Thursday, January 6, 2011

Simple T-Shirts: Freezer Paper & Appliques

It really is as simple as everyone is saying - freezer paper and appliques are the best way to get professional and fast results with everyday household items! The fun doesn't stop at t-shirts: try making household items like pillows, or other wearables like pants/shorts. For a fun twist, combine both methods below into one project. For example; on the mickey shirt below cut the number 2 out in fabric or felt and apply (I may go do that right now actually!) or to make Minnie attach ribbon as a bow to her ear! A painted bird with appliqued wing would be cute - maybe next project!

There are tons of tutorials out there; but here are some of my suggestions for these two methods that work well for me! When in doubt: YouTube knows all.

Want my templates for Mickey or PB&J? Email me:

Freezer paper t-shirts:

My twin boys are turning 2 on Saturday, where does the time go? We aren't doing a big party but if we were it would be Mickey themed. I decided party or not they still needed a fun shirt to celebrate! I created this shirt with the Mickey Font cricut cartridge.

Materials needed:
  • Freezer paper (not wax paper)
  • Foam brush (small)
  • Rotary cutter/exacto knife OR cutting machine (I used my cricut)
  • Fabric paint (I used Tulip - get either Matte or Velveteen)
  • A T-Shirt
Method used:
  1. Prewash and dry t-shirt and gather supplies.
  2. Cutting out the design: Print out a design of choice and trace w/ pencil onto dull side of transfer paper and cut with exacto knife (tape the transfer paper onto the paper with design) OR place the dull side of the freezer paper down onto your cricut cutting mat and cut. Ensure you leave plenty of edge room (I cut in the center using center point after manually setting the start point of the blade away from the edge). Also ensure that you FLIP any text or number images so that when you place it on the t-shirt you get the correct design.
  3. Setting Design: On an ironing board, iron the shirt so it lays flat and place a piece of freezer paper inside shiny side up to avoid paint soaking through. Place the negative image (background) pieces of the transfer paper onto your shirt shiny side down and iron on - do not use steam, I set mine at '4' about halfway. Ensure that the edges are all stuck down continue ironing until you have a good edge so paint will not slip under - I did this for about 30 seconds per design.
  4. Painting: Using the foam brush, dip in paint and blot onto t-shirt - being careful not to paint on the outside of the design. Apply 1-3 coats allowing the paint to dry slightly between coats (lighter colors will need more coats). If you would like your design to appear slightly raised or thicker, apply more coats of paint.
  5. Drying: Allow to dry for several hours, I let it sit overnight. This is a very important step as if you peel the freezer paper off while wet the edging can bleed and your design may not be as sharp. My freezer paper was on so well that I had to pull the paper off at a 45 angle.
  6. Set the paint: When using Matte paint - place a cloth over the finished design and iron without steam to set the paint. When using Velveteen paint - with image facing up set your iron to steam and hold 1/2" above the design - do not touch paint or iron. I made the mistake of ironing with a cloth and my paint bubbled a bit and discolored (to fix this I just applied a new coat of paint) - do not over iron.
  7. Care: Wait at least 72 hours after drying time before washing. For best results, machine wash inside out with like colors.
Applique t-shirts:

Another great option for homemade t-shirts is to applique; or cut out a fabric design and glue/sew onto your shirt. I love the texture and easy layering of appliques. Don't you just want to eat that PB&J? This is an example of an all appliqued design with felt & felt glue, no sewing - a last minute project for this year's NICU reunion picnic at the hospital, the shirts were a major hit!

  • Felt and felt glue OR fabric and steam a seam (or like bonding material).
  • Rotary cutter or exacto knife and cutting mat or scissors or cutting machine such as a cricut for fabric.
  • T-Shirt.
  • Sewing machine - optional for finishing.
Method used:
  1. Cut design (felt): when using felt I like to print out my design and cut the paper, lay it on top of the felt and mark (I used a permanent marker and then cut on the inside of the pen marks.)
  2. Cut design (fabric): when using fabric I like to use my cricut; bond the fabric (wrong side down) to the steam a seam with your iron, leave the paper backing onto opposite side of steam a seam so it will not bond with your ironing board! Place the now paper fabric onto the cricut cutting mat and cut your design (ensure proper tension and speed - medium is what I used, with a blade setting of 4/5 to ensure a good cut).
  3. Apply the design (felt): using felt glue adhere the felt onto the t-shirt (be sure to put some cardbord or freezer paper in between the layers of the shirt so they do not stick together!)
  4. Apply the design (fabric): remove the backing of the steam a seam; and iron onto t-shirt.
  5. Finishing the look: sewing around the edges of your design adds a professional and finished look; however it is not necessary - the felt glue or steam a seam is qualified to do the job alone! Experiment with different stitches to get desired effect. When sewing felt it can get heavy especially with the dried felt glue - go slowly through all those layers. Ensure the steam a seam is completely cooled so your sewing needle does not get sticky. (If you have used cotton not felt you will want to sew around the edges as it tends to fray). Sewn applique example: Hot Wheels Car & Truck Tote-n-Play.
Let me know if you have any questions or want to show off your projects! As I create more shirts I'll update this post for additional ideas!


  1. Ooh that's one of my favorite crafts!!!!!!

  2. maybe you can make some breast cancer shirts.....

  3. Heather! I love it. Thanks for posting this. I'll definitely come back for it to reference it for the next b-day.