I realized that my oldest child was officially no longer a kid when instead of a Christmas gift, she gave me a Pinterest board full of clothes she wanted for Christmas. On that board was a cute sweater that said, “Harvard Law – Just Kidding”. I bought a plain sweatshirt and planned to make it for her using a DIY Freezer Paper Stencil method of making shirts using paint instead of vinyl but life happened and I never got around to it. Let’s just say she didn’t quite get it for Christmas, it came a few days later. But now she loves it and rarely ever takes it off.
Why do I want a painted shirt instead of vinyl? Using Cricut’s or other vinyl cutters to make shirts using HTV vinyl is amazing and fun but you have to launder those clothes gently for them to hold up. Laundering gently is non existent in my house. If you can’t toss it in the wash and hope that it comes out whole in the end, it’s not made to live at our house. I’ve made a few vinyl shirts, without a fancy heatpress, and in the end the vinyl doesn’t hold up after many washes and dry cycles. I know you can have better results using a heatpress but I don’t want to invest in one. Plus I just like the way that screen printed shirts look. I’ve found that using the freezer paper stencil method to make shirts is simply what I prefer.
I am getting smart in my old age though and have been using my Cricut to cut the freezer paper. Before Cricut’s or Silhouette’s existed I used to make shirts like these using an exacto knife to cut out a design that I had printed on the non shiny side of the freezer paper. If you don’t have a craft cutter, it’s a great way to still be able to make DIY shirts.
So how do you make DIY Freezer Paper Stencil Shirts with paint instead of vinyl?
The first step is to cut out your stencil.
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You can do it by hand with an Exacto knife or cut it using a vinyl / craft cutter. On my Cricut, I use the dial setting one dot below paper. It’s the very first setting. You want to cut it where the shiny side of your design will be facing the shirt.
Tip: If you’re using an electronic cutting machine – save yourself the trouble and cut out two stencils. The freezer paper tears easily and sometimes it just doesn’t cut correctly. You can easily piece together parts of two different cuts that did work.
Iron the stencil where you want it on your shirt, shiny side down. If you accidently iron the wrong side, it will stick to the iron instead of the shirt – don’t ask me how I know.
It was cold in my house that day. Can you tell?
After you iron down the big piece, go back and add in the details such as the triangle in the middle of the “A”.
This is the best fabric paint I have found yet. It’s so soft when it’s dry and so easy to work with. I bought this one at Hobby Lobby but it’s also available on Amazon.
Using a stencil brush, you’re just going to dab it over the top of the stencil. Do not do regular paint strokes. Dab or bounce the brush. If you don’t have a stencil brush, use a paintbrush with stiffer bristles.
Keep dabbing that paint on. A stencil brush, like this one, will make the job easier.
Let dry for about 5 minutes, just long enough for it to get a little tacky to the touch, and then gently peel off the stencil. You need to be very careful to make sure that you don’t smear paint on the rest of your shirt.
Use a pin or tweezers to remove any little details such as the insides of letters.
Let dry overnight and then iron with a pressing cloth (thin cloth) over the paint to fully set it. Once that’s done, your shirt is ready to go!
Want to make your own shirt like this one? No worries, I have this one for free PERSONAL use only. Please only use it for your family and friends, do not use this to produce shirts or products to sell.
Want to watch this tutorial?
I also used this technique to make a hard to find shirt for my other daughter:
I ❤️ Rats. When I made the Harvard Law – Just Joking shirt the other day for one daughter I also made this “I ❤️ Rats” shirt for our rat loving daughter. • Does she take it off? No. • It’s so easy to make your own shirts using freezer paper stencils and fabric paint that won’t peel off or wash weird like vinyl. The tutorial how to do it is on my blog now. • #ratsofinstagram #ratlife #ratlove #diyshirt #imadethis #makestuff
Pin this on Pinterest if you want to save this fun idea for another day: