I love making t-shirts. They are an easy to customize gift that almost everyone can utilize. If you haven't already, you might like to check out my post on some of the t-shirts I made last year for a wedding. Several important people in my life have summertime birthdays, including my best friend and her step-daughter who have birthdays 1 day apart. I decided on making some quick shirts as gifts, as I had several cute designs in mind.
There are LOTS of ways to decorate a shirt. I decided for these gifts to fall back on one of my favorite techniques: freezer paper stenciling. To begin, I spent an afternoon doodling and editing on my computer to come up with the graphics I wanted on the shirts. For my best friend I drew a very cute "love robot" (an bit of an inside joke between us) which I then scanned into my computer in order to print on freezer paper. I could have just as easily drawn directly on the freezer paper, but I like that this extra step gives me some more room for error. My friend's 12 year old loves spending time with my cat and ferret, so I wanted to make sure that they had some input on her gift. I settled with 2 designs, one cat and one ferret themed. I had seen several cute products available on Etsy and other sources with the phrase "you've cat to be kitten me right meow". It made me laugh out loud, and she's a hilarious kid with a great sense of humor, so I knew she'd love it. I've also seen several cute designs on the market with animal or object outlines integrated into a heart beat. While I have seen a ferret design of these, I was unimpressed by the ferret silhouette used, so instead I just made my own.
After editing the designs, I printed them to size on freezer paper, carefully cut out, and then used a dry iron on low heat to lightly press the stencils into place on the shirts, wax side of the freezer paper down. I had a variety of left over fabric paints from other projects that I was able to mix up to get a few different colors that I wanted to use. I like to use sponge brushes for applying paint to stencils.
I let the shirts dry for a full 24 hours before removing the stencils. Everything turned out great! The only minor issue I ran into was that because I chose to make the robot lines so thin, and put the paint on so thick as to make sure the outline really popped, in a few spots the thin, thick painted lines got lifted away from the shirt along with the stencil. This is something that I could have fixed by taking a paint brush or paint pen to the few areas that needed touch-ups, but I actually sort of like the more sketched look of the robot and knew my friend would love it either way, so I decided to leave it as is and will touch it up for her in the future if needed. It's also a good idea to check the instructions on whatever fabric paint you are using. Many paints will recommend after the paint dries, quickly running an iron over the backside to help set the paint. In my experience, this is an unnecessary step, but may ultimately make your design more permanent.
I absolutely love how all these shirts came out and intend to make myself and another friend copies of the ferret heartbeat shirt. Freezer paper stenciling is absolutely still my go-to for quick, easy and GREAT results. If you have a blank shirt laying around, grab some freezer paper at the grocery store and give it a try!