|Is this a nice or disturbing valentine for a child? Now that is an excellent question, which the post below will not be addressing.|
Before I forget: my helmet enthusiasm is over at the NYT Motherlode blog, here.
Okay. Now. I am renaming this post "Aorta Be Your Valentine," after my brilliant friend Moira. (The best I could come up with was "Won't you be my atrioventricular valve?") If you want lots of different ideas for Valentine's Day, I mentioned a bunch in my post here. Today I'm going to tell you about one thing, and one thing only, and that's how to make a simple freezer-paper stencil to embellish a t-shirt. I did this project yesterday, start-to-finish, in an hour and a half, and that included both making a second shirt and my run to the shop in town to buy new x-acto knife blades. If your blade isn't sharp? You will end up lying on the floor in tears, cursing Saint Valentine and wishing you had just bought the Hallmark card with the singing potato. Get new blades! They only cost $1.99.
Okay, the tutorial. Or, should I say "cute-orial"? I should not. (Directions are expanded and summarized at the bottom, if you want to skip the pictures.) Start by getting some nice cotton t-shirts from the Salvation Army, and wash and dry them. Now find an image you want to use, one that can easily resolve into a simple outline. Think: stencil. I knew that I wanted to do an anatomical heart, so I did a Google image search for "anatomical heart stencil." I did not find a perfect one, so I widened my search to "anatomical heart," and found this amazing series of cards at this etsy shop. You should just buy one of those, and skip this whole thing! UNLESS YOU ARE GOING TO GET NEW X-ACTO KNIFE BLADES.
Print out the design you want to use, re-sizing as necessary. (Easier said than done! And I couldn't even ask Ben for help!) If your outline is not already very dark, go over it in black pen, as shown here.
|Ben would have been able to help me turn this into an outline before I even printed it, thus saving me all that red ink. But I could not ask him for help, because SECRET PROJECT.|
Now tape a piece of freezer paper over your image, matte-side up, and use a pencil or a permanent marker to trace the image onto the freezer paper.
Now tape down the freezer paper again, and use your very sharp x-acto knife to cut out the image. This is painstaking but not unpleasant, if you ask me. Which you implicitly did.
|I added the little thought bubble to make the design both less gruesome and more visually baffling. Notice that I needed to keep the heart I'd cut out, and then I needed to remember to iron it down inside the bubble, which I did, thank goodness.|
Now use your iron set to high to press the freezer paper, shiny-side down, to the shirt. (See the expanded instructions below.) I find this strangely fun. But then again, the iron and I don't get a lot of opportunities to spend time together.
|There is no mystery here: as soon as it seems stuck down, it's stuck down.|
Now dab acrylic paint onto your design (stuff something in the shirt to prevent bleed-through), until it is all filled in. I use acrylic craft paint (the kind that comes in 2-ounce bottles in a million colors) because it's cheap and I hate heat-setting fabric paint and I have had some bad experiences involving heat-setting improperly. Acrylic paint will just dry and be good to go. But it will feel always feel a little dried-paint-ish, rather than getting nice and soft like fabric paint can. Your call.
|I mixed black and red for the heart, and used a kind of dreamy pearlized white for the thought bubble. I used a bristle brush, but a sponge brush works just fine.|
|Annoyingly, you will need to cut a new stencil to make a second shirt.|
This is easy, thrilling, and slightly addictive.
Materials and Gadgetry
Plastic-coated freezer paper (sold with the other food wraps; don’t try this with regular waxed paper)
Acrylic craft paint (or fabric paint, though then you’ll have to heat-set it)
Pencil or permanent marker, x-acto knife, cutting surface, iron, paint brush, cotton t-shirt
- Begin by drawing or tracing your design onto the non-shiny side of a piece of freezer paper. Use a permanent marker so the ink won't later bleed when it comes into contact with the paint.
- Tape the freezer paper to a cutting board, and use the x-acto knife to cut out the shape to leave the open stencil behind. This takes patience but is not difficult; if anything tears or gets cut away by accident, patch it with masking tape. If there are little pieces you'll need later, such as the heart I cut out of the thought bubble, be sure to save them.
- Position the stencil on the t-shirt shiny side down, and, with the iron set to high, press straight down for a few seconds until the stencil sticks. Lift the iron and press back down as needed, rather than sweeping the iron back and forth. Don't iron down all the outside parts of the stencil, as this will only make it more difficult to remove later.
- Stuff a piece of cardboard or paper into the t-shirt to prevent paint bleed-through. Now use the brush to fill in your design, dabbing paint from the outer edges inward, and using an up-and-down motion rather than a back-and-forth one (you want to keep paint from leaking under the edges of the stencil).
- Peel off and discard the stencil (it’s not reusable) and allow the paint to dry before wearing.