The Struggle is REAL Toddler Shirt

…a heat transfer vinyl project.

Free SVG & Silhouette Files.

We were invited to a toddler’s birthday party on the weekend. It was sure to be a fun time—all ages gathered to visit and laugh and partake in teddy bear cookies (hey, they were covered in Belgian chocolate, y’all). I was excited—not just for the chocolate, LOL—but because it meant I could make something “toddler”, which I don’t get to do very often. As usual, I have free SVG & Silhouette cutting files below for you to download and full instructions in case you’d like to make one for the toddler in your life.

Toddlers have it tough. As much as they’d like, they aren’t big enough or coordinated enough to keep up with older siblings, and they don’t have the vocabulary to express their desires and frustrations verbally. In other words, it’s a daily struggle. So what better saying to put on a toddler T-shirt than the currently popular The struggle is real? ...with a hashtag, of course.

Free SVG & Silhouette Files.

This post includes affiliate links to help you find the products I used. Read my full disclosure here.

What you need…

Free SVG & Silhouette Files.Free File Download
Silhouette V3 Toddler Struggle File
Silhouette Legacy V2 Toddler Struggle File
SVG Toddler Struggle File
Personal Use Only

The design…

In Canada, where I live, #todderlife is not trademarked, so I’ve gone ahead and used it on my T-shirt. However, it *is* trademarked in the U.S. for use on clothing, so if you’re one of my dear American readers, you’ll need to change out #toddlerlife to something else in order to stay within the law. A few suggestions: #toddler #toddlerday and #todderway. If you come up with something super clever, I’d love to hear it. Email or leave me a comment.

The font I used for #toddlerlife is Fishfingers from

Cutting the design…

— Resize the design to the size you want by selecting all of the design parts at once and dragging a corner of the selection box. For my 4T size shirt, my design was about 5½”. If you’re unsure what size to use, print a few different sizes on copy paper, trim close to the designs, then audition them on the shirt, like I did on the book drunkard’s book bag project.

—It’s HTV, so remember to mirror the design before cutting so it shows up the right way once applied (to mirror a design, select it, right-click then choose “Flip Horizontally”). It should look backwards on your screen when you send it to cut:Free SVG & Silhouette Files.
— Drag each color to its own area of the mat. Cut a piece of HTV in each color large enough for the design and place the HTV, shiny side down, on the physical mat so it matches where the design parts are on your screen mat.

— Check to make sure the cut lines are turned on. (To do that in V3, click on ‘Open the Cut Settings Window’ in the upper toolbar, and under ‘Cut Style’ make sure ‘Cut’ is selected. In V4, click on ‘SEND’ in the upper right corner, select ‘Action’ and make sure ‘Cut’ is selected for the blade you’ll use). Cut lines will show as bold red lines, like this:Free SVG & Silhouette Files.
See how much better it displays in V4? It’s one of the good changes.

— Do a test cut to make sure the design will cut well.

— Cut settings will vary a little from machine to machine, but I find I get a much cleaner cut—i.e., easier to weed—if I choose the ‘Double Cut’ option in the Cut Settings window (V3) or in V4 choose the ‘Double Pass’ option (it’s at the bottom of the screen when you click ‘SEND’ in the upper right corner), . Cutting takes longer because the blade cuts in two passes, but I find the extra time is worth it.

— Weed out the parts that aren’t part of the design.

Applying the HTV…

If heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is new to you or you need a refresher, I wrote in detail about how I work with heat transfer vinyl (HTV) here. Here’s the fastforward version for this project:

Place the design parts where you want them on the T-shirt (shiny carrier sheet side up and cut HTV side down). The letters should all be facing the right way. You can press all of the colors at the same time. Just trim back the carrier sheet where colors meet so there’s no overlap.

Cover with a Teflon sheet or parchment paper—I used parchment paper this time—and press for 15 seconds using a heat press or iron (this is for Siser Easyweed: if using another brand, follow the manufacturer’s instructions) . If using an iron, press firmly in an up and down motion until the whole design gets the full time.

Free SVG & Silhouette Files.
Carefully peel off the carrier sheet. Cover with the parchment paper again, and give the whole thing another going over. You’ll know the HTV is applied properly when it takes on the shape of the fabric fibers. It’s subtle on T-shirt fabric, but it’s there..

And yo, you’re done.Free SVG & Silhouette Files. Free SVG & Silhouette Files.
Hug your toddler today. Toddlers can always use a hug. :^)



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