New craft: solar leaf print t-shirts

By Lance Gardner (Lance) on May 5, 2010

Here is a fun and easy project to try and it requires very little in materials with some very interesting results. I hope you give it a try and show us some creations of your own when you are done. Here is my model, showing off his latest in fall fashions designed by himself.

A friend of mine that also happens to be here on Cubits sent the following idea to me, as she knows how much fun I have with my son, making things with natural objects.  For those that want more fun cubit sites, her name is Sharon; she writes some very informative and entertaining articles, and has several forums set up, as well.  The project she outlined for us was to use leaves to make prints on plain colored t-shirts. 

2010-05-04/Lance/4e0aacThe basic idea is this:  Fill a hand-held spray bottle with a half and half mixture of chlorine bleach and water, (you may be able to dilute it more, I am not sure).  Lay out the colored shirt and place leaves on the shirt in any pattern you want.  Spray around the leaves and the bleach will discolor the shirt around the leaves, leaving the original shirt color where the leaves blocked the spray.  This has to be done in the sun, as the bleach reacts with sunlight to quickly remove the colors from the shirt.  As you watch the shirt you will quickly see the color fade where the bleach has been sprayed.  When the shirt looks ready, dunk or spray the shirt with a solution of about 2 cups vinegar in one gallon water to neutralize the bleach. 

I then took this process one step further, and wondered what would happen if I pressed the leaves wet with bleach onto a shirt.  The results I thought looked just as interesting, and made for another way to decorate an otherwise plain shirt. 

Here is my model, showing off his latest in fall fashions designed by himself.  

A few things to keep in mind if you want to try this yourself: 

  • This needs to be done in the sunlight. 
  • If it is windy, the bleach spray will drift onto your clothes you are wearing, possibly spotting something you don’t want to be. 
  • Wind will also blow your decorations off the shirts. 
  • Have everything ready before you begin, as you will have no time while you are working on the project to locate or prepare materials. 
  • The leaves work best if they lay flat on the shirt, so you may want to press them first for a 2010-05-05/Lance/8d18efday, and take them out as you use them.  Remember it is the shape of the leaf, not its color, that is important for this project
  • As you rinse the shirts in vinegar, do not ball it up and potentially rub the bleach where you don’t want it; instead, lay it flat bleach side first right into the solution.  You may have to replenish the vinegar solution as it gets used up by the bleach, depending on how many shirts or other items you do. 
  • This can be done with just about any type of cotton material, such as jeans, denim jackets or vests, and possibly with wool, but did not work on a synthetic fiber shirt we tried. 

So get the kids and grandkids to collect some interesting leaves and have fun changing those plain shirts into wondrous works of art. Some inventive ideas include placing leaves on the sleeves (entirely my son's idea), placing the leaf in a pocket with part of it sticking out and doing reverse leaf prints (wet leaf pressed onto the shirt) on the opposite side of the same shirt where the leaf was sprayed.

Sorry, but I do not have any photos of the actual spraying and leaf placement.  I didn't realize it would be such a wonderful project until we were finished.

Related articles:
activities, children

About Lance Gardner
I have an interest in just about anything that gets me outside, as well as anything that is alive or grows, and in making things. So my hobbies include gardening, outdoors, photography, dogs, woodworking, and most importantly raising my son.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
all set up and ready to go! 1AnjL Oct 17, 2010 2:11 PM 7
Good camp project! slm0713 Sep 7, 2010 5:53 PM 2
Great idea! adinamiti May 28, 2010 3:59 PM 3
Fun project! wildflowers May 6, 2010 6:34 AM 2
interesting Dutchlady1 May 6, 2010 6:09 AM 7
Great idea Ridesredmule May 5, 2010 8:18 AM 1

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