DIY t-shirt decorating

Anyone can buy a t-shirt from a store, but having a unique, boutique-like shirt that you've made yourself…

DIY t-shirt decorating
Foto: taylor library - flickr creative commons

Anyone can buy a t-shirt from a store, but having a unique, boutique-like shirt that you’ve made yourself is fulfilling. And what if you have a nice tee that happens to have a stain that you just can’t get out – no fear, cover it with a design. There is a variety of ways to do DIY t-shirt decorating; try some and listen to your friend’s compliments and as they ask where you bought it.

From the 1960s, tie-dyed tees have not gone out of style. Anyone can make one with a plain cotton shirt and some fabric dye. Prewash your tee and twist the fabric and make swirls, binding the entire shirt with rubber bands. Squirt dye in sections using as many colors as desired, but only one color per section. Place the tee into a zipper locking plastic bag and leave it set for at least 12 hours. Remove the rubber bands and wash the shirt in mild detergent. Dry separately and enjoy your unique shirt.

There’s a new twist to tie-dying that is fun and easy to create. All you need is rubbing alcohol and Sharpie permanent markers. Grab a cotton tee or tank top and begin to draw pictures or designs on the shirt. No need to be an aspiring artist – any scribble will do. Use a dropper and slowly drip alcohol at the edges of the design. The colors will smear and shift across the surface. Let the alcohol dry thoroughly. This is important because alcohol is flammable and to set the colors you need to run the shirt through a drying process in your home dryer. Voila! You have just created a wearable masterpiece.

Gather a handful of tees that you no longer cherish. Cut the first shirt mid-chest, leaving the neckline and sleeves intact. Take the other shirts and trim strips at least four to five inches in width, making graduated lengths to give the shirt an A-line shape. On a sewing machine, run 1/4-inch seams across the strips until you have used each and completed your new tee. The seams can be inside or left outside for a shabby look. This is such a fun project where you give your old t-shirts a completely new fashion statement.

If you have a small stain or just want to revamp an old shirt, try enhancements. From appliqués to buttons or add lace and beads, a plain shirt can become a work of art with a little hand sewing. Craft stores are full of enhancing materials – you just need a design idea in your head and you’re off to creating a new shirt.

Draw a stencil on self-adhesive paper or buy one and lay it down where you want the design on a colored shirt. Place a piece of heavy cardboard inside the shirt so the bleach doesn’t seep through to the back of the tee. Use a bleach pen (they can be found in most grocery stores) and color inside the stencil following the design. In a few minutes, the bleach will cure the fabric and when you remove the stencil you will have a lighter hue on the design. When finished run the area under cold water to remove any excess bleach product and then proceed to wash your DIY t-shirt in the washing machine.

Making a DIY t-shirt is a fulfilling craft and a great way to get into the recycling habit of making new clothes from old.