Monday 23 June 2014

Leaf Print T-Shirt For Canada Day

I'll admit it:  I'm no Wonder Woman.

But I am a Canadian woman, and that's almost the same thing, isn't it?


We Canadians are not by nature a flag waving bunch but, every year on Canada Day, we put our reserve aside.  July 1 marks the anniversary of our country's confederation and, in celebration of the many things we love about being Canadian, we break out the flags, don red and white clothing, and proudly display the maple leaf.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog post:  

This year, I decided to make our Canada Day T-shirts instead of buying them. Well, not the actual shirts themselves, but I did make the awesome maple leaf prints on the shirts.

The printing process I used is a simple one and, by changing the colour of paint, you can use this technique to make shirts to celebrate Earth Day, Arbour Day, autumn, or Thanksgiving.

I made the prints on our Canada Day T-shirts with a couple of leaves from our Western Big Leaf maple trees.  Here's a photo of one of the leaves I used:  

You can see why they're called big leaf maples. This leaf is a little more than 12 inches across, and they often grow even larger than that! 

The reason I wanted to share this project, though, is because of the paint I used to make the prints. It's the most inexpensive acrylic craft paint I could find.  I bought this bottle at WalMart but you can often find it at dollar stores too.

If you prepare your fabric properly and heat set the image when you're done, a print made with this paint will be every bit as durable as a print made with more expensive specialty fabric paints.

I used pure cotton T-shirts for my project, and began by washing them in hot water and drying them on the warmest dryer setting.  I knew the shirts would shrink, so I bought them a size larger than I wanted the finished shirts to be.

Here's how I made the prints:

I laid down a drop cloth and spread a T-shirt flat on the cloth, with  newspaper tucked inside to keep the paint from bleeding through to the back of the shirt.

I turned a leaf over so its veined underside was facing upwards, and covered that side of the leaf completely with paint.  

At first I tried dipping the brush into the little jar of paint and then brushing the paint onto the leaf, but the paint is quite thick, and it's quick drying.  In this warm weather, the paint began to dry in some places before I'd finished painting the rest.  I got better results by squeezing a generous blob of paint out of the bottle onto the leaf and then spreading it around quickly with the brush.

Once the leaf was covered with paint, I turned it paint-side-down onto the fabric and used my fingers and the palms of my hands to gently press it down.  

It was a messy business.  I ended up with paint all over my hands and, in the course of placing the leaf, got a few smudges outside the printed area.  I'm okay with that.  Perfection is never the goal when making a print from natural materials.

After washing my hands, I peeled the leaf away from the T-shirt. 

The resulting print looked like this:

Remember I mentioned how quickly the paint dried?  You can see that in the parts where the print is very light.  

I decided to retouch those areas. 

I tore away some pieces of the leaf to match the parts that didn't print well the first time, and repainted them.

Once they were painted, I reapplied them like this:

I also painted a stem onto my leaf print, since the real stem hadn't made much of a mark.  

Here's the finished print:

When the paint was dry, it was time to heat set my leaf print.  

I set my iron on the highest setting, covered each print with a piece of cotton cloth (I used a piece of old sheet), and ironed over it several times, applying a firm, even pressure.  

I finished by turning the shirt inside out and putting it in the dryer on regular heat for 20 minutes.

And that's it!  The shirts were printed and ready to wear.

I'll continue to turn these printed shirts inside out when I launder them but, aside from that, no special care is required. The prints will last as long as the fabric itself does.

Have fun with this!  I did.   :)