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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: Summer of Shirts Index and Gallery

Here are all the modify your t-shirt posts in one place with a gallery of some of our finished products. Click on the link for the instructions.

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TPIB: Meme ALL the Shirts! (Heather Booth)

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Mod-A-Tee @ Your Library – Fun with T-Shirts: Sharpie Tie-Dye, Puffy Paint, Spray Painting

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Sharpie lettering and spray painting

MakerSpace: Mod-A-Tee Making Hot Glue Stencils and Spraypainting T-Shirts

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Putting on your first coats of paint

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Low Tech, Low Cost “Screenprinting”

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MakerSpace: 5 Ways We Transformed T-Shirts into Something New

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So the Summer of Shirts is over. Last Monday was our last day and we took all the ways we transformed shirts in the previous weeks – Sharpie tie-dye, Low Tech Screen Printing, Transfers, and more (links at end of post) – and taught our teens ways that they could then transform those shirts into something new and different. Here are the five ways that we transformed our t-shirts.

Transformation 1: Infinity Scarf

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To make an infinity scarf, you simply cut your shirt into large circular strips. This scarf is Sharpie tie-dyed and modeled by Thing 2. Instructions: No Sew T-shirt Infinity Scarf Tutorial: 5 Steps

Transformation 2: Headbandtransform4

This is part of a t-shirt cut off and just sewn together to make a headband. It is also Sharpie tie-dyed. Instructions: 3 DIY headbands you can make from old T-shirts – SheKnows

Transformation 3: Tote Bagtransform2

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There are several ways you can make a T-shirt tote bag. They all begin with cutting out the neck and cutting of the sleeves. An easy sew method just has you sewing the bottom of the bag shut. No sew directions: How to Make a Tote Bag From a T-shirt (no sew tote bag). Sew tote bag instructions:  FASTEST RECYCLED T-SHIRT TOTE BAG: 6 Steps (with Pictures)

Transformation 4: Baby Bibtransform3

When you cut the next portion of a t-shirt out to make a bag, depending on how deep you cut your neck, it makes an awesome bib. The trick is to make sure and include the neck band in whatever amount of shirt you cut out. Instructions: https://folkhaven.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/easiest-no-sew-bibs/

Transformation 5: Jewelrytransform6

There are a wide variety of ways that you can turn t-shirts into jewelry. Here we tied pony beads onto strips of t-shirt and braided them together. A great starting place can be found here: 15 Easy Ways to Turn T-Shirts into Jewelry | Brit + Co

The benefit to using t-shirts is that they are actually a pretty cheap starting point. A plain white t-shirt is $2.00 to $3.00 at most major craft stores. And you can also find a wide variety of old, used t-shirts at thrift shops for a t-shirt modification program. In fact, I put up a box in our staff lounge and asked for donations and got a lot because everyone has old t-shirts they are looking for a way to get rid of.

The teens enjoyed the ideas because they are into self-expression and creativity and this was fun, easy, and well within their price range.

MakerSpace: Teaching Teens to Use Canva to Design their Own T-shirts (Laser T-shirt Transfers)

MakerSpace: Teaching Teens to Use Canva to Design their Own T-shirts (Laser T-shirt Transfers)

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Our Summer of Shirts is coming to an end (today is our last day) and last Monday was hands down one of my favorites: I taught teens how to use Canva to design their own images and then print them out onto a transfer sheet and make them into t-shirts.

This teen made a tiger t-shirt.

This teen made a tiger t-shirt.

Why Canva?

I wanted to teach teens a few basics of graphic design while also teaching them some basic computer skills. Canva is a free online program that anyone can use. You could also use GIMP, but it has a much steeper learning curve. Canva is not only free but it’s a good entry point because it is easy to use. Canva saves all of your designs so you can use them again and again. All you have to do to set up an account is have an email address and create a log-in.

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After I taught the teens on day 1 to use Canva, my teen actually taught several teens the next day how to use it. That’s how easy it is to use.

