Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On to something fun...

I mentioned a while ago that I wanted to start blogging more regularly and maybe even make a few bucks doing it. And I think I've thought of a good way. You see, I want to write about things that interest me, and I also need to write things that people want to read, and they need to be things that aren't being written about by every other blogger on the planet. Whew! That's a tough bill to fill, isn't it? But I had an inspiration. I know something that you guys might like to read that I'm actually qualified to talk about. And what is this mystery subject? (And more importantly to you, will it be even vaguely interesting?)

I used to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club and run a science program. And I can do all kinds of very cool, very easy, and very inexpensive science experiments and art projects. Experiments is probably the wrong word. It's mostly just fun stuff for kids that turns out to be useful in learning stuff. Anyhow, this is stuff that I love to do and that most people who can be talked into trying it really enjoy. So I think that if I can talk some of you guys into doing this stuff at home, you might really like it, too. So... stand back. We are about to make a mess.

I thought I'd start with those t-shirts we made at Caly's birthday party. This is a great art project that is cheap, fun, very simple, and ends up with a great looking shirt. Even the most un-artistic parent can walk their kid through this.

Here's what you need:

1. A plain white t-shirt or pillowcase
2. Colored permanent markers
3. A spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol (the higher concentrations work better so look for some that's 91% alcohol)
4. Cardboard (optional)
5. A few plastic cups (optional)
6. Rubber bands (optional)
7. A well ventilated place to work. Outside is better since it means fewer things to accidentally color plus less chance of inhaling the fumes.

There are a two different types of designs you can make with this and I'll walk you through each one. The first (and simplest) is to make a design and then create an effect. Here's what you do:

Step 1.
If you want your shirt or pillowcase to have the design on only one side, you'll need to put a piece of cardboard between the front and the back. This stuff WILL bleed through unless you stop it.

Step 2.
Draw on the shirt. It doesn't matter what you draw, or how well you draw it. Honestly it doesn't. Here's what does matter: use a lot of ink. The more ink the merrier. Because the whole point of this is that the ink will spread. For the best effect go over the picture/pattern/blob-of-color several times so that there's a lot of ink. You can draw with several colors or just one. And you can make a fancy intricate design or a simple one. But remember that the colors are going to bleed into each other some. For this example, I did a simple rainbow pattern, but you can do anything and it usually comes out really well. I know the kids at the party did all kinds of crazy stuff and all of it came out great.

Step 3.
Fill up the spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and start spraying. If you mist your design lightly, you'll get a nice dreamy watercolor effect but you'll still be able to see the design. If you spray it on heavily and saturate the area, the color will spread wildly. If you hold it up while spraying, it will mostly run downward. If you lay it flay it will spread out in every direction.

Step 4.
Let it dry all the way. You can do this by sticking it in a dryer or just letting it air dry.

Step 5.
Add any details you like. Once your original picture is smeared beyond recognition, you can add details to make it more interesting. You can write your name on top of a cool swirl of color. Or you can add eyes, a nose, and a mouth and make it a face. Think that flower you drew now looks more like a cat? Add whiskers and ears. And if you don't like the finished product, spray it again.

I mentioned that there are two techniques you can try. This second one is a bit more complicated, and to be honest I don't like the results quite as well, but if you'd like your pattern to be a bit more orderly here's a second approach.

Step 1.
Take a plastic cup and put it inside your shirt. Pull a bit of material over the cup so that it's stretched tight. Then use a rubber band to secure it in place.

Step 2.
Draw several dots of color in the center of the fabric that's pulled tight. Draw them nice and dark and use 2 or 3 colors.

Step 3.
Open up the bottle of alcohol and drip just a little bit right on top of the dots you drew. Hold the cup level so that the alcohol spreads the color out from the center of the dots. This should make the color run outward until it reaches the rim of the cup. It should stop there on it's own if the fabric is tight and you don't use lots of rubbing alcohol. So you end up with circles of color that are more concentrated in the center.

Step 4.
This is the same step as above. Let it dry all the way, either in a dryer or airdrying.

Step 5.
Add the details. You can use those circles to make faces, or you can use a green sharpie to make stems and let them be flowers. Whatever you like.

What you end up with is a shirt that can go in the laundry with all your other clothes. It won't bleed or fade (unless you go crazy with the bleach or the oxy-clean like I've been known to do), and it won't dye your other clothes. This is SO much easier than tie-dye (which I love but know from experience is messy and expensive).

I hope you enjoy.


muffinandbear said...

That's awesome! I wish I knew about that before I had my art party last weekend for Muffin!

I'd love whatever science stuff you have (or your hubby has). We did the body last week - but we're still working on it this week (even though we've moved on to planets :) ).

She said...

Very cool idea! I love it!

Tara said...

As probably the most untalented/uncreative parent I have to say...Sweet and thank you.

I just picked up a ton of clearance Sharpies! If I put it in the dryer to dry will my dryer change colors?

Karen said...

I usually let it air dry all the way and then stick it in the dryer for a few minutes until it's a little hot. That way I know it's dry and not about to stain anything else. It's never stained my dryer, but if it did, you could probably wipe it down with alcohol and clean it.