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CRAFTS : Show Off True Colors : Express Yourself With a Sparkle With an Easy-to-Make T-Shirt

July 29, 1993|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

Wearable art T-shirts--those glittery tops bearing fanciful designs rendered in washable paint--may not be a crafter's cheapest project. But they're fun, easy and gratifying to create, especially for the sewing-impaired who have never produced a piece of clothing and fear they never will.

It costs about $15 to $25 to produce a single shirt--T-shirt not included--estimates Blair, who teaches fabric painting at Ben Franklin Crafts in Fountain Valley. But that will buy enough supplies for at least one additional shirt, and the popular garments are machine-washable to boot.

Magazines and coloring books are good sources for design ideas or actual patterns. Clip out the page (or pages) you need and use as is or enlarge or shrink it on a photocopy machine. Blair has an inventory of 300 patterns from which his students choose. As with all crafts, however, the possibilities are endless. How about an abstract design, a personalized greeting or the portrait of a beloved pet?

Below are instructions, courtesy of Blair, who encourages students to leave perfectionism behind. "There's no right way or wrong way" to create a design, he says.

You'll need:

* One white T-shirt, thin enough so that a pattern placed face-up behind the shirt front will show through the shirt.

* Shirt board (a piece of cardboard, often shaped like a shirt, to insert into the shirt to keep the fabric taut. Choose one that corresponds to T-shirt size.)

* Scribbles brand fabric paint, three or more colors.

* Paintbrush with a head three-eighths of an inch wide.

* Fabric glue that's washable and clear-drying.

* Glitter, fine grain, three colors.

* Sequins, 8- to 10-millimeters in diameter, three colors.

* Plastic or glass rhinestones, two or three colors.

* Seed beads, larger beads, pearls. (Optional.)


1. Select design or pattern. If creating your own, draw it in dark ink or heavy pencil on white paper.

2. Iron T-shirt if wrinkled.

3. Place shirt board inside of shirt. If necessary, tuck bottom or sides of T-shirt under shirt board so material is pulled fairly taut.

4. Position pattern between T-shirt and shirt board so the pattern shows through the shirt. If using an opaque or colored shirt, outline the pattern in white chalk, place it face down on outside of shirt front, then transfer the pattern onto shirt by pressing it down with the edge of a credit card.

5. Outline in paint a single object in your pattern. For instance, if painting flowers (as pictured), squeeze a thin line of paint from the tube directly onto the fabric along the outer edge of one flower.

6. Fill in the outline with color by stroking the paint bottle back and forth while squeezing lightly as if coloring with a crayon. The resulting streaks may be smoothed out with paint brush. Don't press paint too deeply into fabric; the glitter needs something to adhere to. (To fill in a large surface, squeeze out a larger amount of paint, then spread with brush.)

7. Sprinkle glitter over the object just painted. (It will adhere to the paint; no glue is necessary.) Be sparing; glitter is used best as an accent along one edge or tip of any object. You may want to jiggle the shirt to make the glitter spread. Blow off excess glitter.

8. Repeat with other colors and objects--painting first, then immediately applying glitter.

9. Apply sequins by squeezing a small dot of paint onto shirt, gently placing a sequin on the dot, then pressing the sequin into the dot with wood tip of paintbrush. Paint may ooze out around sides of sequin.

10. Apply rhinestones by simply gluing them onto shirt.

11. When done, allow shirt (still on board) to dry overnight. Then remove excess glitter by gently vacuuming shirt (with vacuum soft-brush attachment) or brushing with large paintbrush.


* For unusual texture, squeeze out a dot of paint and leave as is or gently flatten dot with index finger.

* Add design flourishes not contained in pattern, such as stems for flowers or trim.

* Apply seed beads (one hour after completing rest of shirt) by shaking beads directly from their container onto glue applied to shirt. Larger beads or pearls may be used and may be glued on one by one.


* The T-shirt should last as long as any T-shirt if washed in cold water by hand or in a machine set on gentle cycle. Don't use bleach, and lay flat or hang to dry. Turn inside-out to iron.

* Fabric paint may be used on most fabrics, on a great variety of clothing and accessories--such as vests, ties, dresses, hats, canvas bags, visors--and on such surfaces as glass, wood and plastic.

* Be sure to wash paint off brush when done using.

* For questions, Blair may be reached at (714) 557-9058.

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