Supplies:

  • Computer access with a printer
  • Transfer paper
  • An iron or heat press
  • Plain white t-shirts

It’s very important that you pay attention to what kind of printer you have. Most homes have inkjet printers and you must use inkjet transfer papers. The library has laser printers so we had to research and buy special laser printer transfer paper. This paper requires some additional steps and is not, in my opinion, as effective as inkjet transfer paper. If I was going to repeat this program I would ask the library to consider purchasing a cheaper inkjet printer to create crisper images. It’s also important that you pay attention to the color of your t-shirts. White t-shirts definitely work best, and if you are using an inkjet printer there are different types of transfer paper you have to use depending on the color of your t-shirt.

This is the laser transfer paper that we purchased based on reviews and cost: https://www.amazon.com/Laser-Transfer-Printers-8-5x11-Sheets/dp/B005IXG71U

This is the laser transfer paper that we purchased based on reviews and cost: https://www.amazon.com/Laser-Transfer-Printers-8-5×11-Sheets/dp/B005IXG71U

I also want to say that I have used both an iron and a heat press and a heat press hands down works better. A heat press obviously has a higher price point, but it is quicker, easier and creates a better end product. This is the heat press that we purchased and it cost around $200.00. It is both glorious and a pain in the butt because it is heavy and takes a lot of counter and/or storage space (we don’t always have it out in our Teen MakerSpace).

Step 1: Creating Your Image

Step one is more about learning some basic computer skills and talking about graphic design. There is, of course, also some discussion about copyright to be had. For example, one of my teens was incredibly angry with me because I assured her that she could not import someone else’s fan art into her design and print it off. Canva does, however, allow you to upload your own art so you can include copyright free online images or personal hand drawn art. One of our teens is very artistic and she did use her own artwork to make her t-shirt image.

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Once you have completed your design in Canva you then can download it and save it as either a .jpeg or a .png. Either one works. I then upload them into Word to size them and flip them. It is very important that you flip your image if the transfer paper instructions say to so that your image comes out in the correct direction.

Some Basic Graphic Design Tips

25 Epic Graphic Design Tips for Non-Designers – Canva Design School

If you are using laser image transfer paper, you will then print your image off onto the page with the red grid on one side. You will want to turn up your brightness before printing.

Step 2: Preparing Your Transfer

Heat your heat press up to 201 degrees Fahrenheit and set your timer at 20 seconds.

Preparing the transfer

Preparing the transfer

Again, these step is only necessary if you are using laser printer transfer paper. You have just printed the image onto the red backed page. You must not prepare your transfer by putting the sticky substance on the red page. To do this, you will put a page of the green backed paper face down onto the red backed page. The red and green grids must be on the outside with the image in the middle like a sandwich. You will then place it into your heat press at 210 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 seconds. You will then IMMEDIATELY and carefully but slowly separate the two images while they are still warm.

Your page will now be ready to transfer onto a t-shirt.

Step 3: Completing the Transfer

You now need to heat the heat press up to 375 degrees fahrenheit and set the timer for 30 seconds.

You’ll want to pre-press your t-shirt to remove any wrinkles and moisture. After doing this, you can then get your t-shirt and transfer situated on the heat press. When your press is at 375 degrees, you then press the image to your shirt with the image facing down onto your t-shirt.

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Transferring the image

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My first attempt (we worked out the kinks)

You will now wait until your t-shirt is room temperature before removing the paper. Trust me, do not try and do this while everything is still hot as you will lose parts of your image. You will, however, still want to carefully remove your paper using a steady motion.

PDF instructions can be found here: Laser Transfer T-Shirts

A Gallery of Our T-shirts

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A teen was inspired by an image she saw online to create this t-shirt. Food was a popular theme.

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TMS Assistant Desiree made this t-shirt to celebrate recently becoming a mama bear. She also was inspired by a design she found online to create this image in Canva.

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The Teen transferred little donuts onto her shirt and used a Sharpie to write “I Donut Care” onto her food themed shirt.

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I turned the TLT Instagram logo into a TLT t-shirt, which I love.

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The Teen helped Thing 2 design this t-shirt using images in Canva.

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This teen turned his original artwork into a t-shirt.

