Your Photo on a t-shirt from Rapanui

Ben: Last week while scouring the web for projects and articles for Pi Weekly, my Friday Raspberry Pi email round-up, I came across Rapanui, who were using a Raspberry Pi to provide a rather unique service: you tweet a picture to @tshirtplease and it automatically creates a product page for you and others to buy a t-shirt with that picture on it. I immediately contacted them for more information and Mart offered to write it up for us!

Over to Mart…

Rapanui is a fashion brand that makes clothes from more sustainable materials in a wind powered factory. To keep our prices down, we do a lot of automation and digital systems. The internet of things inspired us as a vision for the future of fashion – so over the past year or so we have been developing ways for other people to connect to our factory on the Isle of Wight. Our idea was – what if a whole factory could be plugged into the IoT and anyone (or any thing!) could connect to it to get clothes made.

Recently, we have refined and packaged that service as a public API that app / web developers can integrate into their projects. It’s free to use: An app can send through an image, and we’ll reply with a link to buy that image on a t-shirt.

Many of our jobs are created through apprenticeships or vocational training. Sometimes IT projects can take months and it’s hard for new apprentices to see the light at the end of the tunnel! We wanted to launch a fun, fast project for our apprentices to get results, learn from and build confidence.


Around the same time as launching the service, we had an interesting meeting with @andysc who works at IBM. He introduced us to Node-RED and gave us a lot of helpful pointers.

We’d heard about Raspberry Pi but hadn’t committed to trying it as we normally work with web based PHP type coding, and it seemed a bit alien to us. Andy invited us along to the Blackgang Chine Pi Jam, so we let one of our web developers out for the day and amazingly, he came back with a Raspi guitar pedal and an expertise in robotic dinosaurs…

We immediately purchased a bunch of Raspberry Pis, soldering irons and accessories and put aside some time. Our idea was to see if we could connect a Raspberry Pi to our factory API via twitter.

The result in a surprisingly fast 10 hours is @tshirtplease – a twitter account that is connected to a Raspberry Pi which is sat in our IT office running Node-RED around the clock.

It uses the Twitter API to find all mentions of @tshirtplease. If a tweet has an image attached, we make a call to the Rapanui API which returns a link. The URL loads a product: Their image on a t-shirt. People can share that product, or buy it if they like it.

tshirtplease presspic

@tshirtplease also accepts certain hashtags as options. For example #womens returns the image on a women’s top (instead of the default unisex t-shirt). #edit is cool – It returns a link to our studio where they can tweak their design a bit.

For us, previously spectators of the Raspi community, actually trying it has exceeded our expectations. Yes it was fun, educational and interesting. But what was surprising was the speed with which we got through it thanks to Node-Red, and the potential for genuine manufacturing applications. We now have more Raspi projects running various operations around our factory collecting and processing data.

We’re only just getting started on our journey with Raspberry Pi. I would suggest to anyone who is interested but hasn’t tried it – get one! Get node red. And get stuck in.

Update: Some meta recursion going on now…