T-shirt Trial: The Tale of a Frustrated Crafter

Tis the season for t-shirt crafting! Target recently had some of their super-soft scooped neck t-shirts 75% off, and at Big Lots this past week, plain t-shirts were marked down to just 75 cents! 

I wanted to create something subtle that didn’t scream “Look at my t-shirt!” but still conveyed the verse that started us on our adoption journey: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” — James 1:27

I wish I could say that everything went smoothly with this project, but it took two tries, including a step in the middle where I bleached the shirt back to white and started over. I’ll try to be detailed in my instructions so you can avoid the same level of pain, frustration, and stain. Lessons I may or may not have learned will be reflected in italics, ahem.

I started with my Target $2.50 t-shirt, some Elmer’s blue gel glue, and a box of Rit dye. The shirt was originally going to be pink, but when I lifted up this box, it had left blue speckles of dye on my nice white shirt. Blue it is!

Wash the t-shirt, but do not add fabric softener, and let spin dry in the washer. While still wet, place the shirt over a water resistant surface to protect the back from the shirt.  I used the lid of a 5 gallon plastic tote.

I sketched out a proposed layout of the words, and then followed the basic pattern, more or less, by writing on the t-shirt with the gel glue.

CAREFULLY remove the shirt from the board taking care not to smear the glue and hang to dry, preferably outside. It will take at least 4 hours to dry, or overnight.

Put on clothing that you really don’t care about, or that you’d like to turn into a freckled mess. Mix Rit dye powder in hot water (I used 2 tsp.), then pour into approximately one gallon of cold water. The dye powder needs to dissolve, but you don’t want the glue on the shirt to dissolve.

Carefully submerge the shirt in the dye bath and let soak for 10-30 minutes, depending on the depth of color you want, how much patience you have, and how much you trust your glue to hold. 😉 Stir gently, but occasionally. While you’re letting it soak, use bleach spray to spray down every counter and floor surface that you looked at or breathed on while making the dye bath, otherwise you’ll be surprised for the next week about all the flecks of dye that turn up in unusual places.

Carefully remove t-shirt from the dye bath, and hang to dry in a place where it’s safe to let it drip dry. (Like outside above a patio that you don’t mind if it’s stained blue.) Let dry overnight until completely dry. The glue will appear speckled with dye, which will wash out. One does not need to start over because of the speckles.

Gently rinse the shirt in a cool soapy bath to remove the glue. Rinse several times, until water runs clear.

Wash as usual, and dry.

I love the subtlety of the design, and the power of the message. And I love the fact that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be pretty, otherwise I would be a complete craft failure! If one was artistic (Ken) pictures could be drawn, or patterns made. The possibilities are endless . . . as is the time it takes to complete the project! 🙂

What do you think?

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