Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Sharp-Witted T-Shirt

I make myself a new t-shirt every year for my birthday. I also make other shirts occasionally during the year as inspired. Before you begin the birthday greetings, let me reassure you that this blog entry is about the second type of shirt—the ones I make just because I feel like it. My first shirt, and most popular so far, was my 25th birthday shirt. I altered an image of Marilyn Monroe and added the text “Quarter of a century…makes a girl think!” (from "Some Like It Hot"). So far, I’ve mostly used the same format: picture in the middle, with text arched over and below the image. Well, I decided to do something a little different this time.

A while ago, when I was feeling somewhat artistic, I decided to do a small art panel based on a line from Much Ado About Nothing—a portion of Benedick’s epithet on Beatrice: “She speaks poignards, and every word stings.” I just used the first half of that, and illustrated it literally, using a photograph of myself that I have altered extensively, and adding in poignards (daggers) that I drew in SolidWorks and positioned in several angles. In the original art panel, I printed the words on a contrasting color of paper and decoupaged it on.
For my shirt, I used the same base image—the close-up of my face with the daggers spewing from my lips. However, on a white t-shirt, it seemed better to put a border around the image. On the art panel, the edges of the image were clearly defined, but an added border seemed advisable for the shirt. I’ve gotten into the habit of composing my t-shirt images in Word for some reason, so I just added the border there. I used a solid black border with a purple glow for the fun of it. I did toy around with adding the wording in as part of the printed image, but didn’t like how it looked. So I just printed the image as is on iron-on transfer paper, trimmed close to the border, and ironed it on, centered and just below the neckline.
Although the instructions for the transfer paper say that the paper can be peeled off while the transfer is hot for a matte finish, I have only encountered problems doing that. So I waited for it to cool, the removed the paper backing.
In order to mimic the decoupaged paper words, I pulled out some of my printer fabric. I prepared the words in Photoshop, so that I could also add in some color in the background. I printed the words first on paper to check the size against the main image, then printed the fabric. Using a hot, dry iron, I set the ink on the fabric, then cut out the word rectangles and removed the paper backing.
Next, I applied Fray Check to all edges of the rectangles. I toyed around with different ideas on how to affix the words to the shirt, but finally decided to depart from the decoupage look of the original and embrace the fabric. I used bright purple thread to completely contrast the yellowish fabric and hand-stitched the words on. I intentionally made the stitches uneven, because I like the look. And although I did not refer to my pictures of the original panel for placement of the words, I did place the “poignard” rectangle over the edge boundary, similar to how I recall positioning it in the original.
Because I love this image, I made a second art panel using it. I believe I used a different paper for the words, and although the same components are used (well, a different wood was used for the backing panel), I consider this second panel to be an original as well. It’s Number 2 in a series of similar works, I guess.
As for my shirt, I’m mostly happy with how it turned out. Because I wanted the red lips, I did use color ink when printing it. However, as I have found in the past, the color ink tends to make the blacks and grays in the image a little yellow-greenish. I usually use black ink only when printing t-shirt transfers for that reason. Also, there was a trail of wheel marks from the printer. I need to figure out a way to clean and prevent that, but they only show up when I use the transfer paper; regular paper and printer fabric are fine. As this shirt is for my own use, though, I wasn’t too bothered. By the way, if you choose to try making shirts using iron-on transfers, remember to follow the washing instructions carefully. I have messed up other shirts before by being too lazy and running them through the drier before they can handle it. It is safest to wash the shirt, then hang it to dry several times—even longer than recommended in the instructions—before attempting to dry it in the clothes drier. It will stick to itself and ruin the image if you are not careful.