 Other Summer of Shirts Posts

TPIB: Meme ALL the Shirts! (Heather Booth)

MakerSpace: Mod-A-Tee Making Hot Glue Stencils and Spraypainting T-Shirts

Mod-A-Tee @ Your Library – Fun with T-Shirts

Low Tech, Low Cost “Screenprinting”

MakerSpace: Mod-A-Tee Making Hot Glue Stencils and Spray Painting T-shirts

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This summer is the “Summer of Shirts” in the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). Every Monday we are teaching our teens a different way that we can make or modify t-shirts. So far we have done Sharpie Tie-Dye, puffy paint, and low-tech screen printing. Last Monday we taught our teens how to create t-shirts using hot glue guns and spray paint and it turned out quite spectacularly, if I’m being honest.

The basic premise: You will make a negative stencil using a hot glue gun and then spray paint over it so that when it is removed you will have a fantastic (and original!) t-shirt design.

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Supplies Needed:

  • T-shirts or tote bags (plain)
  • Hot glue gun with plenty of glue sticks
  • Parchment paper
  • Fabric spray paint (you can buy fabric spray paint or make your own using these instructions: Make Your Own Fabric Spray Paint | My Crazy Blessed Life!)
  • A piece of cardboard to put in between the two layers of your t-shirt
  • Something to keep your work space safe, like a plastic table cloth
Tulip Fabric Spray Paint

Tulip Fabric Spray Paint

Not Needed but Helpful

  • A computer with a printer
  • Sharpies and other embellishments

Making Your Shirts

Step 1: Creating Your Hot Glue Stencil Pieces

First you want to create a design on a piece of paper to be the template for your stencil. You can freehand this if you have the skill, or simply print something off on a piece of paper using your computer. Simple text and graphics work best. For example, silhouettes and big block letters are ideal.

After you have your design on paper, lay a piece of parchment paper over top of it. You will then trace it using the hot glue gun to create your hot glue pieces. Allow them to dry fully before you peel them off the parchment paper. Patience will be an important part of this process throughout as there is a lot of no really, let things fully dry before going on to the next step.

Making the hot glue stencil pieces

Making the hot glue stencil pieces

Step 2: Setting Up for Painting

You will then want to start setting up your shirt for painting. Be sure and put your piece of cardboard in between the two layers of your shirt and to cover your work space with your plastic table cloth to help with any over spray. You’ll also want to spray outside (on grass is recommended) or in a well ventilated space like a garage with an open door.

Getting ready to paint

Getting ready to paint

Gently peel your hot glue pieces off of the parchment paper and position them onto your shirt. When you spray paint the shirt, the hot glue pieces will prevent the paint from getting on the space it is covering.

Hot glue stencil pieces in place

Hot glue stencil pieces in place

Step 3: Painting

You will want to carefully spray paint your t-shirt. If you let colors dry in between coats you can overlay colors and create amazing effects. The trick is to apply gentle pressure, light coats, and to be patient.

Putting on your first coats of paint

Putting on your first coats of paint

After you finish painting your t-shirt, it will look something like this:

A t-shirt with the hot glue stencils in place

A painted t-shirt with the hot glue stencils in place

Above is a cat themed t-shirt made by one of our teens. You can see the places that are covered by the hot glue stencil pieces. She made a template using a silhouette image, printed it, made her hot glue stencil pieces and painted in multiple layers. You then want to make sure and let your paint FULLY DRY. If you try and remove your hot glue stencil pieces you may smudge the surrounding paint. Again, patience is called for. It’s a theme.

The completed cat t-shirt

The completed cat t-shirt

Step 4: Finishing Touches

After your t-shirt is fully dry, you can add embellishments if you like. We found that t-shirts made with text on them kind of popped better if you outlined the text using a Sharpie marker, for example. Or you could use puffy paint to add some dimensionality.

A finished t-shirt

A finished t-shirt

Our Gallery

Stencils can be re-used. The stencil used to make the t-shirt above was also used to make the tote bag below.

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I’m a Maker tote bag

One of our teens cut the neckline out of a t-shirt to make a different type of design and we painted the neck cut-out to make it into a bib for one of the TMS Assistant’s baby. I love this bib so much.

