DIY Beachy Summer Fun T’s

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We are all about soft, summer T-shirts in our house. Perfect for hanging out, swimsuit cover up or a sleepover. To fill a hot, summer afternoon I lured my girls to the craft table to design their own wearable art masterpiece.

We used two different techniques here, Bleachy T’s ( the orange Love design by Zoe) and Sharpie Designed Watercolor T’s ( Zoe’s flowers and Olivia’s yellow T-shirt, with all-over chain design) The Sharpie watercolor t-s are perfect for every age, I simplified the project for Zoe by using the flower technique, you can use any circular shape or just doodle a design, simplify it for younger ages. The Bleachy T’s use a bleach pen, sold in the laundry supply aisle at most stores. The pen doesn’t drip and is easy to hold, so crafters as young as 5 and 6 could do this with very close supervision. I found the softest t-shirts ever, discounted at Target. I suggest a small or medium adult size T-shirt if you are making a child’s beach cover up or sleepover T-shirt.  Step by step, here are both techniques, Bleachy T’s and Sharpie Watercolor T’s.

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Bleachy T’s 

Family Rating-5-100 ( Picky preteen approved, close supervision for young children)

Learning: Inspiring project, design your own wearable art

Time: 1 hour total

What you will need:

1 Bleach Pen: I used Clorox, and it was very easy to handle.

3% Hydrogen Peroxide (standard)

1 Cut piece of cardboard, covered with a plastic shopping bag to slide inside T-shirt

1 Small spray bottle to mix peroxide and water

1 Bright or dark color T-shirt to contrast bleach design

Instructions: 

Pre-wash & dry your T-shirt. Try your shirt on and look in the mirror to double check the area where you would like to place your design. I gently marked the corners of the area with a pencil, just to make sure it would be properly placed and visible when worn. Wrap shopping bag around cardboard and secure with staples. Slide cardboard into T-shirt and make sure your entire working area for design has thick cardboard behind it so the bleach does not leak onto back of shirt and stain.

Practice writing or drawing with bleach pen on newspaper or colored paper. The pen requires a gentle, constant squeeze. Even though Zoe’s grasp is not very strong, she was able to hold a constant stream.  Draw a design or write your words, leaving T-shirt space between design or letters. When the bleach soaks in and sets it bleeds a bit and the lines become thicker, so allow for extra space.

Check out your finished design and when satisfied, place your T-shirt, with cardboard still tucked inside, out in the full sun. Leave in the sun until you reach the desired effect of wider, bleached strokes. See the picture where the wet bleach line is still visible but the area around it has begun to bleach and stain? That is the effect you are looking for. In the Arizona sun it took about 10 minutes, but hey, it’s really HOT here!

Remove cardboard, and spray design with water bottle mix of 1/3 hydrogen peroxide to 2/3 water. This mixture will neutralize the bleach. Place in sink and spray with cold water spraying up toward the neck of  the T-shirt so you are not washing the bleach into the rest of the t-shirt. Once rinsed, wash and dry as normal. I love looking at this T-shirt and seeing Zoe’s authentic writing and artwork, truly a piece of wearable art!

Sharpie Designed Watercolor Ts

Family Rating: 5-100 ( Picky preteen approved, close supervision for young children)

Learning: Inspiring project, design your own wearable art

Time: 1 hour depending on how elaborate design is. Zoe’s watercolor flower design took about 45 minutes

What you will need:

  • Collection of Sharpies: Choose bright and medium colors to contrast light colored T-shirt. Some darks, but use sparingly. I used standard sharpies because that is what I had on hand
  • Rubbing Alcohol ( Supervise carefully)
  • Small paint brushes ( the kind used for watercolor)  and  a bowl to hold alcohol
  • T-Shirt-(light colors work best.) I bought discounted grown up T-shirts, soft and lightweight for summer on clearance at my local Target
  • Jar lids-Not canning style, regular screw lids, not too thin and in desired size of circular design
  • Rubber bands
  • 1 Cut piece of cardboard, covered with a plastic shopping bag to slide inside T-shirt while working on design

 Instructions:

Pre-wash & dry your T-shirt. Slide shirt on and double check area where you would like to place your design. I gently marked the corners of the area with a pencil, just to make sure it would be properly placed and visible when being worn. It’s especially important to do this with young girls, as these designs are circular and need to positioned appropriately for chest placement. My older daughter Olivia, chose to begin her design in the shoulder area and continuing it all around the back of the shirt, and extending the chain onto the front. To simplify the design for Zoe we decided to do a group of flowers, each based on a circular design. Zoe’s jar top was smaller than Olivia’s.

Place the jar top underneath the shirt where you want to place your first circular design. Smooth the shirt and extend it over the sides of the jar lid. Secure carefully with rubber band and test for stability. Begin drawing your design. Olivia used squiggly lines that reached outward. Zoe drew and outlined several layers of a flower. Leave space between each line and color for designs to bleed. You could first draw your design with a dark colored sharpie and color-in, but my girls chose to draw and go! When the circular area was full as desired with design, put down your sharpie and switch to a small paintbrush.

Paint the alcohol on top of your sharpie design slowly in the same stroke style as your design. Watch the color discharge and set. Continue until your design has the watercolor effect you desire. Continue the same process until your design area is complete. Olivia wrapped completely around the shirt and spent a couple of hours on her masterpiece. Zoe and I simplified the project, she drew and outlined 4 flowers, and connected the stems. A simple idea with an awesome effect. Dry in the sun for half an hour, and then run in the dryer for 15 minutes just to be sure design is set. Wash and dry in cold water. Just to be safe, I washed each T-shirt alone the first time.

Enjoy an afternoon of art and simple the savor things this summer!

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