T-shirt stencil in a pinch- May 2020 - Fashion contest entry

When I first joined C-ster, I saw lots of stenciled tees and wanted to make some for Christmas that year. And I was pretty close to broke. I had some tees in stash, but didn’t feel like I could justify spending money on freezer paper (yeah, I know it’s inexpensive, but still…) and I didn’t own a fun cutting machine at the time. So I learned how to do a stenciled tee the hard way. And I’m gonna share it with you!

I made this stenciled tee for my granddaughter. I think it turned out pretty cute!

I know lots of you have done these before, too. These instructions are going to be written as if you’re new to this type of project, so bear with me! :wink:

What you need:


Plastic grocery bag, design (I found an image online that I liked- I recommend going with something simple), cutting mat, knife, paint brush, iron… and I also used a pencil and a toothpick.

First, cut the handles and bottom off the bag, then fold what’s left in half. This gives you 4 layers of plastic.

I make sure that the printed area is sandwiched in the center. I haven’t ever had the ink come off on a tee, but hey, why risk it?

Next, lay your design on the folded plastic and go over it with your iron set on low. The plastic will melt slightly and stick to the paper. DO NOT allow the plastic to come into direct contact with the iron- you will hate yourself when you have to try to get melted plastic off your iron!

Cut the areas out of your stencil that you want to paint. Set aside extra pieces, like the centers of letters, or in this case, the white centers of the eyes.

Trim any excess plastic from the edges of the stencil and center your design on the tee. Iron the stencil onto the shirt, making sure you include any extra bits. Also put a piece of paper or plastic between the front and back of the shirt to prevent paint ending up in the back of your tee!

When you paint your design, use a fairly dry brush. Also, be aware that this stencil WILL NOT stick as well as freezer paper or vinyl. I hold the edges down as I paint to help keep crisp edges. The dryer brush also helps to prevent paint bleeding under the edges.

I opted not to do the lettering and also did two coats of glitter paint on the crown.

I peel the stencil off right away—carefully! I find that if I wait for the paint to dry, it sometimes peels from the project along with the stencil! Peeling it while it’s damp prevents that, but of course, be careful to avoid smudging!

Peeling off the tiny bits- I used the tip of my knife but a pin works well, also.

You can see I had a little bleeding. I hate when this happens but it’s usually a pretty easy fix with a toothpick and some additional paint. Of course, I had to add paint to both eyes, to even them out. I also used the toothpick to paint the mouth.

I dotted some cheeks on this little panda using an eraser. There was very little paint on it, and I used a brush with only the tiniest bit of paint on it, to round things out a bit more.



This is really clever and a lovely design

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That turned out super cute! And I never thought of using plastic shopping bags that way. I know I’ve heard of crafters that have a hard time getting freezer paper where they live, so this is a great alternative. Thanks for sharing :heart:

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Wow! So resourceful!

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Such a cute outcome!

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Thanks, guys!

So stinking cute. What a fun tutorial! Thanks!

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This is really cool. I’d never seen this trick done before with the grocery bags. I might have to go back and try this “old school hack!” Cute shirt, too.


Thank you!

Love your panda! And how clever to use plastic bags to make DIY freezer paper.

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Thanks!! :slight_smile:

This is so sweet. Thanks for the tutorial.

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I still do old school.

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Sometimes, old school rules! :smiley:

Thanks, all!

SO ADORABLE! Thanks for creating this tutorial.

I remember first learning about freezer paper stencils and when I spotted freezer paper in the store I thought it was too expensive to buy w/o knowing if I’d be good at it or like it. Then I found a big roll at the thrift store! Now when I see it in the store - a lot more common here in rural Montana - I think, “has the price gone down or was I just that thrifty?”

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That’s funny!!

And, thanks!

Thanks for the tute! I didn’t know you could use bags like that!

ETA…I’m thinking about other ways to use the plastic. D’ya suppose it would bond two layers of fabric together, to give a two sided, waterproof fabric?

Some people talk about “pure science,” meaning they’re just trying to figure out how something works. I’m into “pure craft” with the same goal!

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This is so precious!

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Thanks guys!

@steiconi I hate to say it, but no, it wouldn’t bond. The plastic doesn’t stick hard enough to fabric to be even remotely permanent. And if the iron is too hot, it will melt holes in the plastic and then NOTHING is sticking! However, you could lay a pressing cloth over the plastic, fuse it, remove the cloth to add more plastic and fuse that and repeat until you have plastic of whatever thickness you’d like. It would still be pliable, too, I believe. I may have to do this myself as I think it may have some interesting applications for miniatures.

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So cute :heart_eyes:! I love how you used plastic bags to make the stencil. Resourceful!

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