Art That's Worth Wearing

Jun 27, 2013

Lately, one of the boys' favorite activities is to draw . . . and draw . . . and draw. I don't even want to tell you how much paper they've gone through for fear you'll turn me into the environmental police. Let's just say they've used up more than their fair share of trees in the last couple of months...

I'm actually quite thrilled with this current obsession. I mean, all I have to do now is pack a spiral notebook when we got to church, and Aaron is set for the full 70 minutes. He just tucks himself into a corner of the pew (far away from Bradley's kicking feet) and draws to his heart's content. (Unfortunately, I see more of monsters and vampires in his art than prophets and scriptures, but hopefully he's not totally deaf to the things that are being said.)

Anyway, with all the drawing that's been going on, I knew that some sort of art project was definitely in order for Father's Day--not only to capture in a more permanent way some of their signature illustrations (the ones I see on almost every piece of paper) but also to capture this stage in their lives (because even though they love to draw now, I'm not convinced that art will play a major role in their futures--but who knows?).

Then I saw a post by The Artful Parent on No Time For Flashcards about how to transfer drawings onto t-shirts, and I knew that would be the perfect way to document this stage (and what kind of a father doesn't want to wear his kids' art?!).

Below, I'll share the projects we made, but if you're interested in doing your own t-shirts, I recommend checking out the full tutorial on No Time For Flashcards.

First, I had both Aaron and Max draw several different pictures on plain white copy paper. Then, out of those selections, I had them each choose their best work. A couple of Max's sketches were giant blobs he claimed were California and Utah, but he eventually settled on one of our whole family. 

That's me with the bright pink hair. I'll bet you're jealous...

Then I used our (very old) printer to make a color copy onto the fabric transfer paper. (I think you can pick up fabric transfer paper just about anywhere: craft, office supply, superstore, etc. I bought it at Wal-Mart in the office/school section: 6 sheets/$8. Kind of pricey, but since I only used two sheets, and I got the t-shirts for $4 each, it was only about $5.50 per shirt.)

There are two different types of fabric transfer paper: one is used for light fabrics and the other for dark fabrics. I went ahead and purchased the one for light fabrics because it was cheaper and looked easier to use.

After the drawings were copied onto the fabric transfer paper, I cut each one out, leaving only a very small margin (per the instructions).

Then I put the paper, drawing side down, onto the shirt, which was laying flat on the desk (the instructions said not to use an ironing board). My iron was set to a high cotton setting with no steam.

I pressed firmly on part of the picture for 20 seconds, then moved to the next section for another 20 seconds. I made a couple passes over the entire thing to make sure I hadn't missed a spot and had also given it enough heat and time to transfer.

I let the shirt cool completely. Then came, what the boys and I dubbed as, "the magic part." I peeled off the paper, and it literally looked like Aaron and Max had taken a marker and drawn the picture onto the shirt itself. The boys were absolutely amazed and pleased as punch. I was pretty happy, too. 

These are Aaron's signature monsters. He has filled up almost an entire notebook with pictures that look very similar to the ones above. He has already started moving onto other drawings (vampires and rocket ships), so I'm glad to have something with which to memorialize the monster phase.

(It's probably obvious, but I should also mention that the image gets flipped when you iron it on, so Aaron had to write his name backwards so it would come out looking right.)

The boys were more than a little excited for Mike to open his presents on Father's Day.

And Mike gave the proper "Wow, boys! These shirts are awesome!" reaction.

Maxwell's shirt ended up looking a little more girly than we'd intended (all that pink hair, you know), so Mike has to look super tough (haha) when wearing it (or just wear it when he's going to bed). He's definitely a good sport about it.

I just have to share a funny story about these photos: After we put the boys to bed one evening, we went into the backyard so I could quickly snap a couple of photos of Mike wearing the shirts. As he was posing, he suddenly got an embarrassed smile on his face and said, "Oh, hi." There was our neighbor standing at our gate. She asked, "Would you like one of both of you?" "Oh, no," we assured her. "Don't all parents take random portraits of themselves for fun when their kids are in bed?"

(Note: If you decide to make a t-shirt, please read the fabric transfer instructions carefully. There are several brands of fabric transfer paper, and the instructions will probably be a little different for each one. What worked well for me may or may not work well for you.)

I shared this post at Raising Memories.


  1. LOVE this idea!!! The shirt turned out great!

  2. This is such a fantastic idea! I definitely pinned it. I love the bit about your neighbor too, ha!

  3. This is such a good idea. My kids recently made shirts, but used markers directly onto the fabric instead of a transfer.

    1. I thought about doing it that way, but my four-year-old tends to get frustrated if his drawings don't turn out the way he wants them to, so doing it this way was better for him so he could get the drawing just right on paper first.

    2. Yes, this is true for my son, too. I decided to post about it this week, so you'll see what happened!


Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground