Make Your Own T-Shirts (like a pro)

My neighbor recently had a dragon training-themed birthday party for her 4-year son (a post unto itself), which gave me an opportunity to try making a dragon t-shirt for the birthday boy (and his little brother and Christian…) I knit the dragon scarf for him too, and that, also, must be put aside for another post.

This technique of making t-shirts produces t-shirts that look like they were professionally silk-screened, except that you can choose ANY DESIGN YOU WANT. Even better, you can make them at home for under $10 per shirt including the cost of the shirt – it’s virtually free if you already have solid-colored shirts to use.

This is the same technique that soulemama illustrates in her book The Creative Family.

You need

  • Image of your choice – I’m using an enlarged dragon xerox from my friend’s free clip art. It should enlarged to be exactly the size you want.
  • T-shirt – solid color (widely available for $5 at Old Navy or Target or craft store or online…)
  • Butcher paper – apparently the Reynold’s brand is easy to find. I just used the stuff that was wrapped around my boar’s head deli cheese. It’s the same stuff! Paper with one waxy surface.
  • T-shirt paint – Scribbles is cheap and easy to find ($2 at Joann’s) or you can splurge and get Lumiere by Jacquard which is $5 a bottle. You only need a little bit, so it’s fun to share with a friend. My friend just loaned me her paints. (Thank you, Ruth!)
  • Scissors/Exacto knife – Both would be handy, but you can do it with just one of the two.
  • Paintbrush
  • Iron
  • Protected working surface

Look around, you may have everything you need already in your house. This project is fast, easy, and extremely satisfying. It makes a wonderful and useful personalized birthday gift.

Cut out your design. Then trace and cut it out of the butcher paper to make a stencil. The exacto blade is helpful for cutting the stencil.

Trim up the stencil and iron it on to your shirt. Position carefully.

Paint the entire design evenly with your brush. Let it dry for a while. Then peel the paper off.

The jacquard paint recommends air-drying fro 24 hours. Then heat set by ironing both sides at the correct heat for the fabric of the t-shirt.

Look! My shirts look just like Ruth's shirt (she showed me how to do it and loaned me supplies). You can see the shirt she made for the 4th of July. Next on the list is a Mario/Luigi shirt for the Mario-themed party I'm going to next month. I'm thinking a silver silhouette of the two characters running across a royal blue T.

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