Embrace your inner spray paint artist!
Have you been following the new Subtle Tees column in Designs in Machine Embroidery? If you aren’t there are several reasons you will want to:
- The designs featured on the t-shirts include our magazine sponsors – without whom, we wouldn’t be able to provide you inspiration.
- Periodically you’ll find a free design download mentioned in that section.
- The column is about everyone’s favorite garment: the t-shirt! It’s affordable. It’s wearable. It comes in countless colors. This column presents new ideas you’ll want to try – if not for yourself for someone you know.
The most recent installment of Subtle Tees (Volume 102 January/February 2017) showcases t-shirts with an added element of excitement: spray paint! This blog post covers the expanded content as referenced in the magazine. Let’s begin!
You’ll need the following supplies which are all available from your local big box craft/hobby store.
- Tulip ColorShot Instant Fabric Color spray paint. Purchase an assortment of colors! This photo represents just a small stash in my collection. They sell smaller cans, but don’t bother. You need the full size cans because once you start one shirt, you’ll want to do many.
- Plastic Stencils. Select a stencil that will make a good background for embroidery designs. Look for patterns instead of single motifs. Your local craft/hobby store should have an assortment of options.
- Cardboard T-shirt Form (this provides a nice flat surface for the t-shirt and prevents paint from seeping to the back of the t-shirt.)
- Tulip Stencil Adhesive (this is optional but I found it very useful for keeping the stencil in place)
- Painter’s Tape
- Wax paper
Notes on Color
Dark colored t-shirts lend themselves to lighter colored spray paints. Light colored t-shirts lend themselves to darker colored spray paint. Of course, I did the complete opposite with the unicorn shirt featured in this blog. All colors were subtle! The point is, consider color when you’re making your purchases. Note that on some shirts I deliberately sprayed white spray paint as a base before adding other spray paint colors.
Step 1. Preparation
This step reminds me of what it must be like to make Thanksgiving dinner. You spend the majority of your time preparing the meal!
Slide the t-shirt onto the cardboard t-shirt form. Fold the excess t-shirt (the shirt sleeves and lower portion of the shirt to the back of the cardboard form. Secure the excess shirt with Painter’s Tape.
If using the Tulip Stencil Adhesive, spray the back of your stencil now. Place the stencil on the t-shirt.
Even with the use of the Stencil Adhesive, I like to add Painter’s Tape to the entire perimeter of the stencil for an extra secure hold.
Tear sheets of wax paper large enough to cover the areas of the shirt you do not want spray painted. Spray paint is a very fine mist. Absolutely cover every inch! Secure the wax paper with painter’s tape. Don’t skimp.
Step 2. Spray Paint
Go to a well ventilated area (outdoors!). Avoid spray painting on a windy day. It makes the process more difficult and overspray will happen. Also wear a mask, there’s no need to take in the fumes!
Following the directions on the spray paint cans, apply even coats of spray paint to the shirt. For the example shown, I went crazy and incorporated multiple colors.
You’ll soon discover at this point that this task is very much like the eating part of Thanksgiving dinner. It seems over in minutes compared to the preparation!
Step 3. The Big Reveal
This is my favorite part of the process. Very carefully, remove the wax paper. Set aside in a safe place (it will still be wet with paint). Carefully peel the painter’s tape and stencil away from the shirt.
Go ahead and admire your work. You, my friend, are a spray paint artist!
Follow the instructions that accompany the spray paint regarding the dry time.
Step 4. Embroidery
I like having a few days pass to let the inspiration percolate in my head. Let the spray painted design influence your choice of embroidery design. Once you select a design, do a test stitch on a scrap t-shirt. This step is worth it. You don’t want to whip up another Thanksgiving meal – err, prepare another t-shirt for spray painting! This will give you the opportunity to make sure the design size, density and thread color choices are right.
For the featured shirt, I chose the Unicorn design from A Few of My Favorite Things. This collection is free to anyone who attends an Embroidery Techniques from A to Z event in 2017. Print a template of the design and audition its placement on the shirt.
Place a Target Sticker to designate the center of the embroidery design. Remove the template. Turn the t-shirt inside out. Fuse a piece of polymesh stabilizer using Sulky KK2000 to the back of the spray painted t-shirt. Be sure to place the stabilizer in relation to the target sticker’s position. (Example, placing stabilizer centered on the shirt isn’t the most effective for hooping my t-shirt example. My design isn’t centered on the t-shirt.)
I used the Baby Lock Alliance with the Snap Hoop Monster to stitch the design. I love using the Alliance because it’s a single-needle free-arm embroidery machine. The free arm makes hooping and stitching a t-shirt wildly easy. I’m not as prone to stitching the back of the shirt closed. Of course, you can get the same results on a traditional single needle embroidery machine. I recommend using a Snap Hoop Monster with the a single needle machine as well. You avoid hoop burn this way and making adjustments to the fabric is as easy as giving it a tug.
Once finished, invite your favorite unicorn friend with purple hair to wear the shirt!
Need more inspiration? Subtle Tees has been making a splash since Volume 100. Pick up past issues from our website.
Curious about the free designs I mentioned at the beginning of this blog? We’ve given away two so far in the column. Click on the images below to visit the download pages.
Volume 102 January / February 2017
Volume 100 September / October 2016