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Family Craft Ideas

with Leah

I'm Leah--wife, mother, editor, writer, photographer, and rickrack apologist. There's craftiness in my DNA, but between the kids and my work and the house and the television and my blogs (http://www.agirlandaboy and http://www.workitmom.com/bloggers/workingonmotherhood, among others), I have to keep my projects quick and easy if I hope to finish them before my boys (born December 2008 and July 2012) graduate from college. You're a working mom and you're busy too, but if you still want to get your craft on, join me here for some fun projects!

Stars and Stripes Shirt DIY (with free PDF download)

Categories: fabric, no-sew, paint

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The good news is that I have two boys, which means the little one can wear all the big one’s hand-me-downs. The bad news is that the first one was born in December and the second one was born in July, which means my seasons are all off and the baby didn’t fit into the My First Halloween onesie until St. Patrick’s Day. Which is actually good news because it means MOAR CRAFTING. I swear I didn’t plan it this way.

Since the baby has nothing festive to wear for Independence Day, let’s make him a stripey star shirt. (And a super-quick star shirt for me too.) This is a fun project using a skill you’ve already learned and supplies you might already have on hand.

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Remember the silhouette totes for Mother’s Day? We’re using the same freezer paper stencil technique to upcycle a plain old hand-me-down onesie, and you can use the free PDF download to jazz up a shirt of any size, and for any occasion, depending on what colors you use. Click through to see my four-year-old’s neon version.


What you’ll need:

  • a shirt
  • freezer paper
  • printout of the PDF pattern
  • fabric paint
  • Plus these tools:

  • pencil
  • straight edge
  • Xacto knife
  • cutting mat
  • iron
  • scrap cardboard (e.g., a flattened cereal box) or a paper grocery bag
  • foam brush
  • 1. Download this PDF pattern and print it out on a regular 8.5×11 piece of paper.

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    Download star template PDF

    No matter how many shirts you want to make with this design, you’ll only need one printout. (This is probably obvious to you, but it was not so obvious to the girl who printed three copies to make three shirts. D’oh.)

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    2. Rip out a piece of freezer paper big enough to cover your pattern. (I could fit two of them side by side.) Place your freezer paper on top of your pattern, shiny side down, and trace the lines of the stars. For perfect lines, use a straight edge. Remember to number each star section just like they’re numbered on the pattern. This will help you keep track of what’s what when everything’s cut out.

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    3. Use an Xacto knife to cut out the stars. For best results, start with the smallest star and work your way out. Take your time and don’t make any extra cuts, since that will allow the fabric paint to go places where you don’t want it to go.

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    When you’re done, you’ll have two sets of stencils, one slightly larger than the other. Keep the odd numbers together and the even numbers together. I used the little stencil for an 18mo onesie and the big stencil for a 5T shirt.

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    4. Place your stencil pieces on your shirt shiny side down and press them into place with a hot, dry iron until the pieces are adhered. Make sure you get everything exactly where you want it the first time, since you can’t readhere the pieces after you take them off.

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    My kids are definitely too young to do any cutting or ironing, so I considered steps 1 through 4 prep work to be done when they were elsewhere. When I was ready to get them involved (today after the big kid came home from preschool), I just pulled out the shirts with the patterns already attached. If you have it in you to do a ton of prep, this could be a fun project for a birthday party or a family reunion if you come from the kind of folk who love to wear matching shirts.

    5. Line the inside of the shirt with a piece of cardboard or a paper shopping bag to keep the paint from leaking through. Then, using a foam craft brush, apply your fabric paint to your stencil in whatever pattern you want. We kept it simple and just painted each star a different color, but you could get really creative with this step, especially if you use more than just one or two colors. I love the neon trend for kids, and it looks super cool on the black shirt for my preschooler. I used this 5-pack of Tulip fabric paints, which have a bit of sparkle to them.

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    Painting one shirt takes exactly as long as a four-year-old’s attention span lasts.

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    6. Let the paint dry for a few hours (or overnight) and then pull off your stencil to reveal your finished shirt. Very patriotic, and just the right size.

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    This one’s pretty cool too, and the boy wearing it is very proud of himself.

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    Bonus project: If you don’t have the wherewithal to do all the tracing and cutting involved for the stripey star, here’s how to make the shirt I’m wearing, which takes a fraction of the time:

    Use a star-shaped craft punch to cut mini stencils into your freezer paper. I found this worked best when I folded the freezer paper so I was cutting through two pieces at once.

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    Cut each star into an individual stencil (and use the star shapes as confetti–hooray!).

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    Place the individual stencils onto your shirt shiny side down and then iron them into place. With a liner inside the shirt, apply your fabric paint and let it dry. I wanted to make something for myself for the holiday that was a little subtler than the traditional red, white, and blue, so I used metallic taupe fabric paint on a white shirt I already had, and voila, I’m festive without looking like a parade float.

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