Celebrating Summer: Sun Printed T shirts

the crew at Lavendilly House

Our summer this year was glorious – just the right amount of heat, beautiful clear days, cooling breezes, bright sunshine. Perfect for beach-going, creek-playing, bush-walking and exploring – and we did all that. Then the rains came and we had to dig out our winter clothes for a little while – and our umbrellas, raincoats, gumboots – and maybe some people needed bailing buckets as flood waters rose. Summer rains always bring a bit of drama to the season.

Our summer rains came right when I was planning to begin our new playgroup, Lavendilly Sunshine! We had to slosh through ankle-deep water in a big wet field to get to our playgroup last week. Never mind! We’ve had a week of sunshine in between and the sun printing paints I ordered arrived – NOW we can celebrate summer!

As our playgroup is held outdoors we have to be wary of the sun. Our Queensland sun will burn the skin in minutes, and being a fair-skinned person myself I’m pretty wary of it. Our first playgroup my kids and I were sunburned after five minutes of pushing at the swings with no hats on. Naughty! I felt awful bringing home my daughters looking like cherry tomatoes.

So this week we remembered hats, suncream AND we wore our playgroup t-shirts so that our faces and shoulders were covered. We decorated plain t-shirts with the sunprinting fabric paint. The kids and I had a little play with it a while ago – and glad we did too! Some of our efforts worked –  others didn’t. Here’s how you do it (and what we learned!)

I used Pebeo Setacolour Soleil paints. I watered them down a little bit (not too much I discovered!) and set up everything I needed: plain white shirt, brushes, resist layer (bubblewrap or newspaper) glass of water for washing brushes, resist objects or cut-outs to print with.

the little one thought the paints looked like juice - tempting!

Dampen your fabric (either by wetting and wringing out, or with a spray of water) then place something underneath the fabric to stop the paints from soaking through – I used a bit of bubble wrap on the inside of the t-shirt but you can also use a few layers of newspaper – then start painting! The wet surface of the fabric will help the colours to spread and blend beautifully. Make sure you fill all spaces and leave no white gaps in your painting, as this may spoil your design.

lay in hot full sun with designs on top - these are cardboard cutouts

When you have finished painting, place your resist designs over the paint and place in the sun. After a while the space under the designs that does not have direct contact with the sun will turn white. Once it is dry you iron it for a few minutes to set the paint. That’s it! Simple!

the designs come out better if you don't lift them off all the time to check for progress!

But here’s what I discovered:

1) If you are using natural objects like leaves for your designs – find old, dried ones, or press and dry them flat first. I picked a beautiful fern for one design and as it lay in the sun it’s frond curled as they dried, so the design didn’t completely print. In the end I went with designs cut-out from cardboard.

the fern frond curled as it dried and the design didn't work - still a nice shirt though!

2) It works best with strong, hot sun. There is definitely a difference between morning and afternoon sun. Mid-morning is best. Don’t so this in the afternoon – look how subtle my design is!

squint your eyes and you might see my logo inside a sun! Too much water diluted the paints and made the colours bleed

3) Don’t make your fabric too wet. This dilutes the paint and these prints look so much better with bright colours! Again – see my shirt above! If it comes out too faint you can re-paint it and put it back in the sun. Would be great to do layers of colours, getting layers of designs too.

So now everyone knows what they are getting for christmas from me: t-towels, bags, scarves … all sun printed! It was just too easy 🙂

beetles, butterflies and mermaids 🙂

There is a shark here - but the grey shirt doesn't show it up so well

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