When I found out my kids were going to Disneyland, I knew I wanted to make them personalized t-shirts to help break the surprise.
I thought about doing something hand-appliqued, but who am I kidding? I did not have time for that.
Then I thought about doing a tie-dye shirt for each of the kids, but I wanted to keep myself on budget and I didn’t have dyes on hand. Also, I thought it would be hard to hide a tie-dye operation from the children.
That’s when I remembered a project I did with some kids I used to babysit. We made reverse tie-dyed shirts using bright t-shirts and bleach. I thought I could do a variation of reverse tie-dye to create personalized shirts for each of the kids.
First, I stopped at Michael’s craft store and picked up three t-shirts. They were out of most colors so I had to settle for neon. It felt so…’80’s. But I consoled myself with thoughts of the big ol’ bottle of bleach waiting for me at home.
Once the kids were in bed and I had threatened to take away all of their stuffed animals if they set foot downstairs, I got to work.
First, I created a Mickey Mouse template.
If you’re uncomfortable making a template on your own, just search for “Mickey Mouse silhouette” and you’ll find lots of printable options. I just didn’t want to to waste the ink.
Yes, I am that cheap.
I traced around the Mouse with a white crayon. You could use chalk or a fabric pencil if you have one on hand. But white crayons are in abundance around here because how often can you use a white crayon?
Next, I created my own bleach pen.
Bleach pens are basically bleach in gel form. You can get them at the grocery store in the laundry aisle.
But, I didn’t want to spend $3.50 on a bleach pen because I am my father’s daughter, and I have distinct memories of him telling the clerk at McDonald’s that it couldn’t possibly cost eight dollars to purchase hamburgers and water for a family of five.
Besides, I thought I could make my own for just pennies. It turns out, I could.
I had an empty plastic bottle with a tip–you know, the kind you might use for ketchup and mustard. I use mine for frosting cookies. Into that bottle, I poured about an inch of liquid hand soap and about a tablespoon of bleach. Swish, swish, swish, and wallah! Bleach pen.
I tested the bleach pen on a piece of cardboard just to make sure it was “gelled” enough. I wanted my bleach pen to be a little runny, just enough to give the t-shirts a paint-splattered look.
I slid a piece of cardboard in between the layers of each t-shirt so the bleach wouldn’t bleed to the back.
Finally, I traced around the crayon outline with the bleach pen.
I created a nice, fat outline. As you can see, the bleach didn’t bleed much, even though I didn’t mind if it did a little.
I actually had to create a “bleed” by dabbing the pen around a bit. I didn’t want it to look perfect.
Also, I wanted each shirt to look different, so I made splattered look on Jonathan’s shirt, and polka dots on Kya’s.
I wanted to create tiger stripes on Faith’s, but her shirt was WAY committed to being neon pink. I had to stop and make a stronger bleach slurry, but it barely touched the color on that shirt. The lines faded enough to give me an outline, so I decided I’d have to go back and add some glitter paint to try to make it stand out like the others.
Let the bleach pen work until the shirts are faded to the color you want. Remove the cardboard. It will look really cool and you will like it:
Rinse the shirts in the sink to carefully remove the bleach without getting it everywhere. Then, wash and dry the shirts. This is how Jonathan’s looked, straight out of the dryer. You can see the tie-dye look in the white.
Lastly, add any embellishments you’d like.
I had to add some glitter paint to Faith’s shirt because the lines were just too faint on her Minnie Mouse. I happened to have some fabric paint on hand so I just used what I had. Thankfully, it dried quickly because this girl was still working on these shirts on the day of departure. No stress! No stress!
I wanted the girls’ shirts to have bows on the ears so it would be clear they were Minnie Mouse shirts, not Mickey Mouse shirts.
Kya’s got an over-sized variegated ribbon on the ear.
It’s SO Kya.
I struggled a bit more with Faith’s because she doesn’t like bows on her person. She’s a tween, what can I say? Actually, she’s never been a fan of bows. She gets that from her mother. Ahem.
Also, I didn’t have a ribbon I liked. I wished I had something leopard-spotted, but I didn’t. I didn’t even have any black ribbon, which also would have looked neat. I dug around in my ribbon bin and that’s when I saw the perfect solution: a black zipper.
I separated the zipper and turned it into an edgy-bow. The teeth of the zipper looked great with the gold glitter paint I was forced to use on the tiger stripes. I added a little bling to the center and it was done.
While I didn’t love the way the tiger stripes turned out, I did love the bow. It was perfect for Faith–not too girly, not too grown-up.
All in all, I loved the way they came out. The kids said people stopped them at Disney to comment on their shirts. I should have written “Five in Tow” on the backs. Can you say “missed advertising opportunity”?
Here they are, ready to fly to Disney!
Next time, I’ll make shirts for all of them!