the other two are decals. … Good story from Tris Wykes, who writes: “I worked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 1993 training camp as an equipment room assistant. We scrimmaged the Dolphins one day at their practice complex and Steve DeBerg wore a leather helmet [and some odd shoes, too — PL] for some semi-live drills to make fun of how old he was. That was amusing, but DeBerg himself was distant and kind of a jerk.” … Also from Tris: Good article here on NHL goalie masks. … Reprinted from last night’s comments: Look, you can be a pro golfer and not be a douchebag! … More apostrophe problems (with thanks to Jere Smith). … New Nike-fied uniforms on the way at Washington (with thanks to Adam Lawrence). … Check this out: a high school wrestling team that wears striped socks over blue tights. That’s Helias High School Crusaders from Jefferson City, Missouri. Click through the rest of the slideshow to get the full effect (great find by Jack Hittinger, who also sent along this St. Louis Blues patch set). … Webmaster John Ekdahl‘s been keeping tabs on the colors at the new Yankee Stadium. “Some new photos of the stadium are up and the outfield walls are dark blue, like the new seats, which is what I was hoping for. It always bothered me that the old Yankee Stadium‘s blue didn’t match the blue on the uniform. It’s fine if you’re going with a standard green or something like that, but if you’re going to use blue why would you intentionally mismatch the color? Made my day.” … You know how I’ve been saying for years now that the Jaguars’ uni set has a chance to become regarded as a classic if the Jags are smart enough not to mess with it? This just in: As of next season, they’re not smart enough. … A player on the U. of Colorado hoops team has been arrested for stealing jerseys and other merch, presumably because he was frustrated to learn that football recruits at Colorado get better perks than basketball recuits. … These next three are from Phil: According to this story, the Albuquerque Isotopes’ new Sunday uniform features “blue hats and blue shirts with ‘Isotopes’ spelled in white cursive script.” … Gary Bettman says NHL jerseys will remain advertising-free “for the foreseeable future” (but that doesn’t mean much coming from someone who can barely see three feet in front of himself). … There’s been a LOT of negative reaction to those 1911 Canadiens throwbacks. The latest salvo was fired at the end of this column. … RIP, Lux.