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Final Thoughts

All in all we had about 20 teens participated and they really enjoyed the activity and made some great t-shirts. To do a complete t-shirt from beginning to end took as little as an hour. The fabric spray paint was moderately expensive and didn’t go as far as we thought it would. In fact, we ran out half way through our night and I ran to the store to get more. We did this as a drop-in activity over a six hour period and this really worked well as we could provide more one-on-one instructions.

MakerSpace: Low Tech, Low Cost “Screenprinting”

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We used several processes to make this example t-shirt. The Design Life words are part of our screen printing trials.

For some time now I have been on a quest to get a screen printing station into my Teen MakerSpace. My research involved reading a ton of books, a lot of trial and error and visiting a local art studio that did traditional screen printing. The big stumbling block for us is that to make screens for screen printing, you have to do a technique that involves emulsion. This was a no go for us. The second stumbling block is that screen printing can take up a lot of space, something which is a very hot commodity for us; We are a small space.

We also tried several low cost kits, some of which sere made by Klutz and Alex; these also proved to be less effective than we liked. Though we did keep the screen part of one of the kits because although you don’t need it for the method we chose to go with, some teens like to use it because it has a more authentic feel. But in a pinch, you can also make your own screens (more on that in a minute).

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The paints in this kit were awful, but I did keep and re-use the screen successfully

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Some exhaustive research and a lot of trial and error led us to a couple of low tech, low cost scenarios that do indeed work. It’s not truly screen printing, but it is a low cost, low tech way to achieve the same effects.

What You Need:

  • Stencils (store bought or you can make your own, see below)
  • Fabric paint or Speedball ink (you want something that will stand up to multiple washing)
  • Sponge brushes (or you can use an ink roller or flat edged screen printing scraper thing)
  • 202 No Pins spray fabric adhesive
  • T-shirts
  • A screen (not necessary, but it makes it feel more authentic)
  • A clean, protected surface to work on (you’ll want to cover your work surface to protect it)
  • A hair dryer, fan or heat gun to speed up drying

Getting Started with Stencils

Stencils are used to make your design on your t-shirt. In true screen printing, there is a multi-step process that is used to make your stencils that involves emulsion. We just don’t have the means for this in our library space. But you can achieve some of the same effects by using stencils. And to give it a more authentic and hands on feel, you can make your own stencils in a couple of different ways.

The key to successful “screen printing” is to use simple prints and block lettering. The less intricate your design, the easier it is to get a clean image, especially when you are just beginning.

1. Freezer Paper Stencil

You can use freezer paper to make a stencil if you have access to a printer. Follow the instructions here: Stencil Shirts With Freezer Paper – Instructables. Using this method teens can design their own stencils in a graphics program to make truly unique t-shirts. It involves the most amount of tech in our low tech process. You’ll want to make sure and design a simple image without a lot of lines and details to be effective; also, cutting the stencil out with an exacto knife can be tedious so simpler is quicker, easier and cleaner.

This method is also good because you can then just iron your stencil on to your t-shirt and remove it when you are done.  Some tutorials we read/watched said you could use wax paper but we did not find this to be true – it absolutely works best if you use freezer paper. Using this method, you will only be able to use your stencil once.

2. Card Stock Stencil

You can also make your own stencil using a heavier card stock. You can find those instructions here: Make Your Own Stencil – Instructables. You’re basically going to do the same thing as above: design, print an image, and cut it out with an exacto knife.

3. Buy Stencils

Folkart makes a series of large stencils that fit nicely on t-shirts and tote bags. You can buy them here. This is the easiest method by far, but it eliminates a lot of the tech as teens are no longer engaged in designing and printing out their own stencils.

Preventing Bleeding

When using a stencil, it can be easy for the paint or ink to bleed under the stencil, which makes your design look like a muddy mess. At the screen printing studio they use a temporary glue that helps hold the screen in place and acts as a resist. You can use 202 No Pins fabric adhesive spray to temporarily hold your stencil in place and act as a resist. Once you are done applying your paint/ink and allow your design to dry a little bit, you just lift off your stencil.

Bleeding is bad

Bleeding is bad

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Applying Your Medium

As I mentioned, you do not actually need a screen to do this process. But if you want a more authentic experience, you can make your own screens using either an embroidery hoop or building one out of wood. I found the results to be the same whether I used the screen or not.

