Sports-Themed Party? DIY Jerseys for the Win!

My middle son was born with a ball in his hand. So, obviously, his birthday parties must have a sports theme. And what is a sports event without jerseys?! Don’t freak out! This is super easy to do and gentle on your wallet. 

What you’ll need:

  • Plain t-shirts (ideally two contrasting colours, one for each team)
  • Iron-on transfer paper (easily found at any office supply or ‘big box’ store)
  • Fabric paint and brushes or sponges
  • Contact paper
  • Computer and printer
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Plastic bags
  • Cardboard

My aim, when making jerseys, is not to spend more than $3-4 per shirt. Look through clearance racks, discount stores, and do not rule out packaged under shirts. I have also had success on-line, which gave me oodles of colour choices.

DIY sports jerseys are a colourful alternative to loot bags for a sports-themed birthday party. Check it out at
Try your hand at DIY sports tees with Laura’s how-to

Iron-On vs Stencil

So, you have your shirts. Now what? The thing that sets apart a plain old t-shirt from a jersey is the number. I use fabric paint for the numbers using a home-made stencil. You can, just as easily, iron-on the numbers by printing them off on the transfer paper. However, transfer paper can be expensive and I try to stay within a budget.

Numbers are simple to free hand on a tee using the fabric paint or cut out a stencil using the contact paper. However, iron-ons are an easy alternative if you have a colour printer and great ironing skills. Just follow the instructions inside the package.

Stencil time

I am a stickler for consistency. Having said that, I’ll want the number on the jersey in the same font as the invitation or the theme of the party. When making jerseys for Gavin’s Angry Birds vs Evil Green Pigs party, I printed off the numbers using the Angry Birds font that I found free on-line. Print off the numbers on regular printer paper in the size you want on the shirt.

Using a glue stick or tape, attach the number onto the non-sticky side of the contact paper. Make sure that, when you peel off the backing, your number, sticky-side down will be right side up. You follow? Now, using the utility knife, cut out your number. Voilà! A stencil. The stencil will remain sticky enough so that it can be used up to 4-5 times (depending upon the level of detail).  

Stick and Dab

Before you do any painting, you need to prep your shirts. The fabric paint can seep through the shirt onto the other side, creating a mess. To avoid this, grab cardboard (any kind will do, check the recycling bin) and place a plastic bag over it. Then slide it inside the shirt. That way the paint will not seep onto the other side.

Once you have your shirts laid out with the cardboard inside, stick your contact paper stencil on the back. Using either a paint brush or sponge, fill in the number. You will only need one coat. Once you are satisfied, peel off the stencil and leave the t-shirt to dry. 

That stencil can now be placed on the next shirt. Sports teams will have the same number on each team or you can just use one number for everybody. For Gavin’s 5th birthday, everyone had the number 5 on their shirts, which eliminated the need for cutting out several different colours.

DIY sports jerseys are a colourful alternative to loot bags for a sports-themed birthday party. Check it out at
A combination of stencils and iron-ons make these tees pop!

Ironing for Fun?!

To make the jerseys more realistic, you may want to have a logo on the shirts as well. This is a little harder to paint on, which is why we use iron-on transfer paper. If you can find or make it on the computer, you can print it onto transfer paper and put it on your jerseys. I have printed off Angry Birds and Evil Green pigs, Looney Toons characters, even sports league logos to iron onto shirts. If you can imagine it, you can do it.  

Important: When using iron-on transfer paper, be sure to read the instructions carefully, as some paper requires you to print the mirror image.  

These jerseys are great at the party, but also make an awesome take home gift in lieu of loot bags! Just don’t forget to take team shots before the kids go home!

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2 Replies to “Sports-Themed Party? DIY Jerseys for the Win!”

  1. Next time you can borrow my tools – vinyl cutter and a heat press! I’m moving houses so everything is packed till July. G

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