Yesterday, my little one and I had some fun revisiting a craft that we first tried about 3 years ago; making leaf prints on a T-Shirt. It’s super easy and fun for everyone because what kid doesn’t like to bang on something with a hammer!? The first time we did this, we used only fern leaves but decided to experiment with a couple of others on this shirt. I tweaked a few things and it was much easier than the first time we tried it. Then again, I wasn’t completely following the instructions back in 2011 either… hmm, maybe I should try that sometime. 🙂 The book we got the inspiration from is Nature’s Art Box: From t-shirts to twig baskets, 65 cool projects for crafty kids to make with natural materials you can find anywhere by Laura C. Martin and it’s a MUST-HAVE if you like crafting with everyday items easily found around you in nature. Just thumbing through it will make you think about all kinds of other stuff you can do. From what I understand, the author also has another book that is about recycled crafts (Recycled Crafts Box ) and you can find both of them through the links above or on the Amazon link on the right side of this page. This is my variation because I didn’t have everything the book called for, but for the leaf printing shirt, you’ll need the following items:
– Plain white or light colored T-shirt (washed and dried)
– Leaf or leaves to print with
– Kitchen “Cutting Board” (wooden or plastic)
– Bath Towel (use a hand towel for smaller, kids shirts)
– Stack of paper towels
– Single sheet of paper towel to put between the hammer and the leaves
– Scotch tape
– Large Pan (like a lasagna pan)
– Warm water
– 1 cup of salt
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Fold the bath towel so that it will fit, laying flat, inside the T-shirt and place inside the shirt. Put the cutting board inside the shirt on top of the folded towel then put six or seven stacked paper towels on top of the board. Smooth the shirt front over the stack of towel, board and paper towels to make sure there are no creases. Arrange your leaves in the desired pattern and secure them to the shirt with the scotch tape. Put a paper towel over the taped leaf pattern and hammer all over the design making sure that you’ve covered all the leaf parts. With most leaves, you’ll be able to see the “juice” being released on the paper towel side and be able to tell if you’ve hit all parts.
Remove the paper towel and carefully start removing the leaves and tape. If you’ve hammered enough, they’ll be pretty much pulverized so you can just use your fingernail to scrape off any parts that won’t lift off intact.
You can see from the pictures above that even with taping the leaf down, some parts of it shifted while we were hammering it. Once you’ve removed all of the leaves and tape, the first step to permanently setting the pattern on the shirt will be to “heat set” it. You can do this by putting the shirt in the dryer for 15 or 20 minutes (with some towels to keep it tumbling) or by ironing it using a medium setting. I prefer the dryer method simply because I can let my son put it in, turn the timer and push the start button. He’s not a good age yet for an iron. After you’ve heat set the pattern, fill your large pan with warm water and pour in the salt. I used twice as much as the book called for based on experience with other dying methods. Stir the water to completely dissolve the salt and carefully place the shirt in the pan to soak.
Leave the shirt in the salt solution for about 5 minutes, then remove it and extract as much salt water as you can by rolling the shirt in a bath towel and squeezing. Don’t rinse it yet. Put the shirt back in the dryer and dry completely. It will now be “permanent” and can be washed in cold water with regular detergent and dried just like other clothes but you’ll definitely want to avoid using bleach.
Over time, the image will change to a tan/brown color and does still fade a little bit, but really not too bad. The image below is the shirt we made in 2011 and it’s been through more washes than I can count. I think it’s held up pretty well! Have fun with this and be sure to come back and let us know what leaves you used that turned out well!