To apply your paint you can use either a sponge brush, an ink roller, or a screen printing wedge. I liked the sponge brush the most because I felt it gave me the most control regarding the amount of paint/ink I used. Also, you can buy a bulk pack of sponge brushes fairly cheaply so that multiple teens can make t-shirts at once. In comparison, a wedge can run you around $5.00+ and the ink roller was around $7.00.

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After you apply your paint/ink, you’ll want to let your design dry a bit before removing your stencil. We used both a fan and a hair dryer.

It also works well on tote bags, in case you were wondering.

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 For more information, check out these resources:

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I read a lot of books on the topic, and this is one of my favorites.

D.I.Y. Screen Printing – Instructables

Down and Dirty Screenprinting for Under 10$ – Instructables

A 5 Minute Guide to Screen Printing Ink

MakerSpace Madness: Mod-A-Tee @ Your Library – Fun with T-Shirts

Makerspace Madness

Like most teen services/ya librarians, I’m heavy in the midst of planning my teen summer reading programming. This will be the second year of planning that incorporates our Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) and we know based on our experience from last year that our current model works pretty well.

This year, we are going to do some thematic making in our Teen MakerSpace involving t-shirts. I was going to call it T-Shirt Tuesdays because I like alliteration, but the reality is that we have the most staff on Mondays, so now we are calling it Mod-A-Tee Mondays, as in modify a t-shirt. I will probably get bonus points if I mention that our Assistant Director came up with the name after I discussed my staffing concerns.

We chose t-shirts because we know that we work in a lower-income area where food and clothing can be a challenge for our teens so we wanted to teach our teens how they could easily make and modify t-shirts to engage in creative, self-expression at low or no cost to them. Later this year we will be doing a series of Make it in the Kitchen programs to address some of the food issues (more on that in a later series of posts). Blank t-shirts can be purchased pretty cheaply and used t-shirts can be purchased for next to nothing at a thrift store; both can be modified in a variety of ways to make not only new clothing, but things like pillows, book bags, and accessories.

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Because our Teen Summer Reading Challenge lasts for 6 weeks, we scoured, researched and tested a variety of ways to modify t-shirts and came up with the 6 that worked the best for us in our space and within our budget. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing those ways with you, telling you what worked, what didn’t, and what I learned. As always, I did a lot of testing at home as well. In fact, the idea for doing t-shirts came as we began making t-shirts and tote bags in my home with the teens that come in and out of our house. After seeing how much they loved both the process and the results, I knew this would be a successful activity for our Teen MakerSpace.

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Week 1: Sharpie Tye-Dye

My assistant director also has really been a proponent of trying to do tye dye with our teens for quite a while. Being the mom to teens who has done tie dye several times at home, I am not a big fan of doing traditional tye-dye in the library (yes, not even outside) because of the amount of color and wet that it involves. But I have successfully done Sharpie tye-dye several times so we will be doing that. I will admit that it doesn’t have the long lasting staying power of traditional tye-dye, but teens enjoy it and I feel that it is a good, library friendly approach. You can find information on how to do Sharpie tie-dye here: TYE-DYE Made With Sharpies – Instructables.

For my example t-shirt, I used a template and Sharpies to make a small tye-dyed phrase on my t-shirt. You then spritz it with rubbing alchohol to make it “bleed” and give it that tye-dye effect.

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Several teens helped us make sample t-shirts and test our processes and they gave it a solid thumbs up.

Week 2: Screen Printing

I desperately wanted to do traditional screen printing in my Teen MakerSpace, I thought the teens would enjoy it and I wanted to learn how to do it as well. We even went and visited a local screen printing shop to learn more about the process. It turns out that we don’t really have the space or budget needed to make screen printing one of our stations as we had hoped. But there ARE a few creative ways that you can teach teens to do low tech, low cost screen printing(ish). We’ll be talking about those soon.

Week 3: Puff Paint

And yes, you read that right, we are in fact doing some good old fashion puff painting of t-shirts. We have found that teens love a lot of traditional arts and crafts AND that they love anything retro.

We’ll talk about weeks 4, 5 and 6 soon. Wednesday, I’m going to talk low cost, low tech screen printing.