I decided not to sew for Valentine's Day this year. It felt like too much, especially knowing that we had to have valentines prepared for two classes of kids, and Big Sister would certainly want to make hers. But I couldn't let the holiday go without making something. I planned something quick and simple -- t-shirts with iron-on transfers. In the end, I could have sewn matching shirts for all of us in the time I spent on this little project. But I learned a lot. I think.
Big Sister loves cute things, so I found an image of a vintage valentine with the cutest kitties ever, thanks to Two Crazy Crafters. Little Brother loves Batman and Robin, so I bought some vintage Super Friends valentines from Ebay.
That was the easy part. Attaching them to the shirts proved far more difficult than I'd imagined. Details below, for anyone interested in the specifics. After many failed attempts, I finally ended up with cute shirts that shimmer. Perfect for Valentine's Day.
Check out the happy superhero moves!
The transfer nitty-gritty:
I first tried SuperSoft Inkjet Transfer Paper from Dharma Trading Co., which everybody in the crafty and blog worlds seems to love. But it didn't work for me. Not at all. I will admit that mine is past the six-month shelf life (six months!!). But it's been stored unopened, in optimal conditions. Still, that could be the problem. The problem could also be the printing -- I have an Epson Artisan 730 printer, and the product instructions didn't exactly tell me what print settings I should use (the settings given are not choices for me). I tried choosing lustre photo paper, ultra premium glossy paper, and regular paper. They all printed fine and ironed fine. But peeling the paper off was a nightmare. My test shirt was an old undershirt of Mr. Great's, so it's possible that was the problem. I tried two different irons, and I tried both linen and cotton settings. I tried peeling the paper off warm, and I tried cool. Every attempt ended in frustration.
I then rushed to Hobby Lobby and picked up some June Tailor Print 'n Press transfer paper. But it very clearly and adamantly says not to pre-wash your shirts, which I'd already done. And it sounded like I might end up with something a little plasticky-looking.
So I dug around and found an unopened pack of Inkjet Sparkle Transfer Paper from Dharma Trading Co., also beyond the six-month shelf life. Ultimately, this worked great. But the instructions left a lot to be desired. Again, the printer settings didn't apply to my printer (if I chose regular paper, I could not choose photo quality). I used the Presentation Paper Matte setting, and that allowed me to select photo quality printing. That worked well. The instructions didn't tell me to cut around my image, but I did it anyway. That was the right choice. The ironing instructions are very confusing. For my own reference, and in hopes of helping someone else, here's my advice:
- They're serious about not printing a mirror image for the sparkle paper. You really don't.
- I ironed on a corian-type cutting board, which I covered in aluminum foil and placed a pillowcase on.
- Iron the pillowcase so there are no creases. Place the t-shirt on the ironing surface, and iron it well.
- Trim around the image, leaving as little extra paper around the image as possible. You don't have to stick with straight lines or rectangles. Irregular shapes work great.
- While the iron is heating (I used cotton setting), peel the paper backing off of your trimmed image. It's hard to get started. Fingernails help. If your image is trimmed in an irregular shape, this can be tricky.
- Carefully place the image where you want it on the shirt. If it's in multiple pieces, place all pieces.
- Do use parchment paper to cover your image (cover all pieces of image with one piece of parchment paper). It works great.
- On cotton setting, dry (no steam), iron in sections, pressing firmly, about 20 seconds per section. I did this from left to right, then I did it again from top to bottom just to be sure I had everything set.
- Quickly iron over the entire image, so the whole thing is hot.
- After about five seconds, remove the parchment paper.
- The instructions talk about removing the paper backing. At this point, there is no paper backing. It was taken off long ago, before you started ironing (the instructions don't tell you that either). The only paper involved in the ironing process is the parchment paper.
I haven't tried washing the shirts yet, so no advice there.
I tried to convince Mr. Great that he should wear this to work today, but he wasn't buying it.
On further thought, I think this is begging to be made into one of those fun Handmade Ryan Gosling-style pics, which crack me up. "Hey, girl, there's some space on my shoulder. Why don't I iron these kitties for you?"