Remake a Child’s Shirt into a Birthday Shirt with Freezer Paper Stenciling

Children’s birthdays have three rules in our house:

1. The birthday child gets one brand-new present from her parents (further presents and much-beloved cash also magically appear from far-away grandparents).

2. The birthday child chooses one more button that is then sewn onto her birthday crown.

3. The birthday child gets exactly the kind of cake that she wants (witness the Giant Brownie of 2008, or the Seven-Layer Rainbow Cake of 2010).

4. The birthday child awakens to find that one of her boring old shirts has been transformed into a fabulous new birthday shirt.

Creating a birthday shirt for a child with freezer paper stenciling likely requires no extra purchases or products than what you likely already own, and makes a special day even more special while continuing to de-emphasize commercial consumer goods. Here’s how to make one:

You will need:

  • a plain shirt from your child’s closet that fits her well. The odd stain is fine, since careful placement of your freezer paper stencil can actually allow you to cover up stains to make the shirt look even better.
  • freezer paper with scissors or an x-acto knife to cut it. You can find freezer paper at larger grocery stores, or online.
  • high-quality fabric paint. I have a very small collection of very expensive Jacquard fabric paints, but you should use the best-quality paints that you feel comfortable paying for.

1. The most time-consuming part of this project is coming up with the stencils. You can either create a large stencil, such as a birthday cake with the correct number of candles for the child’s age, or a stencil of an object that represents the child with a number cut out of the middle, or you can create several small stencils, as I did above with one stencil for my daughter’s age and six different stencils of prehistoric creatures to surround it. Places to find images to use as stencils for your own personal use include online, in books, or with scrapbooking tools–my stencils above came from my Cricut. Feel free to be creative when you seek out stencils: any silhouette image can work if it’s distinctive, and the normal problems that stencils present, such as islands, don’t have to apply with freezer paper stencils, since you’ll be ironing everything down to your shirt before you begin.

Unless you have a crazy-old printer, you can cut freezer paper down to standard paper side and use it in your printer.Β If you’re at all familiar with graphic design programs such as Photoshop, this can be a simple way to change the size of stencils or to fit as many as possible on one page.

Remember: you’ll be printing or drawing on the paper side, which will face up, and the wax side will face down and be ironed to your shirt.

2. Iron your shirt so that your work surface will be completely flat and smooth, and put a layer of newspaper inside the shirt so that your paint doesn’t bleed.

3. Cut out all your stencils, and make sure you love them. Do this immediately before you plan to iron them to your shirt, since they tend to curl and thus become more fiddly to work with.

4. Arrange your stencils exactly how you want them on your shirt, then iron them down. Iron your stencils only long enough to adhere them to your shirt. Make sure the edges of your stencils are adhered well, however, since the paint will bleed if they’re not.

5. A sponge brush works very well for applying the fabric paint to your shirt, but it’s fine to work with whatever you have. Paint from the edges in and dab the paint on whenever possible, so that you don’t accidentally force paint up under the edges of your freezer paper.

If you need to apply more than one layer or more than one color, that’s fine.

6. As soon as the fabric paint is dry, go ahead and peel off your stencils. Depending on the instructions to your fabric paint, you’ll likely need to wait 24 hours and then heat-set the paint. Otherwise, you’re done!

Now go bake a birthday cake!

2 thoughts on “Remake a Child’s Shirt into a Birthday Shirt with Freezer Paper Stenciling”

  1. Pingback: Five More Handmade Crafts to Make a Birthday Special : Crafting a Green World

  2. Pingback: Handmade Toddler Gift Round Up « Rhubarbsky

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