May 12th, 2009
This year for the guests at Annalie’s birthday party, we used freezer paper stencils to paint t-shirts! I’ve been wanting to do this craft for a while, but it was Brenda‘s idea to do it for the party favors. I had told her how Annalie had given me this very detailed description of what she wanted for her birthday cake: flower-shaped, blue frosting in the center, pink frosting on the petals. Brenda thought that was such a strong symbol that we should make it the party theme, starting with stenciled t-shirts. I said, sure, that sounds like a great idea—wanna help? So the weekend before the birthday party, we had a little crafting party.
We gathered our supplies:
- freezer paper
- an iron
- t-shirts (ours were 95% cotton/5% spandex)
- cardboard for designing the stencil
- exacto knife
- cutting mat
- fabric paint and paintbrushes
- a fresh pot of coffee (What? We don’t do much of anything without coffee.)
I sketched a few flowers and decided on the design I liked best. Since we were going to be making seven freezer-paper stencils, we figured making a stencil out of cardboard that we could trace onto the freezer paper would be easiest. I drew the design I wanted onto the cardboard and then used an exacto knife to cut it out on my cutting mat. (If you don’t have a cutting mat, you could just use another piece of cardboard, and if you don’t have an exacto knife or utility knife, you could just use plain old scissors.)
We traced the flower onto the non-shiny sides of seven squares of freezer paper, then used the same exacto-knife/cutting-mat setup to cut out all the stencils. Well, I cut out one of them and I think Brenda cut out the other six. She’s a wizard with an exacto knife.
With all the stencils cut out, we moved on to the next step: ironing the stencils onto the shirts. I made sure all the water was out of my iron and that it was as dry as possible—steam will ruin things. I turned the iron on to the ‘cotton’ setting and positioned a stencil on a t-shirt, shiny side down.
Once the iron was hot, I covered the stencil and shirt with a cloth napkin and ironed it, pressing hard for 20 seconds or so. Once all the stencils were ironed on, we got excited because the painting was the part we’d been looking forward to.
We used Jacquard fabric paint, because I read in a couple of posts about freezer-paper stenciling that it was good. Also, it was an excuse to go to the Dick Blick store downtown and drool over all the pretty art supplies. But this craft will work with any old fabric paint.
Brenda, being the experienced painter that she is, mixed up palettes for us in varying shades of pink and purple and blue and green. That way we could customize each girl’s flower, which was fun.
We painted the shirts with a thin coat of paint using cheap sponge brushes and Annalie’s paintbrushes. We made sure to completely fill in the spaces in the stencils, not being afraid to paint up onto the freezer paper. On some of the shirts we went back and added a second thin coat once the first coat had dried a bit because we wanted a brighter color. Oh, and we stuck a sheet of wax paper inside the shirts before we painted to make sure the paint didn’t leach through onto the back side. We actually forgot to do that with one of the shirts and didn’t have a problem.
We had a blast mixing and painting and generally making a big old mess. Then we had to wait at least four hours for the paint to completely dry before we peeled off the freezer paper.
The paper was a bit tricky to peel up, but it was so fun! It was really neat to see the design revealed as we pulled the stencils off.
After I pulled the stencils off, I turned all the shirts inside-out, stuck the wax paper inside again, and ironed the back side of the painted designs because this particular paint requires fixing with heat. You don’t have to do that with most fabric paints, though.
Ta-daa! Pretty flower shirts for the party girls. The day of the party we wrapped them up in tissue paper, tied them with ribbon, and stuck them in a basket inside the treasure chest to await the treasure hunt.
I’m already plotting my next freezer-paper stencil t-shirt…only this one will be for me!
(Note: at least half of the photos in this post were taken by Brenda Ponnay.)